The 1966 Mexican Grand Prix, officially known as the V Gran Premio de Mexico, was the final of nine rounds in the 1966 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at Magdalena Mixhuca on the 23rd of October. Running as the 150th World Championship Grand Prix, the Mexico race was to remembered for a good fight for the lead during the first half of the race.
The title battles had already been sorted in favour of Jack Brabham and Brabham-Repco at the previous two meetings, although qualifying/practice would leave the newly recrowned racer down in fourth. Pole instead went to John Surtees in the Cooper-Maserati, with Jim Clark sharing the front row.
When the flag dropped it was third placed Richie Ginther in the Honda that was seen streaking into the lead of the race, just as he had done so in 1965. Jochen Rindt was another strong started to get into second with Brabham third, while Denny Hulme also managed to get ahead of the front row starters.
By the time the field reappeared on the second lap it was Brabham leading while Ginther began a gradual tumble, although he would stay ahead of Clark whose gearbox imploded early on. Surtees soon moved up past teammate Rindt and into second to start harassing Brabham for the lead.
The Brit would soon force his way past Brabham and slowly inch away from the pack, just as Rindt's race expired with suspension failure. The failure put Pedro Rodríguez onto the podium, although he would be robbed of a home podium by a transmission failure a few laps from the end.
Surtees, meanwhile, was able to eek out a twelve second lead when the chequered flag fluttered to end the 1966 season, with Brabham the only other man on the lead lap. Hulme and Ginther scrapped for third up until the penultimate lap, when the New Zealander elbowed his way onto the podium and successfully defended to the flag.
The Mexican Grand Prix was fast becoming the traditional venue for the end of season party, although both Championships had been decided before the finale once again. As for the circuit, there were no changes in either layout or altitude, as 5.000km of tarmac at 7,300ft provided the final challenge of the 1966 Championship. The entry list was identical to that that had been submitted for the US Grand Prix three weeks earlier, bar one high profile entry.
That team was Ferrari, who refused to send their only car from the US, previously piloted by Lorenzo Bandini, along with the rest of the field having lost the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers. The reason given for their lack of appearance was the fact that the Modena factory was being expanded as they plotted revenge at Le Mans, although Enzo Ferrari had been occasionally known to be a bad loser. The team that had defeated them were, in contrast, at the Mexican circuit and ready to race, with the Brabham-Repcos of Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme unmodified for the finale.
Elsewhere, Team Lotus were back with a three car effort once again, Pedro Rodríguez representing Mexico in the third of their cars, taking one of the two 33s from Peter Arundell. Outgoing Champion Jim Clark was set to use the BRM H16 powered car once again, with the experimental BRM design being used by their two drivers too. Their two drivers Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart would share three cars once again, as all of their engines had been shipped over the Atlantic twice to be rebuilt.
Honda had their two cars set to do battle once again, although they did not complete a weeks worth of running as they had done back in 1965. McLaren-Ford were back again, Bruce McLaren at the wheel, while Dan Gurney swapped around himself and Bob Bondurant around in his Anglo American Racers effort. The Weslake was proving temperamental at best in its early competitive form, so the founder chose to use the underpowered Climax Eagle instead.
Cooper-Maserati, however, was the combination that had the statistical advantage, as no fewer than five cars were entered for the finale. The factory effort would field John Surtees and Jochen Rindt as usual with a third car finally getting to North America for Mexican racer Moisés Solana. Jo Bonnier and Jo Siffert would drive privately owned Cooper-Maseratis, Mike Spence had his usual Reg Parnell Racing Lotus and Innes Ireland was back for Bernard White Racing.
A first win of the season for the outgoing Champion Clark in the US had propelled the Scot up into the top five of the Championship, which was already settled in favour of Brabham. Clark was therefore joining into the scrap for second, with Rindt up to second with 22 points, with eight points covering everyone down to Hulme in seventh. Anyone from Rindt, Surtees, Hill, Clark, Stewart and Hulme could earn the prize money for being runner-up, meaning the season finale would have a fight to be fought.
