#150 1966 Mexican Grand Prix

2021-12-14 15:31

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#1966, Fulvio Conti, Giulia Noto, Translated by Francesca Risi,

#150 1966 Mexican Grand Prix

Once again the Formula One season ends here in Mexico City, on the 5-kilometre circuit set in the vast sports park. As usual the high altitude of the

Once again the Formula One season ends here in Mexico City, on the 5-kilometre circuit set in the vast sports park. As usual the high altitude of the city (7.300ft) causes mixture problems not found anywhere else in the F1 programme. Last year the Honda was able to lose less power through lack of oxygen than most of the other cars and once in the lead no-one could touch it. This year, although without a doubt the most powerful car, it was also the heaviest, which did not give it the advantage it had last year. OK The cars have been transported down from Watkins Glen in time for work to be completed before first practice. The entry lacks any Ferrari participation due to the racing shop at Modena being rebuilt to enable fuller coverage for 1967. Lotus has three cars for Clark, Arundell and Rodriguez. Clark’s number is on the H16 with which he has won the United States GP. The engine is the same and has not been returned to England. Arundell is in the B.R.M. V8 and Rodriguez in the Climax V8. All three cars are fitted with the latest Firestone tubeless tyres. B.R.M. has three cars and three engines have been sent home and returned rebuilt after the damage at Watkins Glen. Hill is again driving the true H16 while Stewart has his number on the other two cars, both fined with double 8 engines. The two Brabhams for Brabham and Hulme are unaltered, one still fitted with Bosch coil ignition and the other on Lucas transistorised ignition. Both Eagles are as well turned out as ever. The 3-litre Weslake engine have been back to Rye, but still has done no track testing, which means once again that practice is to be used to sort out the many problems not necessarily applicable to this circuit.
The Cooper team has flown out a spare car for Solana to drive: this has the tracting for the air intakes together down the centre while Surtees, and Rindt’s cars are as raced at Watkins Glen, both using coil ignition. Honda has discovered that transmission oil overheating has caused the gear troubles in the previous race, so on both cars an oil cooler has been fitted at the back on a frame that held it out in the air stream. Ginther is still driving the wide-track mar, while Bucknum is with the narrower car. The McLaren is unchanged; the engine has been to Detroit where Fords has looked it over. A new set of stainless steel exhausts has been made up but are not fitted to start with. These have shorter primary pipes which are aimed at giving a bit more power at the top end. The same four private entries that compete in the US GP are here, Ireland driving the Bernard White 2-litre B.R.M., Spence in Parnell’s Lotus-B.R.M., Siffert in Walker’s Cooper-Maserati and Bonnier in his own Cooper-Maserati. First practice is on Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The track is opened for a short period in the morning to let those who want to go round for a few laps to start getting their mixture right. Bonnier and Gurney are out the moment practice starts and before the first hour is up everyone have some laps to their credit. McLaren is having starting trouble again and after several efforts at pushing, the car is taken away to be towed. This towing behind the pits and going straight out on to the track is done several times by McLaren. Solana is in difficulty from the start with gears and it is some time before he overcome this problem. The two Brabhams are in convoy and going very slowly as though they are running-in new engines. Both BRM drivers are still sorting mixture in the opening stages of practice, and after Stewart comes in with oil all over the back of the engine of the training car he is out in his own car.
Both B.R.M.s are back on Dunlop for most of practice, these being the new tyres Dunlop have been rushing through since Monza. Rodriguez in the 2-litre Lotus Climax starts setting the pace with a 1'55"71 lap which is 0.13sec faster than the lap record held by Gurney. He doesn’t hold fastest lap for long, for Brabham is now beginning to go and in a very short while is under 1'55"0. Surtees is pushing his Cooper hard but is suffering all sorts of problems. First his high-pressure fuel pump is not functioning then when this is changed the fuel metering unit starts to play up and has to be changed and at the same time the water temperature is running very high. Rindt is not suffering from these problems and in his usual wild-looking manner is getting his time well down. A problem always finds at this circuit is the number of stray dogs that manage to get on to the track. This year is no exception and when one darts at Ireland he is able to miss hitting it with the radiator but he do bend the steering arm and badly buckle the nose. Both Hondas are sounding good but their times are well down. This is due to the poor handling and after persevering for some time the front ends are taken down and new springs fitted. At the same time certain adjustments are made to stop the vicious oversteer both cars are suffering from. The Weslake engine is still misfiring due to fuel feed problems, while an added difficulty has arisen when each time the car-came in it is smothered with aerated oil from the crankcase breather. Gurney is also out with a new nose in the car which allows more air through the radiator but which spoils the distinctive line of the Eagle. Stewart does several laps with the nose of the B.R.M. off when he finds his water temperature needle giving him an oil pressure reading. Neither B.R.M. driver seem very happy with the handling and this is reflected in their poor times.

