Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.
8th July 1962
Words by David Hodges
After four years at Reims, the French Grand Prix returned to Rouen for the third time, to be contested between British and German cars. Sadly, it had become matter of course that there should be no French cars; the unusual absence of Ferrari to represent Italy was due to a strike of Italian metal workers.
The British teams had recovered lost ground rapidly, thanks to the V-8 engines produced by B.R.M. and Coventry Climax, both of which had already propelled cars to Championship victories. But if these teams had thus put behind them their great handicap of 1961, they had for this race imposed on themselves a lesser one by racing in the Reims Grand Prix a week earlier and therefore bringing to Rouen some rather tired machinery.
Porsche Systems Engineering had not, thus far, enjoyed a happy season with their new air-cooled flat-8s. After running two at Zandvoort and one at Monaco, they had withdrawn them from racing for some intensive modification and development work. Now they reappeared with two of these cars, for Gurney and Bonnier. The genial Dutchman, Carel Godin de Beaufort, entered his own Ecurie Maarsbergen 1960 Porsche 'four'.
Three two-car works teams came from Britain. B.R.M. had two V-8 s for Graham Hill and Ginther; Cooper-Climax V-8s were entered for McLaren and Maggs (in these cars the New Zealander had recently scored Cooper's only victories of the Formula, with one at Monaco, with the other at Reims); Team Lotus had four cars on hand for Clark and Taylor, two Climax-engined monocoque 25s, a Climax-engined 24 and a B.R.M.-engined 24.
If it did not enjoy that precise status, the Bowmaker (nee Yeoman Credit) team was the Lola works team; two of Erie Broadley's Climax-engined cars were entered for the relative newcomer Surtees and the relative veteran Salvadori. The U.D.T-Laystall team had two Lotus 24s, Ireland's with a Climax V-8, Gregory's with a B.R.M. V-8.
First among the 'solo' entrants was Rob Walker, a much more consistent supporter of Grand Prix racing than the finance companies, and unless Baghetti's Rheims Ferrari is considered in this category, the only independent to win grandes epreuves under the 1.5-litre Formula. Stirling Moss, who had won the 1961 Monaco and German G.P.s for him was now permanently out of racing and the Walker Lotus-Climax was driven in 1962 by Maurice Trintignant, the only French driver in the Rouen event (his car, too, was the only blue one present, albeit the blue was darker than on any French car). While he was waiting for his own Grand Prix car to be completed, jack Brabham was driving, and entered, a Climax-engined Lotus 24. As their B.R.M.-engined car proved surplus to Team Lotus requirements, it was handed over to Siffert; there was one other (four-cylinder) car, Lewis's Climax FPF-engined 1961 Cooper.
Practice times were soon well below Musso's 1957 Grand Prix record. Quite simply, Graham Hill was fastest during the first session (2 min 15.9 sec) and Jim Clark in the second (2 min 14.8 sec, 108.58 m.p.h.). There were only two sessions, and they were all too short as wear and tear as much as any basic shortcoming upset some teamsa Lola holed a piston, a works and a U.D.T. Lotus had steering troubles, the Coopers had, inter alia, gearbox troubles (Maggs was unable to practise on the second day), while B.R.M. spent much time fiddling with ancillaries.
On Thursday 10 drivers had got below 2 min 20 sec, Surtees (2:16.3), Gurney (2:16.5) and Clark (2:16.7) being nearest to Hill's time. Two more beat this bogy on Friday, when Clark gained pole position and McLaren the other outside place on the front row. Before going off the road, Brabham got down to 2 min 16.1 sec, fourth fastest as Surtees and Gurney were unable to improve on their first-day times.
McLaren Hill Clark
(Cooper-Climax) (B.R.M.) (Lotus-Climax)
2:15.4 2:15.0 2:14.8
Ireland Gregory Gurney
(Lotus-Climax) (Lotus-B.R.M.) (Porsche)
2:17.5 2:17.3 2: 16.5
Trintignant Taylor Maggs
(Lotus-Climax) (Lotus-Climax) (Cooper-Climax)
2:20.8 2:19.1 2: 18.6
de Beaufort Lewis
The grid which formed up in fine, hot weather, and before 80,000 spectators, on Sunday was predominantly green and the smallest for a French Grand Prix since 1957. As in that year, there was some confusion at the start - Clark's Lotus was worked on to the last moment (only then were crossed plug leads discovered), Ginther's engine would not fire, although it had worked faultlessly on the reconnaissance laps, the grid was held overlong with engines running and then released with little warning by Raymond Roche (of Reims, acting as Race Director of this Rouen meeting).
The cars behind Ginther avoided his B.R.M. (which he then rolled down to its pit where it was soon started) and followed the other Bourne car, Hill's, round on the first lap. Clark, initially second, was passed by Surtees and behind them came McLaren, Brabham, Gurney, Gregory and Bonnier. Ireland had a hair-raising first lap (and race), going off the road at the lowest corner, Nouveau Monde, spinning at the highest, and ending it at his pit with a puncture and a bent wheel.
The lap record fell to Graham Hill (2 min 21.3 sec) next time round, and as he lapped his unfortunate team mate. Surtees stayed with him and as the rest lagged a little the race began to develop into a two-car event, for at 10 laps Clark, third, was nearly 10 sec behind the leader.
