The 1968 Canadian Grand Prix, officially advertised as the VIII Player's Grand Prix of Canada, was the tenth round of the 1968 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant on the 22nd of September, 1968. The race, which was the second World Championship Grand Prix staged in Canada, would be remembered for a late race retirement for a dominant Ferrari in the hands of Chris Amon, which denied the New Zealander his best chance at picking up a race win.
Ferrari's woes had begun in qualifying, where Jacky Ickx suffered a huge accident caused by a sticking throttle, leaving the Belgian with a broken leg. Amon, meanwhile, would just miss out on pole to a flying Jochen Rindt, the pair setting identical lap times to the nearest tenth, with privateer Jo Siffert completing the front row.
At the start it would be a perfect getaway from Amon to launch the sole scarlet Ferrari into the lead, with Siffert tucking neatly into his wake ahead of Rindt and the rest. The race order remained rather stable over the opening laps, the only significant change coming when John Surtees dropped out with a gearbox failure.
So it continued, Amon beginning to stretch his legs out front while his competitors dropped out with mechanical problems. The only man who looked likely to challenge him was Graham Hill, Championship leader, as he made ground courtesy of retirements for Siffert and Rindt to leave him in third.
Things were thrown even further in Amon's favour when Hill suddenly started losing pace, a vibration developing in the Lotus-Ford Cosworth that meant that the Englishman had to back off. With just seventeen laps to go Amon was left with a huge lead from the two McLaren-Ford Cosworths of Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren, but there was to be one final retirement to upset the race order.
Head in his hands, Amon would be spotted crawling to a stop in the pits, his clutch so badly worn that he could no longer change gear. That left the two McLarens to pick up the lead, with Hulme ultimately taking his second win in a row to go level with Hill at the top of the Championship. McLaren came home second, a lap down from his teammate, with Pedro Rodríguez in third, ahead of Hill, Vic Elford and an unusually quiet Jackie Stewart.
Having seen the problems caused by staging the 1967 Canadian Grand Prix in the middle of the European phase of the season, the FIA had decided to move the 1968 edition to the start of the North American tour, much to the benefit of the entry list with twenty five entries submitted. A change of venue had also been arranged, with the Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec chosen, although there had been some extensive work carried out to improve circuit safety. G.P.D.A. president Jo Bonnier had been the cause of a $35,000 redevelopment scheme, with Swede ensuring that the circuit was lined with fresh safety barriers and that any banks were removed to prevent any airborne Grand Prix cars, although some commentators thought those measures were over the top.
Away from the circuit developments and the entry list was rather impressive, even though it did not match the Italian Grand Prix's exhaustive size. Ferrari had shipped three cars out to the Northern Territory, with Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx in action, Derek Bell returning to his Formula Two commitments back in Europe. All three cars featured an updated adjustable wing, operated with the gear lever so that lower gears resulted in a higher angle of attack, while higher gears resulted in a lower wing angle.
Another entrant down on their Italy entries were BRM, who had just one car ready for the weekend, the 1968 model prepared for Pedro Rodríguez. The second chassis had been intended for Bobby Unser, although he would be unable to race due to his U.S.A.C. duties, which was scheduled for the same day. The third BRM car was back with Reg Parnell Racing, who were fielding Piers Courage as usual, although the privateers had opted to fit an extra, permanent, fuel tank.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth were out with three factory run cars with three drivers pencilled in: lead driver Graham Hill, regular runner Jackie Oliver, and Canadian racer Bill Brack. Hill would field the rebuilt #8 Lotus sporting a full width rear wing, spanning the entire width of the car across the rear wheels, although the Norfolk squad were reluctant to fit an in-car adjuster to their design. Oliver would race in an unmodified car from Monza, while Brack, who was the main Lotus dealer in Canada, was given an identical car, with all three sporting a re-designed exhaust system. The familiar fourth Lotus of the Rob Walker Racing Team would also be in attendance, Jo Siffert once again at the wheel.
