The 1966 Belgian Grand Prix, officially known as the XXVI Grote Prijs van Belgie, was the second round of the 1966 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at Spa-Francorchamps on the 12th of June. The race would be seen as the coming of age for Jochen Rindt as he claimed a maiden podium finish, in a race which saw a cloud burst at the start wipeout half of the field on the opening lap.
The Austrian had impressed in Monte Carlo a few weeks earlier before retiring, and during qualifying young Rindt put his Cooper-Maserati on the front row. Pole went to John Surtees in the V12 Ferrari with Jackie Stewart completing the front row, while Graham Hill and Jim Clark were well down the grid in ninth and tenth places.
Raceday was miserable, dull grey and rain storms coating the circuit with water all morning, although the start would be held without water falling from the sky. The field largely got away in grid order, with Surtees leading from Rindt as the field charged through Eau Rouge and Raidillon to start the opening lap.
It was when the field came to the long sweeping corner at Burneville where the trouble started, a huge crack of thunder signalling a cloud burst just before the field arrived. Out went Jo Bonnier, Mike Spence, Jo Siffert and Denny Hulme, while the rest of the field flew on towards the flat out Masta Kink.
The Kink proved even more treacherous, with Rindt going for a spin all on his own, although he masterfully controlled the pirouette to continue unharmed. He, however, was the lucky one, as Stewart, Hill and Bob Bondurant all spun off, Stewart obtaining a broken shoulder after hitting a telegraph pole. The Scot also landed upside down and was trapped, with Hill and Bondurant managing to get him free before his car, which was leaking fuel, burst into flame.
With Clark also out with a flooded engine, only seven cars were left to battle to the end. Ultimately, Surtees would sweep home to victory in slowly improving conditions, while Rindt battled back to second after briefly leading. Lorenzo Bandini finished third and took the lead of the Championship, Jack Brabham and Richie Ginther claimed points, while Dan Gurney and Guy Ligier finished, but were not classified.
F1 returned to the first of the power dominated circuits on the usual calendar in June 1966, with Spa-Francorchamps and its flowing layout a favourite with the F1 circus. The flat out layout was designed for speed from its inception, and with the new 3.0 liter cars making their bow at the circuit, times looked set to plummet. Many, however, were only in early development, most having only run in Monaco or, for some, were completely untested as they were unloaded in the paddock.
First to arrive at the circuit before the weekend were Brabham, who fielded their Brabham BT19 powered by a Repco engine for owner Jack Brabham, with their ex-Tasman Championship 2.75 liter car for Denny Hulme. Joining them were the quintet of Cooper-Maserati cars, headlined by a rejuvenated Cooper Car Company effort, who had had a strong run in Monaco courtesy of their drivers Jochen Rindt and Richie Ginther. The other three cars were run by privateers, with R.R.C. Walker Racing Team entering Jo Siffert, Anglo-Suisse Racing Team fielding owner Jo Bonnier, and Guy Ligier running his own car.
Ferrari would run their two V12 creations once again, with John Surtees now fully fighting fit and getting first pick of the two cars. Lorenzo Bandini had enjoyed his run in Monte Carlo in the V6 design, and was expected to continue in the smaller engined car which had run faultlessly. The only other entrants fielding purely new for 1966 equipment were the Anglo-American Racers effort of Dan Gurney, which unveiled the beautiful Eagle T1F, and Bruce McLaren's Bruce McLaren Motor Racing outfit with one McLaren M2B available.
Of the other manufacturers, BRM had two of their H16 powered creations available in Spa for Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill to race. They, however, were expected to run their 1965 Tasman cars during the race, meaning practice would actually be a testing session for the new cars. A third H16 engine was, however, set to race, as Team Lotus got their Lotus 43 for Peter Arundell to partner Jim Clark with his Lotus 33 from 1965.
Completing the field were two other privateer teams, both fielding 1965 machinery with jury-rigged engines. Reg Parnell Racing were in Spa with two ex-factory Lotuses, one with a V8 BRM engine and another with the two and three-quarter liter Climax FPF. So too were Team Chamaco-Collect, who had Bob Bondurant and Brit Vic Wilson driving their ex-factory BRM, with the fastest of the two getting to start the #8 entry.
Due to the stunningly poor mechanical reliability in Monte Carlo, even for an era where half a field would be expected to retire, only four drivers scored points in the Principality. Unsurprisingly, Stewart had left Monaco in the lead after his second career victory, with Bandini in second. Hill and Bondurant completed the tiny list of scorers.
Much like the Drivers' Championship, the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers table was an incredibly short list after the opening round, as only two manufacturers finished. It was BRM, thanks to Stewart, who led the way on nine (with only the best placed driver's scores counting), with Ferrari in second.
