The 1967 French Grand Prix, otherwise known as the LIII Grand Prix de l'A.C.F., was the fifth round of the 1967 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit de la Sarthe on the 2nd of July, 1967. The race would be heavily criticised for using the "Bugatti" version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, becoming infamously known as the "Grand Prix of the Car Parks".
With the entry list thinning significantly before the weekend, pole went to Graham Hill with the new Lotus 49 the third in the row for the new car. Defending World Champion Jack Brabham would start from second while Belgian Grand Prix winner Dan Gurney would start from the outside of the front row.
When the flag dropped it was Hill who surged into the lead from Gurney, with Brabham having to fend off Jim Clark into the Dunlop curve. The early laps then saw Brabham overhaul the two ahead of the lead, a surge that also dragged Clark ahead of Gurney to leave the two Lotuses to stalk the new race leader.
It was not long before Clark snatched the lead, having dispatched of Hill and Brabham in successive laps. It took Hill a little longer to get past the Australian, but with momentum behind the Englishman, there was little Clark to do to deny Hill the lead. Unfortunately, Hill's moment in the sun would be curtailed by a transmission failure, a problem that would strike down Clark ten laps later.
With the two Lotuses out the race was handed to Brabham, who would go on to benefit from another issue, this one putting Gurney out with a split fuel line. The Aussie's victory was then confirmed when teammate Denny Hulme moved into second by taking Chris Amon, leaving the two Brabham-Repcos to cruise on to a one-two. Amon would retire before the end to hand Jackie Stewart third place, with Jo Siffert, Chris Irwin and Pedro Rodríguez completing the points.
There had often been a problem with the location of the French Grand Prix, with the A.C.F. having used Rheims, Rouen-Les-Essarts and the Charade Circuit in the previous three seasons. For a change, all three of the former venues were available to use, but the A.C.F. decided to use the Circuit de la Sarthe, but not the full circuit used for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The organisers declared that they would use the "Bugatti" layout, which used the start/finish straight and pit complex, before turning onto a series of car parks that formed a racing school circuit.
When the decision to use the racing school circuit rather than the proper Le Mans circuit was announced, many teams and drivers decided that they would not attend. Among those in attendance, but not at full capacity, were Ferrari, who only had one driver available in France after Mike Parkes' accident. Ludovico Scarfiotti had decided to think about his future in racing having seen his friend's accident in Belgium, leaving Chris Amon as their only driver, at a venue which had become rather unfruitful to the tifosi in recent years.
The main reason for Ferrari's disappointment at Le Mans over the past couple of seasons had been Ford, who would be on the grid as part of the Lotus-Ford Cosworth effort. Racers Jim Clark and Graham Hill were all set to do battle with the Lotus 49s, but their weekend programme was hobbled when their transporter was held up at Dieppe during customs checks. The rivals BRM had no such issues, arriving with two H16 cars for Mike Spence and Jackie Stewart, with their spare car being a Tasman Championship car.
Brabham-Repco came to France in perhaps the strongest position, with two new cars with the updated Repco engine. Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme would race the new BT24 for the first time, although Hulme had driven the car at a couple of meetings during test runs. In contrast, Honda were set to race in France with their new car, but delays, combined with the less than prestigious circuit layout, convinced them not to attend.
Elsewhere, Eagle-Weslake had two cars available for Dan Gurney and Bruce McLaren, the latter having problems with the new McLaren M4B. The Cooper-Maserati factory effort consisted of a B-spec T81 for Jochen Rindt, while Pedro Rodríguez would run the original car. The Cooper contingent would be supported by privateers Jo Siffert, Jo Bonnier and Frenchman Guy Ligier, although time would tell whether any of these would arrive.
The rest of the field was made up of Chris Irwin in the Reg Parnell Racing owned BRM and Bob Anderson's Brabham-Climax. The troublesome entry list was further reduced when Scarfiotti and Surtees withdrew, prompting the A.C.F. to invite local racers Matra Sport to join with Formula Two cars. These cars would be ballasted down to Grand Prix, or at least they would have if Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Johnny Servoz-Gavin had not been on their way to a Formula Two meeting in Rheims, in which most of the Grand Prix drivers would be racing the following week.
Victory for Gurney in Belgium made him the fourth different winner in the first four races, launching the New Yorker into the top five, just a point behind Clark. Leading the way was Hulme, who had failed to score for the first time at Spa, although he maintained a five point gap back to second. That position was being held by Rodríguez, although he was level on points with Amon, who was the only member of the top five not to have won a race.
Brabham-Repco still lead the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers despite failing to score, with Cooper-Maserati continuing to tick off points in second. Ferrari remained in third, seven points behind, with Lotus-Ford Cosworth in fourth. Gurney's win put Eagle-Weslake into fifth ahead of BRM, before two privateer entries found themselves ahead of Honda and McLaren-BRM.