Despite failing to score, Brabham-Repco were declared as Champions of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, as Ferrari could not better their tally of 40 points and four wins. The Italian firm were, however, under pressure from third placed Cooper-Maserati, who needed a seven point swing in their favour to overhaul the Italian outfit for second. BRM also went into Mexico City entertaining hopes of finishing runner-up, but they would need the other two to fail to score with themselves winning.
The full entry list for the 1966 Mexican Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying were combined into one as was normal practice in Formula One, although there was an "unofficial" session on Friday morning to allow teams to test fuel mixtures, which needed to be refined due to the lack of oxygen. Otherwise, the running was scheduled to start at 1:00pm on Friday, lasting until 5:00pm, before an identically long session on Saturday afternoon. As for target times, the leaders in the field would be expected to be flattening the circuit record set by Dan Gurney, a 1:55.84 set during the race in 1965.
Practice opened with Gurney and Bob Bondurant screaming out onto the circuit in the two Eagles, with most of the field getting out in the first hour and setting times. The only car which seemed to be having major problems was the McLaren-Ford, with Bruce McLaren needing tow from the paddock into the pits to persuade the Ford V8 to come to life every time it stopped running. Moisés Solana also had difficulties in the first hour as he had to adjust to the Cooper-Maserati gear changes, although he was up to speed before too long.
The first man to get under the record on Friday was to be one of the Mexican men, with Pedro Rodríguez slithering through the Peraltada to complete a 1:55.71. It was not to last, however, as Jack Brabham was also on circuit to do a proper run, and the Australian soon dipped under the 1:55.00 mark after a couple of flying laps. John Surtees was also pushing on, but the Englishman was never able to complete a strong lap as his Cooper-Maserati kept hitting minor issues throughout the day.
After an incident involving a stray dog being hit by Innes Ireland, an unfortunately common story at the Mexico City circuit, the Friday session came to a close. Brabham had remained fastest with Jochen Rindt earning several plaudits for his cavalier style, which seemed to be gaining the Austrian a lot of time through the Peraltada. Jim Clark, meanwhile, had forced a late shuffle by getting a sub-1:54.0 lap in, to which Brabham, Rindt and Gurney all subsequently responded, although the Scot would have to stop when the camshaft failed and sent scalding oil onto the back of his neck.
Saturday's running would see a lot of modifications to the front ends of the Grand Prix cars, as airscoops were fitted to account for the overheating problems that the heat threatened to produce. McLaren and Gurney were both now needing tows to get their cars to run at all, while Surtees showed why the modifications were needed when a head gasket failed due to the vaporisation effect of the heat. The Cooper team decided to begin putting the spare engine in for the race during the session, so the Englishman borrowed Rindt's car and duly set the fastest time of the session at 1:53.18.
That lap sent the rest of the pole contenders straight out onto the circuit, although Brabham was doing long runs ready for the race, so could no respond. Clark was sent out for a few laps, Colin Chapman deciding that the BRM H16 engine could do no more than 300 miles, with the Scot three tenths shy of Surtees' time after his two prescribed attempts. Ginther also challenged for pole, although he was six hundredths slower than Clark come sessions end, while Brabham had slipped to fourth.
The full qualifying results for the 1966 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|19||16||Bob Bondurant||Eagle-Weslake||No Time||2:02.88||+9.70s|
- Bold indicates a driver's best time, with the gap indicating the difference between the best times of each driver.
- * Spence was unable to start after his accident.
Sunday proved to be hot and sunny to further enhance the cooling issues for the teams, who were still having to refine mixtures on their cars, particularly John Surtees, who had to have a new engine fitted overnight. Other changes saw fuel pumps moved at McLaren to cooler places and the two Eagle drivers swap cars, Dan Gurney using the Climax effort. Otherwise, the field would line up on the grid without issue for the 2:30pm start time, with pole sitter Surtees down on power and uncertain if the mixture the team were using would be correct.
As the Mexican flag fluttered on exactly 2:30pm, the field surged forward with Richie Ginther streaking into the lead from third, splitting the front row starters. In his wake came Jochen Rindt, Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme, as Surtees struggled with his under-powered engine, while Jim Clark had gearbox issues caused by the torque of the H16. These six would continue in the lead through the rest of the opening lap, already clear of the next pack, being led by Jackie Stewart and home hero Pedro Rodríguez.