Clark is beginning to make the H16 Lotus really go and as he lifts off after putting up a lap time of 1'54"06 the bolts in a crankshaft balance weight brakes and bits come out of the top of the engine in a cloud of steam, hot oil and metal particles which scorch the back of Clark’s neck and necessitate an overnight engine change. This engine has run the 200-mile United States GP and about 100 miles in practice which is the same distance Stewart’s engine in the USA has gone when a balance weight has destroyed it. Also stops out on the circuit with a wrecked engine is Spence with the Lotus-B.R.M. Just as practice is closing Gurney goes out in the 2.7 Climax car and laps about two seconds faster than Bondurant. Brabham also goes out in the closing minutes and as if to prove he is not world champion for nothing he dips 0.11sec from Clark’s time to give him a time of a 1'53"95 a speed of 157.964 km/h. When practice ends Bucknum is puzzled by the peculiar handling of his car. Through left-hand corners it is now almost stable while through right-hand curves it skates all over the place. Looking through the tyre temperature chits it is noticed that the centre of the left rear tyre is much hotter than the centre of the right rear. A closer look and the use of a straight edge finds this left tyre to have a well-rounded profile while the right tyre is flat as it should be. This fault is caused after moulding when those particular tyres have to be quickly inflated to an exact pressure and left to cool. Second practice on Saturday is again from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and very noticeable are the increased nose sizes and airscoops. Most cars are suffering from overheating and fuel vaporisation due to the liquid’s lower boiling point. To stop vaporisation while in the pits wet rags and slowly poured water are for the most part doing the trick. Surtees, Hill, Stewart, Bonnier and Solana are off the moment the track is opened.

Both McLaren and Gurney are having a hard time starting and both cars have a long tow. Hondas are out with the new spring and suspension settings but there is no improvement so they are changed back to where they started. Early on in practice Suttees finds a head gasket gone, also he is losing fuel pressure due to vaporisation so an engine change is decided on but before starting work Suttees goes on doing two-lap runs, and finally get pole position with a time of 1'53"18. Brabham is putting in a number of laps trying some track tyres flown in overnight when something breaks which throws all the timing out. This necessitated an engine change and the mechanics start work immediatley. The Weslake V12 is still pumping out oil even though an air/oil separator is fitted. It is now reckoned to be oil building up in the head and then over-flowing. As Ginther finally begins to find the most suitable layout for the suspension and so got quicker times, so Bucknum is in trouble. First it is a cut water hose, then the clutch jams down, next the car jumps out of gear past the pits, then it sticks firmly in third gear. The B.R.M.s are still not happy either with the engines. which are suffering all the altitude problems, or the handling, which doesn’t seem to be improving. Clark’s H16 is on a tight schedule to get ready, for Chapman wants to keep the laps down to enable Clark to have a reasonable chance of finishing before a balance-weight flies off at around the 300-mile mark. This H16 problem will be fully sorted as two more 8-pin cranks are finished and they are sell-balancing. The oil over the backs of both B.R.M.s is due to a leaky plug on the oil relief valve. The Weslake engine is in trouble still and it is decided that Bondurant should drive at a speed which would keep the crank pressure down and so stop oil being sprayed around the track. Before the end of practice a hub bolt on Spence’s car fells off and as he brakes the wheel and caliper fells off and he hits the guard rail many times before coming to a halt with the car badly damages.