The full entry list for the 1967 French Grand Prix is outlined below:
- * Beltoise and Servoz-Gavin were technically using Formula Two cars, but they were allowed to compete the in the Grand Prix and score points, so are considered as Formula One entries.
Practice/qualifying were to be held over two days, Friday and Saturday, and lasted for four hours in total, although a fair amount of that time would be spent getting across the huge paddock area built to hold the World Sportscar Championship field. The circuit was marked out by sand traps and in-bedded tyres, with the majority of the field having some knowledge of the circuit from a Formula Two race the previous season. There were no real target times for the top end drivers, so it was a case of go out, go quick, and see where you finished.
The first session of the weekend was dreadfully dull, with Jim Clark and Graham Hill at the circuit to watch a session held in extremely warm conditions. A rather underwhelming sight saw the Grand Prix cars flash past the pit buildings at 90 mph, a world away from the familiar Le Mans scene of cars blasting towards the Dunlop bridge at over 160mph. The fastest lap overall went to Jack Brabham, although some were surprised to see Chris Irwin in the Reg Parnell Racing BRM beat the two factory efforts, the Brit using the Tasman Championship car.
To solve the issue of being behind their customers, BRM snatched back the Tasman car and handed it to Jackie Stewart, leaving Irwin with the Scot's H16 car. Unfortunately, Stewart could not beat Irwin's time from Friday, with the BRM team further embarrassed when the privateer went quicker than the Scot's best time with the H16 car. The second BRM factory effort of Mike Spence was off the pace of both.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, were out for the first time all weekend, although the two cars were introuble early on with misfiring issues. Clark's engine proved to be incurable, so it was fortunate that the Scot got a quick time in early on. Hill's car, meanwhile, managed to cure itself, after some tinkering from Keith Duckworth, the Cosworth designer, allowing the Englishman to snatch pole with a 1:36.2 at the end of the session.
The sudden surge from Hill denied Brabham pole, after the Australian had dominated practice having fended off a challenge from Dan Gurney. Clark would start from fourth with Bruce McLaren in the second Eagle-Weslake, while Irwin was up in ninth. Five drivers never bothered to arrive for practice meaning there would only be fifteen starters, the last of whom would be the sole French racer Guy Ligier.
The full qualifying results for the 1967 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||7||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:36.2||—|
|4||6||Jim Clark||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||1:37.5||+1.3s|
|WD||20||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
|WD||21||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
Sunday would witness the start of the French Grand Prix, with the start scheduled for 2:00pm in dry conditions, despite a shower in the morning. It was a rather underwhelming sight to see only 15 small Grand Prix cars assembled on a grid/pit complex built to hold 55, matched by the sparsely populated grandstands which held, at best, 20,000 fans. After a warm-up lap the cars assembled on the dummy grid at the backend of the pits, before crawling along to the proper grid at the end of the pits to take the start.
When the French tricolour was dropped it would be Graham Hill who reacted fastest, the Englishman sending his green-yellow Lotus 49 streaking towards the Dunlop bridge with the lead. Latching onto the Englishman's tail as the field charged into the first car park was Dan Gurney, who had got a better start on the outside of the front row than middleman Jack Brabham. Then came Jim Clark, having to relearn to circuit with 400 bhp for the first time, with Chris Amon joining to form a breakaway group on the opening lap.
The opening laps would be most remarkable for a swashbuckling display from Clark, as the Scot began to ramp up his pace from the second lap on wards. Having seen Brabham move past Gurney and then Hill, Clark decided to attack, starting with a precisely timed move on Gurney for third into the second hairpin. Hill proved less resistant a lap later, before the Scot came slithering through the final corner on lap five in the lead, Brabham having been dealt with on the run back to the pits.
Before Clark could escape, however, Hill managed to sling up the inside of Brabham at the second hairpin to make it a Lotus one-two, with the Scot then drawing the Englishman away from the rest. Their combined dominance was akin to that of Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss during 1955, two identical cars running away from the rest a sight that had not been seen since the days of the Mercedes W196. Behind them remained Brabham, fending off a series of challenges from Gurney, while Amon and Denny Hulme battled to be the best New Zealander, with Jochen Rindt leading the rest.
Hill took the lead on lap eleven but the move did not allow him to break away, so the distinctive green-yellow streak at the front of the field remained. Mike Spence was already out with a transmission failure, while Hulme was having trouble with his gear lever after the knob came off. Elsewhere, Bruce McLaren was having to contend with a rough running Weslake engine, while Rindt went for a spin under the Dunlop bridge to drop from seventh to tenth.
Suddenly, there were some unhappy faces at Team Lotus, as Clark came through to complete lap fourteen on his own with Hill coming to a stop at the back of the circuit. His Ford Cosworth engine had chewed through its transmission to leave the #7 Lotus without any drive, leaving Clark to run on his own. The Scot still held an impressive lead, over fifteen seconds at the twenty lap mark, as Hulme claimed fourth from Amon as the race became a stalemate.