McLaren-Ford Cosworth were also out in force in Canada, led by the two factory efforts of Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren, who had unmodified cars. Bonnier had an older specification car, painted the familiar bright yellow of the Swede's privateer effort Ecurie Bonnier, while a fourth car was also in attendance. The third factory M7A had been bought, along with three brand new engines, by Dan Gurney and his Anglo American Racers effort, who had finally run out of parts for their Eagle-Weslake cars, and so had splashed out on a new McLaren to end the season.
Matra were also able to field an expanded effort, with Ken Tyrrell entering two cars for Jackie Stewart and Johnny Servoz-Gavin. They would be supported by the full factory effort, with Jean-Pierre Beltoise partnered by Henri Pescarolo to complete a full French team. All four cars would have fixed wings fitted for the Canadian round, with all of the adjusters removed to prevent any problems.
Elsewhere, Honda were back with their two efforts run by Team Surtees, with John Surtees and David Hobbs set to race once again. Brabham-Repco were also in Quebec, Jochen Rindt using the newest car while Jack Brabham used his season-starting chassis, which was fitted with fixed wings again. Completing the factory entries were Cooper-BRM with two cars. one for Lucien Bianchi and the other for Vic Elford, which was fitted with a spring loaded rear wing allowing it to feather at high speed. There would be one more privateer entry to complete the entrants, with Al Pease returning with his old Eagle-Climax.
Victory for Denny Hulme in Italy had left the New Zealander in the exact same position in the Championship standings, remaining rooted to fourth place in the season of his title defence. That said, he was only six points off of leader Graham Hill, who had failed to score for a fifth time in six races and yet was still holding the Championship lead. Jacky Ickx was up to second with his third place, swapping places with Jackie Stewart once again, while Johnny Servoz-Gavin made a lot of ground by claiming second.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth were still leading the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers charge, their lead down to nine points at the conclusion of the European season. Matra-Ford Cosworth were their closest challengers, although Ferrari and McLaren-Ford Cosworth were also within striking distance ahead of the final three races. BRM looked set for a top five finish, ten clear of sixth placed Cooper-BRM, with Brabham-Repco a rather disappointing seventh ahead of Honda and Matra.
The full entry list for the 1968 Canadian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice and qualifying would be rolled into one as usual in Canada, with sessions running on the afternoons of Friday and Saturday from 1:00pm. The first session was held in bright, warm conditions, allowing drivers to get plenty of practice in, while Saturday saw cooler temperatures that allowed drivers to push their engines even harder. As for target times, most of the field would be targeting a 1:35.7, a time shared by Al Unser and Mario Andretti earlier in the season during a U.S.A.C. race, the closest competition to Formula One staged at the circuit.
Practice would open with Denny Hulme screaming out of the pits in his orange McLaren-Ford Cosworth, joined by teammate Bruce McLaren, John Surtees and Piers Courage. Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart soon joined them and began ramping up the pace, although they would not stay at the top of the times for very long as Jochen Rindt and Hulme went top, a second shy of the the U.S.A.C. pace. They would remain top for the rest of the first hour, with the session haulted so that a broken down Vic Elford could be retrieved after his Cooper-BRM developed a fault in its fuel system.
The session was soon back in full flow, with Hill shooting out of the pits straight away to start a run that would end with a 1:35.8, just a tenth slower than the record. The Brit would just miss out on being the first to break it a few seconds later, with Chris Amon barrelling down the pit straight to record a 1:35.4, quickly followed by Surtees, Hill and Stewart. Hulme and McLaren, meanwhile, were unable to join them having changed the cars from Monza specification earlier in the day, while Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham quietly got into the 1:35.0s, moments before the session was halted for a second time.
The cause would be Jacky Ickx, whom had spent most of the day battling with a sticking throttle, was finally beginning to push and get on terms with teammate Amon. Unfortunately, just as Ickx was coming into the first corner the throttle jammed wide open and threw the scarlet Ferrari off the circuit and barrelling into an earth bank, obliterating the front end. An ambulance was immediately sent to retrieve the Belgian, who would head to hospital with a broken left leg, although he would be back in the paddock on Saturday much to everyone's relief, albeit with his leg in a cast.
