Netherlands 1966 - the 'aged' Jack Brabham and the unbelievable Jim ClarkWritten by Αναστάσιος Ίσαρης
Translated by Giannis Binas
At the era when the scales between driver and car tilted to the former…
1966 was the year in which 3-liter engines were imposed, replacing those of 1,5 liters.
Most of the teams were caught off guard, including Lotus, when its almost permanent supplier, Coventry Climax, made a last minute announcement that for financial reasons she couldn’t go on by building a brand new engine.
Thus, Colin Chapman was left only with the reserve of the 1965 V8 engines, displacing 1976cc, for his No 1 pilot, Jim Clark, until his deals with either Corworth of BRM for the H16 would produce results.
For the rest of his cars, he was using P56 V8 engines by BRM that were significantly more powerful.
Ferrari was already prepared with the 312 sporting a 360 horse power engine; Cooper likewise, with the T81 powered by an old yet refurbished Maserati engine, also with 360 horse power, while Brabham chose the old but reliable engine of the Australian Repco with 315 horse power.
The newfound McLaren was at times experimenting with the 3-liter V8 Ford engine from Indy Cars and at times with the modified 3-liter V8 Serenissima M166 with 300 horse power, while, lastly, BRM was using the respectable P60 engine of 2.136cc from racing in America, with 285 horse power on the P61, until the new 3-liter H16 of 375 horse power was ready.
Facing those power ratings, Jim Clark with the anemic and without any evolution 2-liter, 225hp/10.800rpm engine looked like a poor relative… but appearances were deceptive!
The race in the Netherlands was the 5th of the season and up to that moment “Black Jack” (Sir Jack Brabham) with the homonymous BT19 was clearly leading the ranking, already having 2 consecutive wins in France and Britain.
The British newspapers of the period had made it a major issue that he was contesting for a 3rd championship at the age of 40 and for that reason Jack had a surprise for them.
He appeared at the paddocks with a fake beard, a walking stick and, limping on the left leg, he approached his single-seater trembling and all at once, shook everything off and with the grace of a teenager jumped in… causing a laugh to the bystanders and the spectators that were watching the scene!
It was the best “answer” to the mocking comments about his age: as was clearly demonstrated, up to his retirement at the age of 44, he hadn’t lost anything from his competitiveness.
In the race, starting from pole, he remained 1st and having the reliable Repco engine at his back, pulled away.
Behind him though, a revolution had broken out, when Jim Clark, from 3rd at the starting line, overtook at once the second Brabham of Denny Hulme and gradually closed the difference to the leader.
On the 27th lap, the seemingly impossible happened… with 30% less horse power, that amazing circuit dancer took the lead and started in turn to pull away.
It was something so unexpected, so magical, that was reaching the limits of abnormal… the by huge margin weaker car was “flying” at the Scot’s hands, with the difference continuously opening.
Of course, that circumstance was way too subversive to go on until the end…
On the 76th lap, Clark had to enter the pits, when the engine vibrations detached the water pump resulting in a loss of fluids and overheating.
The mechanics fastened the pump again and added water to the radiator, but precious time had been lost.
He emerged 4th, 2 laps behind Brabham and 1 lap behind the two BRM P261 of Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart… after a frantic chase however, he managed to overtake Stewart exactly on the last lap and conquer 3rd place, even though Lotus was falling 60 horse power short of BRM!
Sir Jack Brabham comfortably claimed the championship that year in defiance of his age critics.
In 2014, in the context of the historical Grand Prix at Zandvoort, his son, David Brabham “wore” the famous beard, bringing back the memories of the great Australian’s marvelous spoof.
Clark’s achievement was theoretically impossible to be repeated again under “normal” racing conditions, but the Scot took care of leaving the spectators speechless on the next race, conquering the pole position of the 22-kilometer Nurburgring.
The thought alone of something similar happening, no matter how many years pass, seems utopic... who could believe you if you told them, after all?