#110 1962 United States Grand Prix

2021-08-31 00:00

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#1962, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Ylenia Lucia Salerno,

#110 1962 United States Grand Prix

Formula One left Europe to move to the United States on the 7th of October 1962, to the Watkins Glen circuit, confirmed as the host venue for the four

Formula One left Europe to move to the United States on the 7th of October 1962, to the Watkins Glen circuit, confirmed as the host venue for the fourth United States Grand Prix after the success of the previous editions. The race for the title, which seemed to be over after the German Grand Prix, could now be reopened thanks to the discard rule: if Clark managed to win this Grand Prix and the race in South Africa, he would win the title, while Graham Hill only needed one victory to become World Champion. As in the 1961 season, Ferrari did not show up at Watkins, using as justification a strike that broke out among its employees that would have prevented the cars from being assembled in time for the Grand Prix. Therefore, once again Phil Hill was unable to run his home race and, moreover, rumours began to circulate that Enzo Ferrari wanted to fire him at the end of the season. The USA race was really successful last year. Formula 1 thus returns to Watkins Glen for the Fourth US Grand Prix. In 1961, the Drivers’ Championship had already been settled prior to this event. This year’s race instead could still change the final standings. Watkins Glen is situated in North-West New York State. It is the area known as the Fingers Lakes Region and is on the southern tip of Lake Seneca. Many circuits are situated in beautiful surroundings. However, only a few can be as lovely as these woods at this time of the year. They have a magnificent Autumn colouring. Some trees are green whilst others have lovely shades of brown, pink and red. The 2.3-mile circuit is situated 5 miles south of the town, high above the lake. The weather, which is beginning to get temperamental at this time of the year, can be very different in those two places.


The Maranello scarlet cars are missing from the 20-cars entry. The excuse is reminiscent of last year’s one. The strikes make it impossible to prepare the cars in time for the race weekend. Thus, once again, World Champion Phil Hill is robbed of the chance to show his fellow countrymen how well he can drive. To cap his disappointment, he is also told from a reliable source that Enzo Ferrari is sacking him at the end of the year. Let’s talk about the other top teams. The B.R.M. team brings three cars on track for Graham Hill and R Ginther. The former drives the old faithful car, as the mechanics call the first of this year’s cars, that was tested at Monza in 1961. It was the winner of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza three weeks ago. Ginther has the spare one from Monza. He previously finished in 2nd place at the Italian Grand Prix at the wheel of the T car. Team Lotus has two monocoque 25s for Clark and Taylor. These are the same two ill-fated cars that had so much trouble in Italy. ZF had rebuild the gearboxes ever since the Italian Grand Prix. The hope is that the troubles that haunted the team at Monza will be solved. Porsche brings two flat-8s for Gurney and Bonnier. The binding tape over the rear wishbones is removed from Gurney’s car whilst it remains on Bonnier’s one. The freewheeling of the cooling fan at high speeds is not fitted in either of those cars. It proved to be unsatisfactory at the end of the Italian Grand Prix. UDT-Laystall brings three cars for this race. Two are for Ireland and Gregory. Ireland has the Climax-engined car whilst Gregory will drive the B.R.M.-engined one. The only change is that the exhaust pipes of the B.R.M. engine is down and backwards.

They were up during the Monza weekend. The third car is on loan to Dupont Team Zerex and Roger Penske, the up-and-coming American boy. This car is painted in a colour of a tin of Zerex Anti-Freeze, which is a sort of mustard. Surtees and Salvadori’s Lolas are both entered by Bowmaker. Surtees has the old-spec car whilst Salvadori drives his usual one. John Cooper brings two Monza trim-cars for this weekend. The only exception is that Maggs is driving the car with the long-range fuel tanks whilst McLaren swaps to the normal car. RRC Walker is bringing two cars at Watkins Glens. One is for Trintignant. It is the one that Vaccarella used at Monza whilst Trintignant’s Monza car was on loan to John Mecom Jr, a young oil millionaire. He enters the re-sprayed pale blue Lotus V8 for his friend Bob Schroeder. The latter is a completely unknown driver from Texas. Let’s talk about the private entries. De Beaufort is at wheel of his orange Porsche. It is the Monza-spec one. Brabham has his turquoise-coloured Brabham car that is basically the same one that he previously raced with. The only difference is that the front disc brakes are now enlarged whilst the springing has been changed in order to improve road-holding. According to the programme, Tim Mayer’s car is entered by the Cooper Car Company. The car is the ex-Roger Penske 1961 Cooper with the Tommy Atkins’ Mk II 4-cylinder Climax engine. Hap Sharp enters the 1960 Cooper with Mk II 4-cylinder engine. It is the spare car that was taken to Indianapolis by Coopers. Jim Hall enters his ex-Jack Brabham Lotus 21. This rounds off the 20 entries for this upcoming weekend. The first practice session is from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Friday.