The session was resumed soon after Ickx was taken away, although the drivers were struggling to match their earlier pace. Stewart looked quick, certainly trying as hard as ever, but the Scot was consistently slower than his earlier time, an issue shared by the sister cars of Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo. The session would finally come to a close with Amon at the top of the standings, while Hill managed to damage the front end of his Lotus after a mistake at the first corner.
Saturday's cooler conditions would ultimately mean that the drivers would get more power from their engines and improve their times, although most were reluctant to venture out early on. A significant amount of oil had been dumped on the circuit by a support race, reducing grip, although most teams were running in their cars after overnight work. Yet, the relatively tranquil afternoon would eventually be broken in the final hour when everyone went out to try and snatch the $1,000 prize on offer for pole.
The final push in the final hour would see Jo Siffert go to provisional pole with his first lap, a 1:34.5, a time that Dan Gurney would match a few moments later. Hulme was next but fell shy of the 1:34.0 window, although his next lap would see him just breech the window. Then came Rindt, who put together an impressive series of laps that culminated in a 1:33.8, having told his mechanics that he would break the 1:34.0 barrier. Amon would be the next man to set a time, the New Zealander matching Rindt's best effort to take second, a position confirmed a few seconds later when Hill came into the pits, the Lotus pit crew having mistakenly put Brack's tyres onto Hill's pole contender.
The full qualifying results for the 1968 Canadian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||12||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:37.4||1:34.5||+0.7s|
|4||11||Dan Gurney||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:37.2||1:34.5||+0.7s|
|5||3||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:34.8||1:35.9||+1.0s|
|6||1||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:35.9||1:34.9||+1.1s|
|8||2||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:37.4||1:35.0||+1.2s|
|9||4||Jackie Oliver||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:36.6||1:35.2||+1.4s|
|11||14||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:35.4||1:35.5||+1.7s|
|13||15||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth||1:38.1||1:36.0||+2.2s|
|14*||10||Jacky Ickx||Ferrari||1:36.6||No time||+2.8s|
|21||27||Bill Brack||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:42.3||1:41.2||+7.4s|
|WD||8||David Hobbs||Honda||Driven by Surtees|
|WD||17||Bobby Unser||BRM||Did not arrive|
- * Ickx and Al Pease were not able to start the race.
Raceday dawned dry and warm, although the circuit would be surrounded by threatening clouds by the time the Grand Prix cars were assembled on the grid. Most teams would take part in a pre-race warm-up session a couple of hours before the race, leading to some important remedial work at Lotus-Ford Cosworth, before the cars were filled to the brim with fuel. Otherwise, everyone bar Jo Bonnier, who was being towed back to pits with a non-firing engine, was ready for the start, signalled by the Canadian Prime Minister waving the Canadian flag.
It would be a fairly even start to the race when the flag dropped, although Chris Amon was able to slither into the lead from second. Also shooting past pole sitter Jochen Rindt would be Jo Siffert after a perfect start, only denied the lead by being on the outside of turn one, with Rindt just holding on to third. So the order remained through the rest of the opening lap, although Siffert was challenging Amon for the lead as they came back past the pits for the first time.
The following laps would see little change in the order, in spite of Siffert's efforts, as the pace quickly closed on the practice pace. Jack Brabham and John Surtees would swap places, just ahead of Jackie Oliver and Jackie Stewart, who were also engaged in a duel. Rindt, meanwhile, was beginning to slip away from the back of Siffert, although fourth placed Dan Gurney was unable to attack the Austrian due to the attentions of Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and the rest of the field.