Lap two went past without issue for most of the leaders, although the gearbox in Clark's car was getting worse and it was only his determined work on the steering wheel that kept him with the leaders. His work was being aided by Surtees and his sick sounding engine, a problem being shared by Graham Hill back in the second pack. It was in this second pack where the action was happening, with Rodriguez losing two places at the hairpin by spinning, while Bob Bondurant tumbled as his car overheated.
Onto lap three and Brabham was to snatch the lead, starting the third lap with a move on Rindt, before diving past Ginther into the hairpin, a battle which would last all the way through to the Peraltada. The Australian was quick to pull away, although his moment in the sun looked set to be short lived when Surtees' engine suddenly picked up and allowed the Englishman to take Rindt and Hulme. Ginther fell a few moments later to leave the Cooper-Maserati right in the wake of the leading Brabham, with the two set to duke it out for the lead on lap four.
The lead battle would only last for a lap, however, as Surtees made a brave move through the run to the Peraltada hairpin to snatch the lead. Brabham was left to try and hang on in the slipstream, with the race settling down for a time afterwards. The only man on the move was Stewart in a rather smokey BRM as he adapted to the H16 car, his pace soon carrying past an unhappy Clark on lap seven, Ginther on lap eight, and Hulme on lap 10.
The race would see its first casualties as Stewart claimed Hulme, with Moisés Solana and Clark both coming in to retire with mechanical issues, the Scot's problem diagnosed as a gear selector failure. Hill was next out after Gurney went charging past in the Climax powered Eagle, before the New Yorker's sister car in the hands of Bondurant was retired when a misfire caused by vaporisation could not be cured. But, as the pits became the centre of attention for a time, the Stewart charge was having an effect on the leaders.
Indeed, the Scot's move on Hulme had left him in fourth, and by the time Bondurant disappeared on lap 24, just 200 yards were separating the top four. The next man in the Stewart sights was Rindt, easily dealt with on lap 25, although it was all over for the sole surviving BRM a lap later, when the last of the oil drained out of the engine. Rindt was back into third as a result, while the on-track action batton was handed to the sole surviving Mexican racer instead.
Rodriguez had been distantly shadowing Stewart's charge, and while the Scot was turning the F1 regulars heads as he attacked Rindt, a passionate crowd were willing the Mexican to pass Hulme. Several false starts saw Rodriguez get a nose ahead before Hulme blocked him off, although as Stewart went out the crowd went into uproar for the third Team Lotus car was ahead. The position was secured a few moments later when Hulme pushed too hard out of the hairpin and spun, with a troublesome clutch preventing a quick return.
More retirements came in as the race ticked on to the halfway mark, Innes Ireland joining those on the bench when his gearbox failed. Yet, it was two retirements in the upper reaches of the field that sent the crowds into another huge cheer, as they promoted Rodriguez into a clear third place. It was Rindt who went out, having rounded the Peraltada and suffered a suspension failure on the exit, leaving him on the grass on the outside. The next lap saw an identical failure for Jo Siffert, who was just beginning to worry Hulme, through the same corner, although the Swiss driver would park on the pits.The state of the race after the latest casualties was left with ten cars still in action, and the leading pair separated by a couple of seconds. The pace of Surtees and the Cooper-Maserati was making Brabham work really hard to keep up, just as his team mate finally woke up after slipping to sixth. After Rodriguez had gone past the New Zealander's pace had tumbled, Ginther and Gurney both getting through with ease, and only a challenge from Ronnie Bucknum stirred the racing driver within and Hulme was soon re-catching the latter pair.
At the back of the field there was an interesting scrap between Peter Arundell and Bruce McLaren, with the New Zealander passing the out of sorts Englishman several times before his Ford engine dropped him back by overheating. On lap 38 it finally seemed that the move had stuck with McLaren pulling clear, only for the engine to implode when a valve was detonated by falling into a cylinder. Up the road there was a rather smokey Honda, with Bucknum smelling burning as he barrelled down the start/finish straight, before the underside of his car caught completely alight round the back of the circuit.
