Here is many Americans’ favorite Grand Prix driver Dan Gurney taking the Nouveau Monde hairpin at the bottom of the Rouen-Les Essarts public road circuit during the French Grand Prix on July 8, 1962, in the Porsche 801 flat-8 Grand Prix car. The Porsche was a rather new car and had recently undergone substantial suspension and bodywork revisions based on extensive testing at the Nürburgring. Gurney was not forecast to be particularly competitive – in fact, he was back on the third row of the grid – but with some attrition, he surprised everyone by taking an unexpected victory.
The week before the French race all the British teams, Lotus, Cooper, Lola and BRM, had been at the super-fast Reims circuit for the non-Championship Reims Grand Prix, the new name for the prewar Grand Prix de la Marne, joined by two privately entered Porsche 718s. Ferrari, although entered, as here at Rouen, did not show up due to metalworkers strikes in Italy.
To whet the attention of the spectators, race day began with two Formula Junior heats and even a bicycle race. But soon things got down to some real F1 racing. At the start, seen here, Graham Hill in his BRM 57 leapt out to small lead ahead of Jim Clark’s Lotus 25, Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T60 and new F1 driver John Surtees with the Lola 4-Climax. Gurney was back in sixth place but stayed in touch with the leaders. His teammate Joakim Bonnier had the second Porsche 801, but was not at Gurney’s level, the American having received the majority of the Porsche mechanics’ attention during practice.
Before long McLaren stopped at the pits, but continued a couple of laps in arrears while Brabham brought his Lotus in to retire with broken suspension. At half distance it was Graham Hill still out in front with Clark’s Lotus in second and now Gurney up to third. Clark set a new lap record, but the decided all was not well with his car and came into the pits which left Hill in the lead by some 30 seconds over Gurney while Surtees’ Lola was third but a lap down. Then, with 12 laps to go, Hill pulled off at Nouveau Monde with injection troubles which gave Gurney the lead which he carefully held to the finish. The tail-enders also found that it pays to keep running as Tony Maggs with his Lotus was second one lap down and Richie Ginther in the second works BRM was third, two laps behind.
Because of Ferrari’s absence, their World Champion Phil Hill was but a spectator at Rouen, busy taking photographs with his Leica.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com