The pace out front would be relentless, and despite a smoking engine, Siffert set a new lap record on lap eight in his pursuit Amon, although the Lotus was just too far away to try a move on the Ferrari. Rindt was holding station in third, two seconds down, while the pressure on Gurney meant that the gap between Austrian and American had grown to eight seconds. The Gurney group were stuck in a long train due to the confines of the narrow Circuit Mont-Tremblant, the only change coming when Surtees retired on lap eleven with a ruined gearbox.
Two laps after Surtees' departure and Stewart was seen limping into the pits, the Scot having suffered a suspension failure that seemed to end his race, only for Ken Tyrrell to instruct the team to replace the failed suspension link. Lucien Bianchi was also in the pits, making the first of several stops that would hope to cure a troublesome fuel flow issue, while Hill squeezed past Gurney on lap fourteen. Siffert and Amon, meanwhile, were still battling for the lead, and, despite the pace, both were carrying mechanical issues.
Indeed, while Siffert set about breaking his own lap record on consecutive laps, the Swiss racer's tired engine began emitting even more smoke, as he continued to threaten Amon in the lead. The New Zealander was remaining in the sick Lotus' sights for a reason, for Amon had lost the use of his clutch on lap twelve, giving Siffert a chance to close up on the scarlet car in every braking zone. Yet, neither looked likely to give in the fight, with Siffert continuing to chip off tenths of a second from his lap record, ultimately setting a 1:35.1 on lap 22, meaning he had lapped the circuit at an average speed of 100.32 mph.
Behind them remained a very lonely Rindt, who was running without any issues, but was not going to push hard enough to risk a failure. Hill, in contrast, was pushing, until the Englishman felt a problem towards the rear of his car and began throwing looks over his shoulder to diagnose the issue. Further back, Piers Courage and Bill Brack had dropped out from the race with mechanical failures, the Canadian having lost a driveshaft, while Jack Brabham sounded set for the sidelines with a very rough running Repco engine.
A few laps after setting the lap record Siffert would be climbing out of his car, the Ford Cosworth having finally drained its remaining oil and force the Swiss racer into the pits. Amon was therefore left with a twelve second lead at the front of the field, Rindt and Hill holding station with almost fifteen seconds between them. Then came the orange trio of McLaren, Hulme and Gurney, although the latter would be forced to stop on the same lap as Siffert having taken a stone to the radiator.
It would take a couple more failures before the race order finally settled, with Brabham stopping to discover that half of his exhaust had fallen apart, while Oliver dropped out with a driveshaft failure. The result of all of the retirements meant that after 33 laps, Amon held a 32 second lead over Rindt, with Hill slowly slipping into the clutches of Hulme and McLaren. There were two other drivers on the lead lap, Pedro Rodríguez and Johnny Servoz-Gavin, while Stewart took over the mantle of being the fastest driver, despite being eight laps behind.
Yet, the stability would only last so long, and when Rindt's engine began to smoke it only seemed like a matter of time before the next retirement came. On lap 39 the inevitable happened, the Austrian limping into the pits with an overcooked engine, although Hill would not stay in second for too long. Indeed, the Brit was being restricted to nursing his car after his earlier drama, and when Hulme eventually attacked on lap 44, the Championship leader eased off the throttle and allowed the defending World Champion through, with McLaren also charging past in his teammate's wake.
Amon, meanwhile, would pull over a minute clear as Hulme plotted his move, with half distance breezing past and half the field on the sidelines for good measure. Rodriguez, meanwhile, was catching a slowing Hill hand over fist, breezing past the Lotus on lap 55, although the Mexican's car could hardly be considered healthy as his BRM engine dumped oil into its exhausts. Servoz-Gavin would also take Hill's sick Lotus, the Frenchman not struggling with any visible issues, with Elford, Beltoise, Stewart and Bianchi all still on circuit as the race became a procession.
However, every race in 1968 had seen some late drama that completely reversed the look of the race, and on lap 71 the Canadian Grand Prix proved to be no exception. Rounding the first corner of the lap, Servoz-Gavin ran wide and struck a bank, ending his race with ruined suspension, although the Frenchman claimed that he had had a puncture that forced him off. That, however, would be a footnote, as Amon came crawling into the pits a few seconds later to retire, the New Zealander's transmission having finally worn out after 60 laps without use of the clutch.
