The 1963 Belgian Grand Prix, officially known as the XXIII Grand Prix de Belgique, was the second round of the 1963 FIA Formula One World Championship, held at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium on the 9th of June. The race would be long remembered for the dominant display of the race winner, among some of the wettest conditions recorded at the Spa circuit during a Grand Prix.
Graham Hill had taken pole during qualifying, although he was powerless to prevent Jim Clark from taking the lead in the wet conditions as the Scot got a perfect launch. Hill would challenge Clark for the lead in the opening stages, with the pair disappearing from the rest of the field at an incredible rate, as the track began to dry ever so slightly despite the heavy clouds over the circuit. An almighty scrap for third ran behind for a long time, but the brawl allowed Hill and Clark to dance even further ahead.
At just after half distance a storm swept across the circuit, causing chaos and delays for many while Clark pulled clear from Hill. As it happened, the Scot was to run alone from that moment on, for Hill suffered a gearbox failure and was out of the race with Clark now a lap ahead of everyone bar those in a battle for second. Bruce McLaren emerged from that group with a few laps to go, and was the only one to escape Clark's scything run to lap the field. Ultimately, the Scot won from the New Zealander by almost five minutes with Dan Gurney completing the podium for Brabham-Climax.
A healthy entry list was submitted to the race organisers for the Belgian race, with all of the constructor/factory outfits guaranteed at least one if not two spaces on the grid. Qualifying would hence serve only to make sure that the slowest would need to prove their pace to get a place as the leaders hunted down the lap record. The extraordinary long straights of Belgium meant the 1959 record of Jack Brabham still stood at 3:51.9, with the 1.5 litre cars lacking the power to match the older cars along the run to La Source.
Team Lotus were one of the earliest arrivals at the circuit, bringing their two 25s from Monaco with the older car from 1962 as back up. Jim Clark's car featured a redesigned perspex screen, designed to deflect air round the cockpit more efficiently to reduce drag, while Trevor Taylor ran with a normal car. They also brought a promising youngster with them, having signed up Peter Arundell to the team after his impressive run in the Formula Junior series.
Belgium would also see the début of the second "monocoque" car to grace Formula One, with the British Racing Partnership bringing their first creation, the BRP Mk1. They handed the car to Innes Ireland, although there was some disappointment among the British press that a doubly British car (as it was powered by a BRM engine) was not unveiled in British Racing Green. They would also field a BRM powered Lotus 24 for Jim Hall, providing an interesting comparison for a largely untested car.
With experiments going on among two of the major entrants, there was to be no surprise for the rest. BRM arrived with their new P57s from Monaco, with Richie Ginther running a new gearbox, while Ferrari brought their updated 156s with a cowling around the nose to reduce drag. Cooper-Climax also arrived without major changes to their pair of T66s.
Elsewhere, there was a healthy display among the lesser constructors, headlined by the entry of the ATS outfit. They, however, would not arrive before practice started, and instead attention was place on the new Scirocco-BRM in the hands of Tony Settember. Brabham-Climax also attended, fielding two different cars for Dan Gurney and owner Jack Brabham, with Lola-Climaxes also in Spa under the control of Reg Parnell Racing.
It was Graham Hill who arrived in Belgium at the head of the Championship, the Englishman having won the opening round in Monaco. His team mate Ginther would start the Belgian Grand Prix in second place in the standings, with Bruce McLaren arriving in a familiar third. John Surtees, Tony Maggs and Trevor Taylor completed the early scorers, with Clark a notable absentee from that group. BRM led the way in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers through Hill and Ginther, already looking comfortable ahead of Cooper, Ferrari and Team Lotus.
The full entry list for the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice and qualifying were set to start on Friday afternoon, with the first session opening at 5:00pm in dry and warm conditions once the circuit dried. This was followed by a second session on Saturday, starting shortly after lunch in near perfect conditions, allowing times to tumble.
Monaco had seen both Team Lotus cars hit by gearbox issues during the race, and they now struck Jim Clark in practice, with the Scot managing to record a reconissence lap before the problems started. Trevor Taylor, in contrast, ran without issue, only stopping to take on fuel as he set gradually improving times as the few puddles on the circuit cleared. The Lotus gearbox issues were seen elsewhere, with the new BRP-BRM unable to move, while Richie Ginther was having to hold the gear lever in place to prevent his car slipping out of gear.
It was late on Saturday when a strange car flashed past the pits, followed by a similar spectre a few moments later. Unseen by everyone, the new ATS team had unloaded their delayed cars at the back of the circuit, sending them out for a couple of laps as the session came to a close. They were joined on circuit by the new Scirocco-BRM which finally emerged from the garages, while Clark got a few laps in with the spare Lotus.