The full entry list for the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying would start on Friday afternoon, with a two hour session scheduled, before a second session on Saturday, although that was delayed by almost an hour after a forest fire. Both sessions would also see a camera car, driven by Phil Hill on the circuit, although the G.P.D.A. made a formal approach to the FIA to ban the use of the M.G.M. owned McLaren-Ford on Saturday morning. As for target times, the circuit record for Grand Prix cars stood at 3:45.4, set by Graham Hill on his way to pole in 1965.
Jackie Stewart opened the session in his Tasman Championship BRM, and the Scot was immediately looking to beat his team mate's record as he waited for the team to prepare their two H16 cars. Soon, the Scot was only shaving a few tenths of a second with each lap, but recording improvements on sub-3:43.0 laps, so was already two seconds under the record. Other strong runners were Lorenzo Bandini in the V6 Ferrari and Jack Brabham with the V8 Repco rumbling along quite happily around the flat out Spa circuit.
In contrast to the pace setters, a fair number of the field were struggling to get their cars out on circuit, let alone go for record times. Team Lotus were in trouble from the get go, neither of the cars brought for Jim Clark both having internal issues, while Peter Arundell managed three slow laps in the H16 before that self-combusted. The factory Cooper-Maseratis both had engine and drive troubles, Richie Ginther and Jochen Rindt only getting a few laps in, Bruce McLaren having an oil leak on his new Serenissima engine while Dan Gurney had a series of issues on his new Eagle-Climax.
Friday ended with John Surtees setting the best time of the day in the dying moments after Ferrari finally got the V12 car to run properly, meaning the Englishman was fastest with a 3:40.4. He would be the first man out on Saturday afternoon, and after a couple of exploratory laps in perfect conditions, the Englishman instantly broke his Friday record with a 3:38.0, a lap with an average speed of 145 mph. BRM sent both Stewart and Hill out in the H16 cars, but problems on both of the complicated engines meant they were stuck in the Tasman cars, so were fighting Ferrari with a significant power disadvantage.
Surtees remained unchallenged to record a sixth career pole, as Bandini hit trouble with the other V12, meaning he was stuck with the V6. Team Lotus completed no running at all on Saturday, sending out part of their effort to get parts from England and take the H16 car back for a rebuild. Brabham, meanwhile, slowly wound the Repco up to third throughout the day, and looked set to take a front row start, only to be denied when Rindt thrashed out a strong time (three seconds off Surtees mind) as Cooper-Maserati worked through their issues.
The full qualifying results for the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicate a driver using their test/spare car to set their best time in that session.
- * McLaren, Wilson, and Arundell were unable to take the start.
Sunday dawned with grey skies and cool temperatures in the Ardens, and as the morning progressed rain became intermittent. A warm-up session was allowed for some of the runners who had been denied serious running on Saturday, although Jim Clark was lucky to make it to the grid when a suspension failure left him stranded for a fair part of the morning. After a mocked up race for the M.C.M. film crew for the upcoming Grand Prix movie, the Grand Prix cars were ready to take the start on a very soggy Spa circuit.
The Scot's day was made worse when he got caught out at the start, with the flag dropping a few seconds earlier than expected. Clark duly dropped to the back of the field as, out front, pole sitter John Surtees surged into the lead ahead of Jochen Rindt and a fast starting Jack Brabham. As the field roared away through Eau Rouge and Raidillon, reports of rain at Stavelot and Malmedy were being relayed to the pits.
Into the long, Burneville/Malmedy right hander and the field encountered a wall of water falling from the sky, with Surtees the first to enter the fast forming river across the circuit. Out, from the back of the field, went Jo Bonnier who struck the window of a farmhouse, while Mike Spence was also out in the woods from the top ten. The field then went steaming on towards the flat out Masta Kink, where only the bravest drivers would attempt to keep the throttle open in the dry, let alone in the wet.
First in, and flawless through the water logged Kink was Surtees, just moments before Rindt came pirouetting across the grass, although the Austrian was quick to gather the car back up and continue. Unfortunately, his incident caused a misjudgement behind, as Stewart flew off the circuit behind before his BRM wrapped itself around a telegraph pole. He was trapped in the car which had landed upside down and given him a broken shoulder, while Bob Bondurant and Graham Hill also ran into the ditch where the Scot was stuck and were out.
The rest of the field filtered past and roared on to Stavelot as news of the accidents was relayed to the pits via telephone. Hill had sprinted over to his young team mate to help free him, joined by Bondurant who had managed to struggle out of his overturned car to help, as Stewart's car was leaking fuel. A local's tool box was required to get the Scot free, and just moments after he and Bondurant were put into an ambulance to return to the pits, the car burst into flame.
News of this would steadily filter back to the pits over the course of the opening laps, but the first sign of trouble was only noted as the rest of the field came through La Source. Surtees came first with a small gap back to second placed Brabham who had Lorenzo Bandini bearing down on him, as news of accidents for Jo Siffert and Denny Hulme just after the Masta Kink. Another gap followed before Richie Ginther appeared with mirrors full of a recovering Rindt and Guy Ligier, while Dan Gurney came round at a slow rate already a minute off leader Surtees.