The private entries are all suffering from fuel vaporisation and overheating which they are beginning to overcome. Pratice ends and there are a lot of work to be done before the mechanics push the cars out on to the grid. A Goodyear track tyre has been flown in overnight and is found to be one second a lap faster than the new Dunlops so both B.R.M.s are fitted with them. Race Race morning is warm and sunny. Surtees’ new engine is not functioning very well as the mixture is well out and there is no way of getting it right except by luck. Brabham is having similar problems and at any rate his engine is 15bhp down on the practice engine. Gurney has made the decision to switch cars and both cars are re-numbered on race day. McLaren has been forced to move the rear-mounted fuel-pump to a cooler position, putting it in the airstream just behind the driver’s right shoulder. Only other activity in the pits prior to the start is the welding up of the cracked lower wishbone mounting on the H16 Lotus. Sharp at 2:30 p.m. the flag drops and the race is on. Ginther makes a good start and is in the lead as the 18 cars go into the first corner. At the end of lap 1 Ginther still leads from Rindt. Brabham, Hulme, Surtees and Clark, the two on the front row have not been able to hold their places. Next in a long string come Stewart, Rodriguez, Bucknum, Siffert, Solana, Hill, Gurney, Bonnier, Ireland, McLaren and with Arundel last. As they go off on their second lap, Surtees and Hill’s engines sound off-song, while Clark is having gear trouble. At the end of the second lap Brabham has gone past both Ginther and Rindt and is pulling away. Rodrigucv drops two places, to he behind Bucknum and Siffert when he spins at the hairpin. Bondurant, in the Eagle-Weslake drops from 15th to last as vaporisation caused Misfiring froth the end of the first lap.


As the 3rd lap starts Surtees has moved up two places and the woolly note in his engine has gone; afterwards he says it clears as soon as it get really hot. It only takes two laps for him to pass his team-mate Rindt, and then he is right on Brabham’s tail. Brabham keeps him there for one lap only, then he is in the lead with Brahham having to work hard to keep in the slip stream. For some laps the leaders settle down. Stewart, who has lain seventh for the first three laps, begins to get more confidence in the BRM’s handling and although he has a permanent plume of oil smoke from the left rear of the car, he is beginning to pull through the-field. First he gets by an unhappy Clark who is having gear trouble, then next lap he is past Ginther. It takes a few laps to come up with Hulme but on the 10th lap he comes round in front. The first car to the pits is Solana who has very high water temperature; after a short while he goes on for one lap then retires on lap 9, when he also notes that the oil pressure is well down. Also on the 9th lap, Clark comes into the pits and retires with a broken gear selector. Gurney is well down in the 2.7 Climax-engined Eagle at the start but as the race begins to settle down he starts to pull up. Between laps 4 and 9, he goes by Solana then Siffert and Bucknum to put himself in the slipstream of Hill’s H13 or 14. As the B.R.M. gets worse so Hill is unable to hold Gurney any more and when an old 4-cylinder goes by this seems the last straw and he retires on the 18th lap when a metallic clanking starts. Three cars are now out and the fourth is to follow soon, as it is lying last and misfiring badly due to vaporisation. This is Bondurant in the Eagle-Weslake and he finally gives up on the 24th lap. The leaders have all closed up again there being only about 200 yards between the first four places.