As a crutch support Jacky Ickx went over to talk to his distraught teammate, Hulme took control of the race, while teammate McLaren decided to ease off his pace and nurse his car to the flag. The former would soon lap his boss as the race wound to a close, with just seven cars left running when Beltoise stopped out on circuit having gone through two batteries and a gearbox.
A rather low key end to the race saw Hulme cruise home to take a second win in a row, and go level with Hill at the top of the Championship standings as the Englishman finished fourth. McLaren was a lap down in second, his orange car running almost perfectly at the end, while Rodriguez was a happy, if smokey, fourth in the BRM. Behind Hill would be a charging Elford, who had been closing in on the sole surviving Lotus in the final laps, with Stewart coming close to besting Siffert's fastest lap on his way to sixth. Bianchi would also cross the line, but his six stops and lack of pace left the Belgian 34 laps down and well out of the window to be classified.
The full results for the 1968 Canadian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||1||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||90||2:27:11.2||6||9|
|2||2||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||89||+1 lap||8||6|
|3||16||Pedro Rodríguez||BRM||88||+2 laps||12||4|
|4||3||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||86||+4 laps||5||3|
|5||21||Vic Elford||Cooper-BRM||86||+4 laps||16||2|
|6||14||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||83||+7 laps||11||1|
|Ret||15||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth||71||Accident||13|
|NC||20||Lucien Bianchi||Cooper-BRM||56||+34 laps||18|
|Ret||19||Henri Pescarolo||Matra||54||Oil pressure||19|
|Ret||4||Jackie Oliver||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||32||Halfshaft||9|
|Ret||12||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||29||Oil leak||3|
|Ret||11||Dan Gurney||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||29||Radiator||4|
|Ret||27||Bill Brack||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||18||Halfshaft||20|
|Ret||22||Jo Bonnier||McLaren-BRM||0||Fuel system||17|
- 100th Grand Prix starts for Graham Hill and Jack Brabham.
- Ferrari made their 150th Grand Prix start as a constructor.
- Repco earned their seventh and final pole position.
- Fourth win for Denny Hulme.
- Third win for McLaren.
A second win a row for Denny Hulme left the defending World Champion level on points with Championship leader Graham Hill with two races to go, although the Brit was still ahead on countback as the F1 circus headed south. Jackie Stewart had retained third, level on points with Jacky Ickx as the injured Belgian slipped to fourth, while Bruce McLaren was the first of those out of the title fight in fifth. He and Pedro Rodríguez would leave Canada level on points and 18 behind the leaders, meaning both would lose out on the title.
The Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers battle had also closed up after the Canadian scrap, with Lotus-Ford Cosworth and McLaren-Ford Cosworth heading into the final two rounds separated by just seven points. Also in the title fight were Matra-Ford Cosworth, nine behind, and Ferrari, although with a thirteen point deficit the Scuderia looked to be the dark horses in the fight. BRM looked set for fifth, potentially able to catch the Italian firm, while Cooper-BRM would try and fend off a challenge from a disappointed Brabham-Repco squad, who had been dismal throughout 1968.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: CANADIAN GP, 1968', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr171.html, (Accessed 09/12/2016)
- M.J.T., 'Canadian Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/11/1968), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/november-1968/38/canadian-grand-prix, (Accessed 09/12/2016)
- 'Canada 1968: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/canada/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 09/12/2016)
- 'Canada 1968: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/canada/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 09/12/2016)
- 'Canada 1968: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/canada/classement.aspx, (Accessed 10/12/2016)
|V T E||Canadian Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Mosport Park (1967, 1969, 1971–1974, 1976–1977), Mont-Tremblant (1968, 1970), Montreal (1978–1986, 1988–2008, 2010–present)|
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