Rain in The Ardennes

Cooper, Spa-Francorchamps, Jochen Rindt, John Surtees, klemcoll

The Belgian Grand Prix took place on the super-fast old Spa-Francorchamps circuit on June 12, 1966. It was both exciting and terrifying. Here is Jochen Rindt in a works-entered V12-engined Cooper-Maserati 81, braking on the approach to the La Source hairpin after heavy rain with the Ferrari 312 of John Surtees following in the spray. Rindt led a total of 19 of the 28 laps, taking the lead on lap four, recovering after the rainswept first lap crashes which had eliminated nine of the 16 starters and had very nearly eliminated him as well.

Rindt had started in the middle of the front row between John Surtees’ Ferrari and Jackie Stewart’s BRM. He was also involved in the lap one mayhem, caused by heavy rain at both Burnenville and, later, at Masta. At Masta he had had a total loss of control and a huge series of spins without going off the road or hitting anything, and being able to continue. Not so the others. Clark, in the Lotus 33 with two liter Climax had his engine fail not long after the start. Surtees, with the latest Dunlop wet weather tires had the lead, but at Burnenville Joachim Bonnier (Cooper), Mike Spence (Lotus), Bob Bondurant (BRM), Josef Siffert (Cooper), Denis Hulme (Brabham) and Graham Hill (BRM) all went off.

At Masta Rindt was second driving in Surtees’ wheel tracks when it all went wrong. While he was spinning, Stewart did as well and collided with a post, trapping him in his car which was leaking fuel. Both Hill and Bondurant had got going again after their Burnenville “offs” but spun off again at Masta, Bondurant rolling into a ditch, and went to assist and extricate the injured Stewart. Other than Surtees and Rindt, the only runners after the first lap were Lorenzo Bandini with a 2.4 liter Ferrari V6, Jack Brabham (Brabham), Richie Ginther (Cooper), Guy Ligier (Cooper) and Dan Gurney (Eagle-Climax). Phil Hill had observed the carnage from the McLaren he was driving as a camera car for John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix and stopped at the end of lap one. Stewart’s near death experience probably incentivized him for his subsequent F1 safety crusade.

Soon Rindt got by the Ferrari and bravely held the lead from Surtees in the continuing rain until his limited slip unit began to fail as the track dried out. This slowed Rindt and allowed Surtees to come by and establish a lead of 42 seconds over the Austrian’s Cooper in the last five laps, Bandini finishing a lap down in third.

Photo by Nigel Snowdon ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com

To see more of our photographs please go to: http://www.klemcoll.com/TheGallery.aspx

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