By this time Siffert had retired and at this time McLaren, who had been pushing Clark, spun on the uphill leg, carried on for a lap and then stopped to inspect his Cooper. Finding little apparently wrong, he rejoined the race. Brabham, meanwhile, had limped to his pit with a rear spring broken away from his Lotus.
The record fell below 2 min 20 sec (Hill, 2 min 19.3 sec) but then on the 13th lap Hill was relieved of immediate pressure as Surtees stopped at his pit, the Lola's engine grumbling with fuel vaporization troubles. So Hill, who clipped another tenth from his record, was left with a 16 sec lead over Clark (none too happy with the handling of his new Lotus); Gurney was third, another 20 sec down, and the race seemingly set to become a procession. Salvadori, Bonnier and Trintignant lost ground through pit stops, Surtees and Ginther steadily made up ground. Clark settled and set a new record, 2 min 18.4 sec, the other Team Lotus driver, the ever-unfortunate Trevor Taylor, had throttle trouble.
Half-distance, 27 laps, came with the order still settled and three of the runners stationary at their pits :
1. Hill, 1:03:084; 2. Clark, 1:03:31.7; 3. Gurney, 1:03:48.9; 4. Surtees, 1:05:074; 5. Maggs (lapped);
6. Lewis; 7. Ginther; 8. de Beaufort; 9. Bonnier, 10. McLaren; 11. Trintignant; 12. Taylor.
Now came sudden change, a babble of excitement from public address and public. Hill lapped Lewis for the second time, braked for a corner and was rammed and spun by the suddenly brakeless Cooper. The Welshman retired forthwith, the Londoner recovered to set off in furious pursuit of the Scot who had meanwhile gone through into the lead.
This chase, which saw the record Cut to 2 min 16.9 sec on lap 32, proved hardly necessary, for as Hill caught the Lotus, Clark was making for his pit to retire a car with very dubious steering characteristics (a component in the front suspension had failed). So once again Graham Hill held a comfortable lead-half a minute-over Dan Gurney.
But this lasted for only eight laps. Again the voice from the loud speakers rose in pitch as it announced that the B.R.M. had coasted to a stop at Nouveau Monde. Here Hill pulled onto the wide grass verge to investigate his engine. A small stop in the fuel injection control had broken and the V-8 would run at no more than tick-over speed. Five cars passed before Hill crawled on round to the pits, where nothing could be done to speed things up. So he went back into the race, to keep out of the way and try to complete another lap or two. Porsche lost their second car at the same time, for Bonnier, who had been in increasing difficulty finally retired on lap 43 (officially he was nevertheless classified as a finisher).
There remained four healthy cars: Gurney's Porsche leading, Maggs' Cooper, now a surprise second but a lap in arrears, Ginther's B.R.M., third after an apparently disastrous start, and de Beaufort's Porsche, sixth. As far as the B.R.M. was concerned, this condition did not last-with five laps to go its throttle cable broke. Ginther reeled it in from the pedal and finished the race controlling his engine speed by hand-successfully, too, for he maintained his position. Surtees, meanwhile, was racing a single-speed (third gear) Lola and on the last lap he was passed by McLaren who, unknowingly, had been driving a Cooper with a cracked main chassis member since his lap 10 misadventure!
By a clear lap Dan Gurney won for himself and for the marque Porsche a first grande epreuve victory. It was to be Porsche's, and Germany's, only such victory under this Formula; despite all manner of ill luck, Gurney was to gain another. Only two healthy cars followed his across the line at Rouen in 1962, two of the others survived the actual race only to be wrecked in a quite unnecessary last-minute drama.
Surtees, finishing in his sick Lola, headed for his pit, but the shoulder-to-shoulder curtain of gendarmes in front of it did not part to let him through. Perforce, therefore, he swung away and into the path of Trintignant, who was finishing fast. He in turn swerved to the left. The road was thus occupied with cars or people-and Trevor Taylor, too, was finishing fast. At perhaps 120 m.p.h. he hit Trintignant's Lotus ... both drivers, blameless, escaped shaken but unhurt to survey the remains of their cars, Trintignant to roundly denounce the stupidity of the gendarmerie.
Then, apart from recriminations, the race was over, for most teams with the prospect of making battle-worthy their cars for the next Championship round after an event which had taken an unusually heavy mechanical toll.
Rouen. 54 laps, 219.52 miles (353.268 km).
1. Gurney (Porsche), 2 hours 07 min 35.5 sec, 101.89 m.p.h. (163.892 km/h)
2. Maggs (Cooper-Climax), 53 laps
3. Ginther (B.R.M.), 52 laps
4. McLaren (CooperClimax), 51 laps
5. Surtees (Lola-Climax), 51 laps
6. de Beaufort (Porsche), 51 laps
7. Trint gnant (LotusClimax), 50 laps
8. Taylor (Lotus-Climax), 48 laps
9. Hill (B.R.M.), 44 laps
10 Bonnier (Porsche), 42 laps*.
*Not running at end of race.
Fastest lap: Hill, 2 min 16.9 sec, 106.90 m.p.h. (172.032 km/h).
Ireland (Lotus-Climax), 1 lap (wheel)
Siffert (Lotus-B.R.M.), 5 laps (clutch)
Brabham (Lotus-Climax), 11 laps (rear suspension)
Gregory (Lotus-B.R.M.), 15 laps (engine)
Salvadori (LolaClimax), 20 laps (engine)
Lewis (Cooper-Climax), 28 laps (brakes)
Clark (Lotus-Climax), 34 laps (front suspension).