Those seven were the only cars left in the race, with seven casualties on the opening lap due to accidents, while Clark had got so much water in his engine through Burneville that it had misfired, and ultimately conked out just up from Stavelot. Phil Hill had been out on track too, the American using the camera mounted McLaren M2B, but had been wise enough to keep well out of the chaos and crawled back to the pits. Of the runners and riders still going, the second lap was just as slippery, with thunder roaring in the skies.
Yet, as the field rounded La Source for a second time, the order had shuffled significantly, although all seven were still running. It was now Bandini leading from Surtees, Rindt and Brabham, before a fifteen second gap back Ginther and Ligier, on their own in fifth and sixth, while Gurney still ran round on his own at the back, his arrival coinciding with the arrival of the rain at the pits. The rain still had not cleared from the back of the circuit, where marshals and drivers were still busy clearing away wrecked machinery.
Lap three saw Bandini drop back behind Surtees and Rindt, with those slithering out of La Source together at the end of the lap, with Bandini and Brabham stalking them just behind. Ginther and Ligier were even further back before Gurney arrived, hobbled by an engine issue, while Hulme came crabbing back to the pits with badly damaged suspension. The New Zealander was the first to report back to the pits about the chaos at the back of the circuit, although his report was not relayed before the ambulance carrying Stewart and Bondurant arrived at the paddock hospital.
Through lap four Rindt had been dancing his Cooper-Maserati gracefully as he attacked the back of Surtees, and as the pair came through La Source for the fourth time, the Austrian was ahead. The Englishman settled a couple of seconds back to keep out of the spray, while Bandini and Brabham had split off and were running on their own, much like Ginther and Ligier. Gurney continued to limp round the Eagle, already half a lap back as the rain continued to pound down, while a soaked Clark arrived back in the pits having walked back from Stavelot.
Despite the sheer amount of water on the circuit, Rindt was still lapping around Spa at over 100 mph, although Surtees was still stalking him and using the Cooper as a reference point. They were dropping Bandini and Brabham at a rate of knots, in a race which looked all over with just a quarter of the distance covered. Bandini would slowly drop Brabham, the Aussie looking to cruise his Repco engine to the flag from the early stages, while Ginther continued on alone when Ligier stopped for clutch adjustments.
The race was processional, although with eight laps to go the times suddenly began to climb upwards, the rain finally clearing and so the remaining seven could push on. The only gap small enough for a change however, was for the lead, as Rindt began to struggle with an LSD problem which got worse as the circuit dried. Surtees was presented with an easy pass down the Kemmel straight, and at the end of lap 21 the Englishman was noted as the race leader.
With that the race was done, and around twenty minutes late it was Surtees who crossed the line to take the chequered flag at a cruise. He had managed to lap everyone bar Rindt, who slithered through La Source at the end of the race 40 seconds behind, while Bandini survived well for third. Brabham claimed the first points for a Repco engine with fourth ahead of Ginther, while Ligier and Gurney were not classified under the new 90% completion rule.
The full results for the 1966 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||7||Lorenzo Bandini||Ferrari||27||+1 lap||5||4|
|4||3||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Repco||26||+2 laps||4||3|
|5||18||Richie Ginther||Cooper-Maserati||25||+3 laps||8||2|
|NC*||22||Guy Ligier||Cooper-Maserati||24||+4 laps||12|
|NC*||27||Dan Gurney||Eagle-Climax||23||+5 laps||15|
- * Ligier and Gurney were not classified as they had not completed 90% of the race distance.
- Debut for the Anglo-American Racers outfit and their Eagle chassis.
- Fourth win for John Surtees.
- Fortieth win for Ferrari, putting them back to the top of the all time winners list for engine manufacturers.
- Jochen Rindt claimed a maiden podium finish.
- Eighth (and final) podium for Lorenzo Bandini.
Victory for John Surtees sent him up to second in the World Championship standings, level on points with Jackie Stewart who had won in Monaco. Leading the way was Lorenzo Bandini after a second consecutive podium, just a point to the good, while Jochen Rindt sat in fourth. Graham Hill rounded out the top five, with Richie Ginther and Jack Brabham joined the shortened scorers list.
Victory for Surtees sent Ferrari straight to the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, six clear of BRM as the British firm failed to score. Cooper-Maserati were into third after Rindt's podium, while Brabham-Repco were on the board after owner Jack's first points score for the Australian engine manufacturer.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BELGIAN GP, 1966', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr143.html, (Accessed 30/07/2016)
- D.S.J., 'Belgian GP: An Italian Victory', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/07/2016), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/july-1966/16/belgian-gp, (Accessed 31/07/2016)
- 'Belgium 1966: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1966/belgique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 30/07/2016)
- 'Belgium 1966: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1966/belgique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 31/07/2016)
- 'Belgium 1966: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1966/belgique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 31/07/2016)
|V T E||Belgian Grand Prix|
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