Stewart in fourth place is right on Rindt’s tail and with a big effort on lap 25 he is in third place and closing the gap on the leading pair at just under a second a lap. However, before he can get really to grips with the Brabham his oil gives out due to the slow but continuous leak and he retires at the hairpin on lap 26. Rodriguez has been delighting the Mexican crowd as he closes on Hulme and makes several attempts to pass him. On lap 23 he gets by to the cheers of the crowd and two laps later Hulme who is trying to get back the place, spins and as he has no clutch he has a lot of difficulty trying to restart, which loses him almost a full lap. Ireland pushes his BRM V8 back to the pits when something goes in the gearbox. However, this is of no avail and the car is retired. Two identical failures take place on the 32nd and 33rd laps. Rindt, lying in third place, slows as he comes off the slightly banked 180 turn before the pits with his left front wheel leaning in at a crazy angle and he pulls in on the grass beyond the pits with a ball joint having broken. One lap later, Siffert comes slowly into the pits with an identical fault to his left front suspension. The halfway stage is now passed and the field is reduced to 10 cars. Surtees and Brabham are still fairly close and Brabham is really working very hard to reduce the gap making use of the wide grass verges on many occasions. Third, half a lap behind, is Rodriguez; behind him, now going fairly well, come Ginther and Gurney. Lying sixth and slowly is Hulme, seventh and misfiring badly come Bucknum, then Bonnier, Arundell and McLaren. For a few laps this order remains unchanged then on lap 38 McLaren moves out of last place by passing Arundell but two laps later he retires with a dropped valve. Bucknum’s is the next car in trouble. As he goes down the straight he thinks he smelts burning, but can not be sure.


Then as he gets away on the other side of the circuit, smoke begins pouring up from between his legs and glancing down he sees flames. Braking and scrambling out before the car stops, he finds the seat on fire. When the burning bits are pulled out it is found that an electrical connection has touched the frame and caused a short. Leaving the burnt seat where it is, Bucknum bends the connection away and sits on it until he reaches the pits, where the bare connections are taped, a new battery fitted and the Honda rejoins the race in last position. Hulme is still making progress and he passes Gurney into fifth place behind Ginther and begins slowly closing the gap on the Honda. On lap 49, to the dismay of the crowd, Rodriguez comes into the pits and after only a brief examination he retires with gearbox trouble. This left only Arundell running for Team Lotus and when he pulls in on lap 55, it looks as though the whole team is out, but Arundell’s fault is the water temperature gauge giving inaccurate readings and in last but one place he trundles on until the end. Brabham gives up any hope of catching Surtees and when he laps his team-mate and then Ginther, who are both going very hard, he stays just ahead of the Honda, until three laps from the end Hulme passes Ginther and then both Brabhams draw away and cross the finish line 0.25 seconds apart but with Hulme one lap down. Surtees in first place drives a perfect race, never putting a foot wrong and deserves to win. Brabham and Hulme bring a complete Brabham team into second and third places, fourth came Ginther and to him goes the fastest lap at 1'53"7, a speed of 158.241 km/h. Fifth, and still only one lap down, is Gurney, then two laps down comes Bonnier, four laps down Arundell and eighth and last is Bucknum. And so the 1966 season is over; the start of the 1967 season should be at Kyalami in South Africa on January 2nd.


A series of unprecedented movements between the Formula 1 drivers, beginning with former World Champions John Surtees and Graham Hill, are announced on the evening of Friday, November 18, 1966 in England. Graham Hill left B.R.M. after seven years to become Lotus' number two after Jim Clark, with a contract of 45.000.000 lire per year. John Surtees will probably switch from Cooper-Maserati to the new house Lola (but it is not definitive). Jackie Stewart becomes the number one driver of the B.R.M.: it is said that he will be joined by Richie Ginther, but this depends on the withdrawal from competition of the Japanese Honda. In the meantime, 23-year-old Amon from New Zealand is expected to sign a contract with Scuderia Ferrari. Clark and Hill will start the season with the Lotus-B.R.M. 16-cylinder H, but will finish with the more powerful Lotus with Ford engine, currently under construction. After this series of announcements and rumors, Monday 28 November 1966, as rumors of previous days had predicted, the Scuderia Ferrari hires for next season the New Zealand driver Chris Amon, winner in June of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, paired with fellow countryman Bruce McLaren. Enzo Ferrari, left without drivers for the 1967 season, would ask the managers of Shell, supplier of fuel and lubricants, for help. They would have proposed the hiring of Chris Amon or Denny Hulme, to whom both contracts are managed by the multinational oil company. Enzo Ferrari comes to the decision to hire the talented New Zealand driver Chris Amon, instead of his compatriot Denny Hulme, because he is younger.