Overnight many of the teams serviced their cars and the perfect conditions meant that the times were quick to come down once the session opened. Graham Hill struck an early blow, sweeping around Spa to complete a 3:54.1, while rival Clark remained stuck in the garage with a new gearbox issue. It quickly became clear that a sub-four minute lap was the order of the day, with Innes Ireland dancing the new BRP around in 3:56.9.
Serious running was being made by Taylor, the Englishman running round without issue until a suspension failure through Stavelot saw his car thrown into the wall. He walked back to the pits to report that the car was a write off, before climbing into the spare car to join Clark on the circuit. The Scot recorded the eighth best time of the session as he finally set consecutive laps, while Dan Gurney put the new Brabham-Climax onto the front row almost un-noticed.
The full qualifying results for the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|18||29||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||4:14.6||+20.5s|
|Carel Godin de Beaufort|
Both practice sessions had seen glorious sunshine around Spa, even if the first session had been damp to begin with. Yet, Sunday dawned a miserable grey as a cloudburst swept across the circuit as the mechanics gathered in the pits. The start was scheduled for 3:30 in the afternoon, but the skies suddenly brightened an hour before start time and the circuit began to dry, causing hope that the race may be held in dry conditions.
A good start for Willy Mairesse in third was expected to see him lead away from the line, but he was among seven other drivers to be stunned by the man starting from eighth on the grid. Jim Clark hooked up a perfect start, darting to the outside of everyone ahead before sweeping into Eau Rouge in the lead. Graham Hill, meanwhile, used his stronger BRM engine to out drag Mairesse up the hill to take second, with Jack Brabham following him through.
The back of the circuit was still fairly damp, and by the end of the opening lap Clark and Hill were over fifteen seconds clear, dancing their way through to Les Combes before Brabham came through. The Australian led the rest of the field in a long line, with his team mate Dan Gurney managing to take Mairesse in the run back to the start/finish straight. This group would prove to be the main attraction over the following laps, with Mairesse coming through at the head of the group to start lap three, with Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Gurney and John Surtees heading into Eau Rouge line abreast.
As they shuffled around the track to give each other room, there was a collision among the back markers as they came through La Source. Lucien Bianchi tried to take Carel Godin de Beaufort through the hairpin at the end of the lap, but only succeeded in hitting the side of the Porsche. There was bodywork damage to both cars, Bianchi having to drive the Lola-Climax in for nose repairs, while de Beaufort had a dent in the side but was otherwise unharmed.
The third placed battle had spread out a bit, Mairesse able to pull slightly clear of Brabham as Surtees took Gurney at the end of the third lap. Innes Ireland was catching, the Englishman having ruined his start in the BRP-BRM by accidently switching off the ignition while changing gear at the start. Chris Amon was also enjoying his first start, catching an ill sounding BRM in the hands of Richie Ginther, while Phil Hill stopped to have an airlock dealt with in the new ATS which was preventing the engine being cooled.
With Clark now stretching out an eight second lead over Graham Hill as the circuit slowly dried, although there was about to be a significant change for third. Mairesse locked up heading into La Source, meaning he ran very wide and opened the door to the group behind. Brabham, Surtees, McLaren and Gurney all slipped past, but by the time the third placed brawl swung through the hairpin again with Mairesse behind team mate Surtees.
The third placed group was soon to be hit by mechanical issues, the first leaving Mairesse in the pits with an unhealthy sounding Ferrari V6. Next to lose out was Brabham, his car having developed an intermitent short circuit in the fuel pumps meaning he was out dragged by McLaren and Surtees before he could stop for repairs. Ireland, Phil Hill and Jo Siffert were in and out of the pits, while Amon's strong debut was brought to an end by an oil leak.
With a third of the race gone, Clark had an untroubled run fifteen seconds clear of Graham Hill, who was steadily being caught by Surtees in third. The Ferrari's pace was not to last, however, for on lap fourteen the scarlet car was in the pits with an engine issue. McLaren was another man in the pits, the early wet running masking an unhealthy Climax engine in the back of the Cooper, with Gurney now alone in third place.
Clark was beginning to raise the pace once again as half distance flashed past, the Scot finally putting together a sub-four minute lap on lap sixteen of thirty-two. At that moment, the darkening sky broke into a heavy burst of rain, a storm coming across the circuit from the village of Malmedy. A lap later, with lightening flashing above the circuit, the race was largely sorted as Graham Hill ground to a stop with a gearbox failure, leaving Clark over a minute clear of Gurney.