Even if it rained a lot in the morning, the track is almost dry. The first cars are starting to hit the track. Last year’s target lap times were: a 1’18"2 in race trim and a 1’17”0 in practice. The outright record, in a Formula Libre car, is currently held by Moss with a 1’16"0. McLaren, Clark and Taylor are the first drivers to exit the pitlane. They are shortly joined by Ginther, Gurney, Penske, Mayer and Surtees. Surtees’s Lola has new bearings. His car will be used throughout the rest of the day. Ginther, who is racing here for the first time, starts to set the pace with a 1’23”0. However, it isn’t long before Hill equals Ginther’s lap time. Clark’s Lotus is clocking a 1’25”0 whilst Gurney starts to have a go at the fastest lap in the Porsche. He then sets a time of 1’21"8. The times are under the 1’20"0 mark. The American driver, at the wheel of the B.R.M. car, still leads the way after an hour. Half-way through the first session, the two B.R.M. cars clock a 1’17"9. Clark’s Lotus and Brabham are 0.1 seconds behind. Gurney’s Porsche is in 5th position currently. In the meantime, Bonnier is suffering from a bad back and is 1.0 sec behind his team-mate. The two Lolas cannot break the 1’20"0 barrier for the time being. Ireland’s car is having a UDT engine issue. One of the tappets is broken which means that Innes never goes below the 1’24"0 mark. Gregory is so far going quite well at this stage of the practice session, setting a 1’38"3. He later sets a 1’17"9 before deciding that the B.R.M. engine is down on power. It is still a long way to go before the session ends. Sharp, Hall, and Schroeder’s cars are still in the pits after two hours. The mechanics change the gear ratio on McLaren’s Cooper. At the same time, De Beaufort’s mechanics are cleaning filth from the Porsche’s carburettor. Several cars are having spring and damper settings adjusted. Anti-roll bars are being changed and disconnected.


The track is bumpy all the way round and there are very odd cambers on some of the corners. B.R.M. changes the rear camber on Hill’s car whilst Graham is driving the T car. Things begin to shake up during the second half of this four-hours session. Ginther and Hill get below the 1’17"0 marks. Gurney goes even quicker with a 1’16"9, improving last year’s best practice time. Bonnier is slower than his teammate in the other Porsche. He is feeling uncomfortable with his back. The next to get under the 1’17"0 mark is Jack Brabham. This lap time proves that he has sorted out many of the original bugs that were affecting his car. McLaren and Maggs are both trying hard to get below the 1’17"0 mark in vain. Taylor, in the Lotus, is struggling as well. Towards the end of the practice session, Clark goes out on track. After a few laps, he proves that the Lotus 25 is the fastest F1 car by clocking a 1’15"8, which is the fastest practice time set so far. He goes 0.2 seconds faster than the outright track record. Tim Mayer’s Cooper is fastest with 1’20"7 among the private entrants. De Beaufort is a bit behind with a 1’21"8. The unknown Schroeder, at the wheel of the potentially fastest out of the privately entered cars, can only get down to 1’24"0. During the final stages of the session, Surtees goes out on track to set some faster lap times. This is before a steering arm breaks by the ball joint at the far loop. As a result, the Lola car is off track and plunges into the bushes. It is the same place where Ireland went off track last year. Unlike him though, Surtees hits a big tree and completely wrecks the front of the car. Fortunately, John is only shaken up after this accident. He is thus able to walk back to the pits. Bowmaker has now only one car remaining. On Saturday, rain pours down before the start of the second practice session. Most drivers and cars are thus kept well under cover. An hour into the practice session, the rain eases a little. The two B.R.M. drivers and Jimmy Clark decided to get some wet practice. Hill manages to get down to 1’26"5.