With Bucknum sprinting clear of the burning Honda, torched by a short in the electrical circuit at the back of the seat, the field was left with just eight runners. Hulme, meanwhile, was getting on with things and took Gurney, although Ginther's pace was proving strong enough to prevent Hulme from seriously closing the gap. Then, a groan from the crowd as Rodriguez's race came to a premature end with a gearbox failure which forced the Mexican to surrender a secure third place.
The final laps were rather lacking in action as Brabham gave in to the pace and slowly slipped back to settle for second, before getting involved in the brewing Ginther/Hulme scrap. The Australian's passage through gave Hulme a tow to get ever closer to the back of the Honda, and just after the World Champion slotted ahead of the Californian he reduced his pace to keep an eye on developments. Hulme dived down the inside at the hairpin, ran wide, and Ginther got back through with the two running side-by-side, although the slipstream from Brabham allowed Hulme to draw ahead before they swept through the Peraltada to complete the move.
The two Brabham-Repcos duly pulled ahead in the final couple of laps, and when Surtees crossed the line on lap 65 the 1966 season was officially over. Brabham was second and finally able to receive his trophy, while the late teamwork meant that Hulme got a podium finish at the finale. Ginther stole fastest lap during the race as he finished a frustrated fourth, well clear of Gurney, while the final point of the season went to Jo Bonnier, with Arundell and Bucknum, miraculously, the final finishers.
The full results for the 1966 Mexican Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||6||Denny Hulme||Brabham-Repco||64||+1 lap||6||4|
|4||12||Richie Ginther||Honda||64||+1 lap||3||3|
|5||15||Dan Gurney||Eagle-Climax||64||+1 lap||9||2|
|6||22||Jo Bonnier||Cooper-Maserati||63||+2 laps||12||1|
|7||2||Peter Arundell||Lotus-BRM||61||+4 laps||17|
|8||14||Ronnie Bucknum||Honda||60||+5 laps||13|
|Ret||4||Jackie Stewart||BRM||26||Oil leak||10|
|Ret||16||Bob Bondurant||Eagle-Weslake||24||Fuel injection||18|
- 150th World Championship race.
- Innes Ireland started his 50th (and final) Grand Prix.
- Also the final appearance for Richie Ginther (52 starts).
- Eleventh and final pole start for Cooper.
- Also engine partner Maserati's eleventh and final pole.
- Fifth career win for John Surtees.
- Cooper won for the fifteenth time.
- Maserati had their tenth win.
- Maiden fastest lap for Honda.
- Third and final FL set by Ginther.
The final flurry for John Surtees meant that he finished as runner-up after winning for two different teams in the same season, a rarely completed feat. Jack Brabham, meanwhile, was officially crowned as the Champion for the third time, fourteen points clear of the Brit and twenty ahead of third placed Jochen Rindt. The late charge by Denny Hulme put him into fourth ahead of two time Champion Graham Hill, while Jim Clark ended his second title defence down in sixth.
Like their owner/driver, the Mexican Grand Prix's conclusion meant that Brabham-Repco could officially receive their crown as Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers Champions, eleven ahead of the second placed team. Ferrari were confirmed in the runner-up spot despite failing to appear in the season finale, Surtees' win leaving Cooper-Maserati just one point shy on dropped scores. BRM beat both of the Team Lotus efforts, even if they could have been combined, as twelve different chassis/engine combos were registered on the scorers list.
Images and Videos:
- XHawkeye, 'Thread: pic.twitter.com', gtxforums.net, (vBulletin Solutions, Inc., 22/10/2014), http://gtxforums.net/showthread.php?650-pic-twitter-com/page98, (Accessed 07/08/2016)
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: MEXICAN GP, 1966', grandprix.com, (Inside F1, 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr150.html, (Accessed 07/08/2016)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 2.75 2.76 M.J.T., '5th MEXICAN GRAND PRIX 1966: FINALE TO COOPER-MASERATI', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/12/1966), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/december-1966/31/5th-mexican-grand-prix, (Accessed 07/08/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1966: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1966/mexique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 05/08/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1966: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1966/mexique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 07/08/2016)
- ↑ 'Mexico 1966: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1966/mexique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 07/08/2016)
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