Yet, just ten laps after Hill disappeared, the faces at Lotus were once again down trodden, as Clark pulled in to retire with exactly the same failure as Hill. The Scot's retirement therefore handed the lead to Brabham, although the disappearance of Clark seemed to inspire Gurney, who started to attack the Australian even more. Amon was another to take heart, managing to repass Hulme for third while Rindt began to climb back up the order through retirements and determination.
The race would once again return to a stalemate once Rindt completed his charge by passing Jackie Stewart, with three pairs of cars orbiting the circuit but with clear air to the next. The problem seemed to be the narrow nature of the school circuit, where Gurney's Eagle-Weslake looked the better car but did not have enough room to force a move past the Brabham-Repco. Amon and Hulme's fight was also following a similar pattern, although the Brabham was finally able to battle past Amon again on lap 30, while Rindt and teammate Pedro Rodríguez were trying to work together to gain ground.
Casualties were piling up to join the two Lotuses and Spence, with Bob Anderson and Bruce McLaren falling to ignition failures either side of Clark's fall. The next two fallers affected the points, with Rindt going out with an engine failure, before Gurney dropped out with a fuel line fracture at half distance. It was only another handful of laps before Amon departed with a broken throttle, just as Rodriguez had to stop to have a repair to his fuel injectors.
The result was that there were only seven cars still running in the closing stages, with Brabham and Hulme holding a commanding lead over the rest. Stewart had inherited third but was a lap down, while Chris Irwin and Jo Siffert were the only source of late race entertainment as they duelled for fourth. Sadly, their fight would be ended prematurely when Irwin's car began to smoke badly with an oil leak, meaning he would retire just four laps from the end.
With that the race was run, the final laps only an exercise in burning fuel before Brabham swept home to a rather underwhelming victory. Hulme finished half a lap back to complete a Brabham one-two before Stewart finished a lap down. Siffert claimed a lonely fourth while Irwin was classified in fifth despite his engine failure. Rodriguez finished sixth after his fuel injector repair, while Ligier also took the flag, but was too far back to be classified.
The full results for the 1967 French Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||10||Jackie Stewart||BRM||79||+1 lap||10||4|
|4||18||Jo Siffert||Cooper-Maserati||77||+3 laps||11||3|
|6||14||Pedro Rodríguez||Cooper-Maserati||76||+4 laps||13||1|
|NC†||16||Guy Ligier||Cooper-Maserati||68||+12 laps||15|
|Ret||9||Dan Gurney||Eagle-Weslake||40||Fuel line||3|
|Ret||6||Jim Clark||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||23||Transmission||4|
|Ret||7||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||13||Transmission||1|
|WD||20||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth|
|WD||21||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth|
- * Irwin was classified as a finisher despite retiring.
- † Ligier, in contrast, could not be classified as he failed to complete 90% of the race distance.
- 100th Grand Prix start for Maserati as an engine provider.
- Tenth pole position for Graham Hill.
- Twelfth win for Jack Brabham.
- Eighth win earned by a Brabham chassis.
- Denny Hulme's second place meant it was also the thirtieth podium visit for a Brabham.
- BRM earned their fiftieth podium as an engine provider.
Jack Brabham had become the fifth different winner in five races, with the defending World Champion now propelled into second in the Championship. His teammate Denny Hulme still lead the way with a six point advantage, holding a ten point gap over third placed Pedro Rodríguez. Chris Amon was a point ahead of Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart, the two Scots level on ten points, before another point back to the other winner of 1967, Dan Gurney.
Brabham-Repco were ten points clear at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings, having only failed to record points one in 1967. Their closest challengers were Cooper-Maserati, who were six points ahead of Ferrari and BRM, the British squad ahead with a second place. Lotus-Ford Cosworth were fifth ahead of Eagle-Climax, with Honda and McLaren-BRM still behind two privateer efforts.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: FRENCH GP, 1967', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr155.html, (Accessed 15/08/2016)
- D.S.J., 'THE 53RD GRAND PRIX OF FRANCE: A Comedy', motorsportmagazine.com, (MotorSport Magazine, 01/08/1967), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/august-1967/36/53rd-grand-prix-france, (Accessed 15/08/2016)
- 'France 1967: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1967/france/engages.aspx, (Accessed 15/08/2016)
- 'France 1967: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1967/france/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 15/08/2016)
- 'France 1967: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1967/france/classement.aspx, (Accessed 16/08/2016)
|V T E||French Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Reims (1950–1951, 1953–1954, 1956, 1958–1961, 1963, 1966)
Rouen-Les-Essarts (1952, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1968)
Charade Circuit (1965, 1969–1970, 1972)
Bugatti Circuit (1967)
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Dijon-Prenois (1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1984)
Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (1991–2008)
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