The news is not officially released (Ferrari probably waits for the traditional conference at the end of the year to do so), but it is derived logically from a statement issued by the Maranello team. In it it is said that Amon will leave Wednesday 30 November 1966 for the United States with Bandini, Parkes and Scarfiotti. The four, accompanied by engineer Forghieri and a group of mechanics, will try a new car set up by Ferrari for the 24 Hours of Daytona. Amon was born in Bulls, New Zealand, on 20 July 1943 to a wealthy family of farmers and began driving at the age of fifteen. He was already participating in motor racing when he was still in school (club racing). Reginald Parnell, owner and director of an English team, was so impressed that he took him to England in 1963. The following year he was racing for him: he was the youngest driver of Formula 1. Always in the Ferrari environment arouses much interest the news that Lorenzo Bandini will participate next May at the Indy 500. He was offered to fly a Ford or an Offenhauser by the American Walter Weir. At the same time, in Japan, in Tokyo, also on Monday, November 28, 1966, Honda announced today that it will hire John Surtees as the first driver of its cars. The contract - which will be signed on Wednesday 30 November 1966 - concerns only Formula 1 cars. In the other categories the former World Champion will be free to race for other brands. Surtees, who has been in Japan for a week, will start racing for Honda in the South African Grand Prix.


Wednesday, December 7, 1966 the Automobile Museum of Turin welcomes the traditional conference of the Automobile Club Sports Commissions. After a brief welcome by the President of the Automobile Club of Turin, Dr Emanuele Nasi, three hundred participants including organizers, drivers, manufacturers, race commissioners and representatives of teams - led by the president of CSAI, engineer Pietro Campanella - are working to draw a balance sheet of Italian Motorsport in 1966 and to lay the lines of future activity. The results of this year are positive: the number of drivers has increased, the thicker the participation in the championship or social tests, have had a considerable increase in national and international competitions, ended with the victory of Scarfiotti and Ferrari at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix of Formula 1. About next year’s program, the CSAI - as we read in the report of engineer Campanella - intends to defend the prestige and interests of sport and sportspeople in the Italian country and abroad, ignore existing circuits and create new ones, strictly comply with the competitive calendar, simplify and clarify the regulations; decrease the number of championships. There is a lot of debate on this last subject. Drivers, teams and constructors are opposed to bringing the national titles from twenty-eight to seven, as suggested in the report presented by engineer Cristillin. Diving felt the need for a reduction, but reproached the CSAI for dealing with the problem with a certain haste. Conductors, for example, say:


"We are only a few weeks away from the beginning of 1967, we should change our plans when we have already bought cars and organized our business".


Anfia, Ancai and Fisa, that is the three associations that group Houses, drivers and stables, expose their doubts in a motion calling on the Sports Commission to keep the number of Italian titles unchanged for next year, to study carefully the proposal for 1968, and in the meantime to increase the minimum number of starting participants required in the race for classes of all categories, now limited to three. In this way many classes would no longer be disputed, for lack of a sufficient number of members. No decision has yet been taken, the CSAI will meet shortly with interested parties. This will probably lead to an arrangement, with a partial reduction. The conference of the Automobile Club Sports Commissions ends Thursday, December 8, 1966 in Turin with the launch of the competitive calendar of the 1967 season. In the halls of the Automobile Club of Turin, which in recent days has taken on the role of host against the more than three hundred congressmen who have come from all over Italy, organizers and enthusiasts have gathered to assert their reasons. A car race is never a stand-alone event, but also involves tourist and local interests. After an examination of the vain requests, the dates of about 270 tenders are fixed. These are mostly speed (150) rather than regularity and rally. And it’s a logical fact. as the first ones include races more appreciated to the public and to the same drivers - private or professional - like the tests in circuit of Formula 1, Formula 2 or Formula 3 and those uphill, while the second ones are restricted to the specialists.