Bianchi and Jim Hall, meanwhile had simultaneous spins through Eau Rouge, the pair coming through the sweeping run to find the road awash. There was no contact between the two despite both spinning off the circuit, Bianchi pirouetting across the infield to come to rest unharmed to continue. Hall was less fortunate as his Lotus-BRM went skidding off into a field, the spin and bouncing managing to break something internally and leave the American out.
Clark was now in a world of his own, making almost twenty seconds a lap out of the rest and the clouds met the highest peaks of the circuit. Ginther, meanwhile, was battling with Maggs and the recovering McLaren but ultimately had to surrender third place as the rain continued to get heavier, his BRM having been set up for the dry. He released the two Cooper-Climaxes to chase after Gurney, before having to allow Clark through before the end as the skies got darker and darker.
With a handful of laps to go Clark was about to lap Gurney in second, who was now running at such a slow pace that McLaren, having been allowed past by Maggs, was catching him. Elsewhere, Tony Settember's race came to an end at Stavelot, the American hitting a puddle at high speed and so was thrown down a bank and into a field. Bianchi was the next victim of the conditions, the Belgian hitting another deep pool of water through the Masta kink, sliding into a hedge before slamming into the side of a house. He emerged unhurt, but the world lost another Lola-Climax with the car a write-off.
With Siffert sustaining heavy damage from an unseen incident, and Maggs splitting his radiator after going for a bounce across the grass, calls began to be made for the race to be stopped. Team Lotus boss Colin Chapman joined Tony Rudd from BRM in discussions with the race organisers to call a halt to the race. Yet, even as they debated an early end, the storm began to drift away from the circuit and the rain eased off.
There were just two laps left, with Clark dropping his pace once he had lapped Gurney. There was therefore some surprise for the Scot when the Cooper of McLaren came charging by, the New Zealander taking Gurney on his late race charge. Clark, however, was content to let his go, and by the time the race was done Clark still had a lead of just under five minutes from McLaren, with Gurney claiming a first podium for Brabham-Climax. Five of the six finishers immediately stopped after crossing the line, only the sixth placed de Beaufort carrying on for a slow down lap with memories of the huge accident at Rouen the year before.
The full results for the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix are outlined below:
|3||18||Dan Gurney||Brabham-Climax||31||+1 lap||2||4|
|4||8||Richie Ginther||BRM||31||+1 lap||9||3|
|5||12||Jo Bonnier||Cooper-Climax||30||+2 laps||13||2|
|6||29||Carel Godin de Beaufort||Porsche||30||+2 laps||18||1|
|Ret||9||John Surtees||Ferrari||19||Fuel pressure||10|
|Ret||17||Jack Brabham||Brabham-Climax||12||Fuel pump||6|
|Ret||21||Chris Amon||Lola-Climax||10||Oil leak||15|
|Ret||2||Trevor Taylor||Lotus-Climax||5||Oil pressure||11|
- * Maggs and Settember were still classified as finishers despite failing to complete the final lap.
- Début for Chris Amon.
- 50th race for Climax.
- Brabham claimed their first podium as an entrant/constructor.
With Graham Hill failing to score and Jim Clark winning having retired in Monaco, the World Championship left Belgium with Bruce McLaren in the lead. His ten point tally left him with a one point lead over Hill, Clark and Richie Ginther, the American having scored nine points through his two points finishes. Dan Gurney completed the top five with his first points score of the season, as Jo Bonnier and Carel Godin de Beaufort added their names to the scorers list.
Ginther's points finish ensured BRM remained at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers, the British engine and chassis builder leaving Belgium with a two point lead over Lotus-Climax and Cooper-Climax. Gurney's first points finish for Brabham-Climax put them into fourth ahead of Ferrari as the scarlet outfit's luck continued to falter, while Porsche were on the board through the efforts of privateer de Beaufort.
Images and Videos:
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: BELGIAN GP, 1963', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr113.html, (Accessed 03/06/2016)
- ↑ 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 'The XXII Belgian Grand Prix', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/07/1963), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/july-1963/11/xxii-belgian-grand-prix-lotus-all-way, (Accessed 03/06/2016)
- ↑ 'Belgium 1963: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/belgique/engages.aspx, (Accessed 03/06/2016)
- ↑ 'Belgium 1963: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/belgique/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 03/06/2016)
- ↑ 'Belgium 1963: Results', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1963/belgique/classement.aspx, (Accessed 04/06/2016)
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