The Lotus is not as stable as the B.R.M. in wet conditions and can only set a 1’31"2. More cars turn up as the rain start to clear down. The Lotus of Jim Hall and the Cooper of Hap Sharp fail to turn up at all. UDT arrive very late given that they changed engines overnight. Ireland arrives an hour from the end. Gregory gets a few laps done before the end of the official practice. The track is so wet that cars are continually spinning in front of the pits after coming out of the sharp right-hander outside the pit road. Salvadori hands his car over to Surtees for the upcoming race. The biggest surprise of all comes when Phil Hill, who is walking about with a very long face, suddenly appears with Bonnier’s flat-8 Porsche. The Swede is still struggling with his back. He thus decides to hand the car over to Phil to set a practice time. There is a chance that he might be unable to start the race on Sunday. Most of the times set on Friday are used in order to set the grid for the race. The contest between Hill and Clark seems even more certain given that they both set a 1’22"1 in drying conditions. It is a very equal contest. The Drivers’ Championship hinges on this. Race day is dry and cloudy. A large crowd from Canada and surrounding States arrives during the night. Between 40.000 and 45.000 fans will watch the race. Jim Hall, who missed the second practice session, withdraws from the race. A valve guide broke during the first day and he is unable to get it repaired in time. Surtees’s Lola is also missing. John will drive Salvadori’s car. Certain parts are swapped from his crashed car. Bonnier is well enough to drive. Phil Hill will therefore spectate the race. The drivers are called to the usual pre-race meeting where the lavender-suited starter explains his repertoire. They are then off to the warming-up lap.


The grid is being formed for the start of the Glen Grand Prix. The two contenders for the Championship are one behind the other whilst Surtees is at the back. The reason for John’s position is that he only practised for a short amount of time in the wet with Salvadori’s car. There is a great flourish from the starter and a crescendo of sound. It is part of racing. The field sweeps away through the right-hander, up the hill and onto the first lap. As they go over the hill, Clark is leading from Hill’s B.R.M. McLaren is just behind in 3rd place. The New Zealand driver slightly over-revs the engine during the first burst of speed and will take the edge off it for the rest of the race. As the cars roar past the first lap, Clark leads by a few yards from Hill. Ginther, Brabham, Gurney and McLaren are forming a group behind the top 2. Another gap separates Bonnier, Taylor, Ireland and Gregory. Mayer, Schroeder, Surtees, Sharp, Trintignant and de Beaufort round off the pack. The two leaders soon begin to draw away from the rest of the field. Clark is opening up a few yards between his Lotus and the B.R.M. The cars are now settling into the swing of things. By lap 6, Surtees passes some of the tail-enders to move up from 15th to 11th position. The pace out front is really quick at the moment. So much so that the F1 lap record gets obliterated from the 3rd lap onwards. Gurney moves up from 5th to 3rd after overtaking Brabham and Ginther’s B.R.M. in the space of two laps. Ginther is not giving up though and is breathing down Gurney’s neck. Then, on lap 10, the B.R.M. driver regains 3rd spot. The leaders are well clear from the rest of the field. Ireland makes a brief pit stop after founding out that he is selecting 3rd gear instead of the 5th one.


