Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.
28th June 1964
Words by David Hodges
According to the Automobile Club de France, this race was to be their 50th Grand Prix, although even some senior gentlemen in French racing circles could not agree that it was any more than the 42nd. Indisputably, however, the first motoring competition had taken place in 1894 and had ended in Rouen so none could deny that it was appropriate that the 1964 Grand Prix should be run there and that it marked an anniversary. Apart from a straightforward Formula 3 race, the Grand Prix was consequently accompanied by other manifestations - a race for pre-War cars, a rally of veteran cars over part of the 1894 route, and so on.
The Grand Prix attracted the normal circus, with the exception of the outstanding independent, Rob Walker, and 17 cars started in the race. This year Team Lotus and Jim Clark were defending Championship honours; the weapons at the Scot's disposal were two monocoques, a somewhat modified 25B and a 33 (his team mate, Arundell, had another 25B). The other works teams also entered pairs of drivers - B.R.M. (the only other team with a spare car) had stressed-skin models for Graham Hill and Ginther; Brabham had two space-frame cars for Brabham and Gurney (who had the cruel luck to lose a near-certain first Championship win for the marque in the extraordinary preceding race in the series, at Spa); Cooper, who had also come within an ace of victory in the Belgian G.P., had cars for McLaren and Phil Hill; finally, the Ferrari team consisted of two V-8-engined cars for Surtees and Bandini.
In the eyes of race organizers, the British Racing Partnership failed to attain the status of a works team, although by virtue of the fact that they produced cars of their own construction they might have been as entitled to it as were the other British constructors who used 'bought-out' power units. Their cars at Rouen, for Ireland and Taylor, were B.R.M-engined monocoques. Reg Parnell also had two cars, a pair of B.R.M.-engined Lotus 25s for Hailwood and Amon. Finally there were three independents, Siffert (Brabham-B.R.M.), Anderson (Brabham-Climax) and Maurice Trintignant, the only Frenchman, near the end of a long and honourable racing career and entered in his last French Grand Prix. He was equipped with a much-raced space frame B.R.M. (it had been used by Graham Hill in 1962 and the Scuderia CentroSud in 1963). Appropriately it was painted in a true horizon blue.
Since 1962 machinery had been improved, tyres had been improved and the circuit had been resurfaced; the weather for the meeting was fine if not always brilliant; practice times tumbled below the record standing to Graham Hill at 2 min 16.9 see. Ten drivers improved on this during the first session, the four British works pairs and the B.R.P. drivers. The principal competition was between Clark and Gurney, honours eventually going to the Scot with a 2 min 09.6 sec lap (half a second better than the American's best). The B.R.M. team were at sixes and sevens-Ginther had a minor accident and too much of the short time available was spent in tuning the rear suspension and engine of Hill's car.
The Ferrari team turned up for Friday practice and Surtees qualified for a place on the front row. Gurney was fastest during this session but of the works drivers only McLaren, Brabham and Ginther improved on their earlier times. The B.R.M.s still seemed off form so that they were on the third and fourth rows of the Sunday grid. The blue B.R.M. was on the last row, although happily it was not slowest of all in practice (but Trintignant was slower than he had been in 1962).
Clark Gurney Surtees
(Lotus-Climax) (Brabham-Climax) (Ferrari)
2:09.6 2:10.1 2:11.1
G. Hill McLaren Bandini
(B.R.M.) (Cooper-Climax) (Ferrari)
2:12.1 2:12.4 2:12.8
Ginther P. Hill
Ireland Taylor Hailwood
(B.R.P.-B.R.M.) (B.R.P.-B.R.M.) (Lotus-B.R.M)
2:14.8 2:14.9 2:16.2
Race-day preliminaries included the Formula 3 event, the 12 lap Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or and a promenade by the veterans, goings-on which entertained-and which lubricated the road surface. So before forming up on a dummy grid (a useful innovation-which could profitably have been employed at Rheims in past years!) the Grand Prix drivers were let out for two reconnaissance laps. During these a little more oil found its way onto the circuit, through a cam cover of the engine of Clark's Lotus. So as 16 cars awaited the 'start engines' signal, a green and yellow one was being worked on. Liquid metal did the job and just in time the car was pushed to its pole position. The field moved forward to the proper grid, the tricouleur fell and the 50th (or 42nd) French Grand Prix was on.
Sixteen drivers made good starts, Clark made his almost invariably brilliant start and jumped away from the others to lead the downhill rush to the cobbles and concrete of Nouveau Monde and then on round the smoother major part of the circuit. Following him at the end of the lap were Gurney, beginning to detach himself from the rest, Surtees, Brabham, the Hills, P. and G., Arundell and Bandini. On a generous pudding of oil and sand at la Scierie, the go-degree right-hander at the end of the longest straight, McLaren spun gently to become 'la lanterne rouge'.