We note, however, a vigorous revival of the rally, a type of competition that combines in itself speed and regularity, and that is becoming popular in Italy. In the calendar, compared to last year, there are no significant changes, as was natural to predict: the organizers always tend to keep the same dates from year to year or at least the same period. The races will open on Sunday, January 10, 1967 with the Lazio kart trophy and the Autosciatoria dell'Automobile Club of Domodossola. This is a formula that is meeting very favor, especially in the North: skiers-drivers are tens of thousands. The most important news concerns the fact that in 1967, according to insistent rumors, Enzo Ferrari will do without the collaboration of Eugenio Dragoni, the sports director of Scuderia Ferrari. The divorce, in the air for a long time, seems to take place in the coming days. A few days later, interrupting a tradition that lasted a long time, Enzo Ferrari will not hold this year the usual press conference during which he used to make programmatic statements on the activity of his car manufacturer for the following season. The meeting was this year replaced with a televised broadcast during the evening of Tuesday, December 13, 1966 on the program Sprint. Enzo Ferrari - quiet, not at all polemical, rather almost jovial - takes lessons from what defines the bluntly defeat of Le Mans in front of Ford.


"Sportily we bow in front of the winner, but we immediately say that we are not at all willing to consider the match between Detroit and Maranello closed. We are preparing for the rematch with new machines and, in part with new men".


Ferrari announces the composition of its official team, which will see Lorenzo Bandini, Ludovico Scarflottl and the new acquisitions Chris Amon and Jonathan Williams, as well as the tuner-tester Mike Parkes who will race when possible. Moreover, a very promising young Tuscan driver, Nanni Galli, will be tested. As for the cars, a couple of brand new 4000 cc prototypes are being developed, three Formula 1 single-seaters of 3000 cc in turn completely new, three cars of the new Formula 2 (2000 cc) with the Fiat Dino engine. Priority was given to the Prototype cars because already Saturday, February 4, 1967 they will compete at Daytona, in the first clash of the season with the Fords. Technical details, the manufacturer of Modena does not provide. Other important announcements concern the replacement of the sports director Eugenio Dragoni with the journalist Franco Lini, the agreement with the tyre company Firestone Bremen (which also has a factory in Bari and which brought to Ferrari the driver Chris Amon, affiliated with the same Firestone), and the possible participation in the Indy 500, but not before 1968. Also for this reason Lorenzo Bandini will be left free to participate next year in the classic Indiana race at the wheel of an Anglo-American car. Ferrari is asked if he will continue the program of the Dino 206 GT berlinetta: the manufacturer answers in the affirmative.


"While deliveries of the Fiat Dino are about to begin, our prototype with Pininfarina bodywork, presented last month at the Turin Motor Show, will have to reach the 500 units built in the second half of next year, in order to obtain the homologation in the category Gran Turismo 2 liters. By May we think we are ready also with the Formula 2 car".


In the last season, the racing department of the House of Maranello found itself in difficulty because of the union unrest; from this point of view things will improve, because Enzo Ferrari has concluded an agreement with the FIOM under which the workers assigned to the department will be excluded from any strikes. Enzo Ferrari reads in this regard the preamble of the agreement, in which the two unions explicitly recognize the value of Ferrari’s victories and the contribution that derives from them for prestige in the Italian working world. To the question about relations with Fiat, Ferrari answers:


"Most cordial, and in full mutual independence. From Mirafiori comes a precious help for the instrumental verification of the calculations of our technical office, for metallographic laboratory tests, etc".


On the telescreens, therefore, appears a quiet, confident Ferrari, more than ever launched towards new initiatives.


"I would never give up racing, because I am always convinced of their technical function and the validity of the experiences that they allow us to transfer in production".


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