He re-joins the track at the back of the field. During the 8th lap, Taylor’s car is suffering from an oil pressure issue and is forced to make a pit stop. Oil is poured in and he immediately re-joins the track. Although the trouble persists throughout the race, it doesn’t affect the engine. On lap 10, de Beaufort dives into the pits very slowly. The rear suspension of his Porsche is broken after a sharp contact with a guard rail. His left-hand rear wheel was waving through at around 30° C. At the same point and at the same time, Bonnier’s Porsche spins and hits the same guard rail. This incident causes a gear selector trouble that will affect him for the rest of the race. The duel for 1st place takes a turn on the 12th lap. Clark is struggling to pass a back-marker on two occasions. Hill thus takes the opportunity to first close the gap and then to pass for the lead of the race. The four cars in the second group are still very closely bunched together. The order is: Ginther, Gurney, Brabham and McLaren. Multiple cars are continuously being lapped at this stage of the race. The spectators, who are nowhere near the loudspeakers, do not know what is happening in the midfield. On the other hand, though, they clearly understand what is happening at the sharp end of the field. Clark keeps the pressure on Hill to try and re-gain the lead. His lap times are getting much faster, into the 1’15"4, as he begins to overhaul the B.R.M. On lap 19, he shoots past Hill for the lead. He will hold on to it until the end of the race. Ginther is lying in 3rd position and is struggling to change gear although it didn’t seem to affect him much at the start. On lap 26, he drops two places due to this issue. Gregory is 7th and ahead of Maggs. The latter is so far having a rough day in the office. Roger Penske is 9th ahead of Ireland’s UDT Lotus. Schroeder is in no mans’ land in 11th place ahead of Sharp, Mayer, Trintignant, Taylor and Bonnier.


Surtees retires the Lola car on the 20th lap due to a broken oil pipe. Three cars then retire in quick succession at the end of the 30th lap. Tim Mayer’s Cooper is on 3 cylinders before dying altogether. One lap later, Trintignant retires with no brake fluid. He previously lost two laps after an excursion into the woods. On the 35th lap, Ginther is forced to pull into the pits to retire. The official reason is a loss of oil. There is no doubt that it is due to the rod which comes through the side of the engine. The race is now settling into a pattern. The positions remain crystallized over the next 15 laps. Although the positions don’t change, there is no let-up on the speed of the leading cars. Gurney, who is in 3rd place at the moment, is slowly being overhauled by McLaren’s Cooper. On lap 57, the Porsche driver is forced to give up 3rd position to McLaren after holding him off as long as he could. He drops back to 4th. His team-mate Bonnier is called into the pits fairly regularly and he is now 19 laps behind the leader. Further back, Ireland is right behind the gearbox of Penske. On lap 54, the UDT driver moves up from 9th to 8th place. He is however laps behind the flying Scotsman, who is ensuring Lotus’s second consecutive United States Grand Prix victory in two years. Gurney’s Porsche is slowing down and it isn’t long before the gap between him and 5th placed Brabham begins to shrink. On lap 68, Jack overtakes the American for 4th place. At the front, Hill is keeping Clark honest. This is despite the fact that the Lotus and B.R.M. are 17 seconds apart. On the 70th lap, Clark sets a new all-time lap record of 1’15"0, with an average speed of 177.667 km/h. Graham though is not losing much ground. It can be seen that both cars are well inside their best practice times.


Gurney and Brabham are still in close company despite the fact that the sickening Porsche is only just able to hold off Brabham. For the last 30 laps, Hill’s B.R.M. is the only car to stay on the lead lap. Hill slightly closes the gap to Clark during the remaining laps. In the end, the chequered flag heralds Clark as the winner of the 4th United States Grand Prix at record speed. The B.R.M. driver finishes 2nd, 9.2 seconds behind the leader. McLaren (Cooper) is 3rd albeit 1 lap down on the winner. Brabham (Brabham) is 4th ahead of Gurney (Porsche), and Gregory (Lotus B.R.M.). Five different manufacturers finish in the top-5. Maggs is 7th (Cooper) after finishing 3 laps down on Clark. 8th and 9th positions go to Ireland and Penske. The unknown Schroeder finishes 10th, 7 laps behind Clark. Hap Sharp is a further 2 laps behind Schroeder. Taylor’s Lotus completes 85 laps whilst Bonnier only 79. Seven cars do not complete the race. Let’s talk about the points’ situation in the World Drivers’ Championship. Clark becomes Champion if he wins the South African Grand Prix. If he doesn’t, then Hill is World Champion. Lotus thus win the US Grand Prix, opening the fight for the title with only one race left to run. The result obtained by Clark make the South African Grand Prix an unknown: if Hill should win, or place himself in front of Clark, he would be elected World Champion, but if Clark should win the first position he would be the one to become the winner of the current championship. The showdown would take place at the East London circuit on 29 December 1962, more than two months from now, and will decide the winner of the thirteenth Formula One season.


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