Gurney strove to keep Clark in sight, Surtees strove to hang onto Gurney. But his Ferrari put paid to this and on lap 3, from eighth place, he took his misfiring car into the pits where, in 14 min, an oil pipe and an oil-soaked distributor were given sufficient attention for him to put in a few more half-hearted laps. On the same lap Graham Hill dropped from 6th to 13th when he spun at la Scierie, like McLaren to resume and start to work his way up the field.
Out in front Clark was lapping consistently in around 2 min 14 sec and working himself into his usual isolated position. On lap 10 he was nearly 10 sec ahead of Gurney, while the American in turn was 25 sec ahead of his patron, jack Brabham. On lap 12 Clark got the record down to 2 min 13.0 sec and by lap 15 led Gurney by 11 sec.
The rest of the runners were meanwhile sorting themselves out. McLaren caught Ginther and, while the two duelled, Graham Hill passed both to go after Phil Hill. The American was bothered by unpredictable brakes and after holding fourth place for the first few laps had given way to Arundell. Graham Hill made short work of the Cooper, Ginther and McLaren got past it less easily. Siffert had stopped here and there, to give up early in the race, Trevor Taylor ran out of brakes (and road at la Scierie) and completed lap 6 to retire, an ignition wire on Amon's engine broke, conveniently within coasting range of the pits (where it was quickly repaired).
The lap record fell to Clark again on lap 22 (2 min 12.7) and he just went on increasing his lead by a fraction of a second on every lap. Brabham, still third, was losing more ground to Gurney than the American was to Clark and was being caught by Hill (who took fourth place on lap 22) and Arundell. Further back, Ginther was getting the better of the two Cooper drivers after a battle for sixth, Ireland, Bandini and Hailwood disputed ninth place while Trintignant and Anderson, both lapped, brought up the rear.
By half-distance the trio running 9th, 10th and 11th had also been lapped by Clark, who led by 14.5 sec. But the Scot's 30th lap was slow and at the end of it he stopped at his pit for 16 sec - enough to lose the lead. He went out for one more lap, came in again with a smoking engine - a holed piston had ended his race.
Brabhams were now first and second, with Gurney a full minute ahead of Brabham, whose engine was just a little off colour. He was being overhauled by Hill and Arundell and by lap 36 the B.R.M. was only 0.7 sec behind him. One more lap and Hill split the Brabham pair; Gurney eased - he could well afford to - but Brabham was not prepared to yield an inch without a fight. His only reward was the lap record (2 min 11.4 sec on lap 44) for in a really close duel he just could not get his car's golden nose ahead again.
Arundell dropped back a little from this pair, as did Phil Hill from Ginther and McLaren, while Bandini left Ireland and Hailwood to get on with their fight. This did not last long, as Ireland slid off on the outside of one of the right-hand swerves before Nouveau Monde. Trintignant stopped with overheated feet, Anderson with carburetter trouble (on the only carburetter-fed engine in the race); both got going again to finish.
Brabham did not achieve the perfect result, first and second and the lap record, with his two-car team, for Hill beat him to the flag by 0.8 see. But now, uniquely, his name appeared twice on the list of French Grand Prix winners, once as a driver, once as a constructor. Moreover, with his second Rouen victory, Dan Gurney added the name of a second marque to the list of grande epreuve winners, this time amply making up for any disappointment which Jack Brabham felt at his own loss of second place.
Rouen. 57 laps, 231.72 miles (372.894 km).
1. Gurney (Brabham-Climax), 2 hours 07 min 49.1 sec, 108.77 m.p.h. (175.042 km/h)
2. G. Hill (B.R.M.), 2.08:13.2
3. Brabham (Brabham-Climax), 2:08:14.0
4. Arundell (Lotus-Climax), 2:08:59.7
5. Ginther (B.R.M.), 2:10:01.2
6. McLaren (Cooper-Climax), 56 laps
7. P. Hill (Cooper-Climax). 56 laps
8. Hailwood (Lotus-B.R.M.), 56 laps
9. Bandini (Ferrari), 55 laps
10. Amon (Lotus-B.R.M.), 53 laps
11. Trintignant (B.R.M.), 52 laps
12. Anderson (Brabham-Climax), 50 laps.
Fastest lap: Brabham, 2 min 11.4 sec, 111.37 m.p.h. (179.232 km/h).
Siffert (Brabham-B.R.M.), 5 laps (engine)
Surtees (Ferrari), 7 laps (engine)
Taylor (B.R.P.-B.R.M.), 7 laps (brakes)
Clark (Lotus-Climax), 32 laps (engine)
Ireland (B.R.P.-B.R.M.), 32 laps (accident).