THE WEEK BEFORE the Albi Formula II race in France (where,I drove a Cooper-BRM for Ken Tyrrell), I received a telegram from Ferrari team manager Dragoni asking if I would be interested in driving a Ferrari at the U.S. Grand Prix. Almost at the same time, I got a telephone call from Dragoni inviting me to come to Milan to discuss it further. I told him I would be there the next day.
HIS RACEWATKINS GLEN F1 race 1965 in a Ferrari
When I left London the next morning, I really had mixed emotions. First, I was certainly impressed to have Ferrari ask me to drive for them. I could hardly believe it. I had always wanted to drive a Ferrari, particularly a F-I car, ever since 1 first watched one in a race. That. fabulous sound! On the other hand, I was a little apprehensive.. I wondered about Signor Dragoni,how he thought; whether he would offer, me a square deal as a driver or try to take advantage of y eagerness to drive a Ferrari in the US GP.
The Ferrari racing cars were not kept in the garage at the circuit as were the other team cars, but at the Chevrolet dealership in town. Here I saw my Ferrari for the first time, a great thrill for me. Forghieri asked me to try it for size. It was snug. The pedals had to be moved forward and because my fingers rubbed on both corners of the windscreen, the mechanic had to heat the plastic and form a bubble on each side. Aside from these minor adjustments, it fitted me fine.
Our cars were supposed to be transported out to the circuit by trailer, but when no trailers showed up Signor Dragoni decided we'd drive our own cars out. So I fired up the engine (it really sounded great) and the first time. I drove a Formula I car it was through the streets of Watkins Glen and out the country roads to the track. What a great feeling!
Bandini had taken me around the circuit the day before, showing me the easy and difficult spots. The Glen is a comparatively simple circuit to learn, being only 2.3-mi around and having 8 turns.
I spent about an hour looking things over and storing them in my memory box. The most difficult parts seemed to be the turn at the crest of the hill where the front end could become airborne, and the right harider at the end of the straight. After we arrived at the circuit with the racing cars, the Ferrari mechanics double-checked everything before we went out to practice. Forghieri told me to take 5 laps and come in so the mechanics could check for oil leaks and set the tire pressures while they were hot. He also told me that I could practice' all I wanted and that a spare engine was on hand in case I should need it.
At the end of 5 laps, the car felt good to me, a very neutral handling car. After about 30 min I decided I really liked it. I got used to the snug fit and concentrated on learning the feel of the car, finding the shut-off points and figuring out how deep to go into the corners. After about 20 laps I came in to take on more fuel and about 3: 00 o'clock it started to rain. By that time I'd come from a lap time of about 1: 20 down to about 1: 15. I thought the handling of the F-I car was very similar to F-2s I've driven but unlike F-II, there is some torque when you stick your foot in it. It was nothing at all like driving a big-engined sports car. I think it's more difficult to drive an F-I car because they are so sensitive and underpowered compared with a big sports car. You have to drive better to get the best results.
On Saturday, the second day of practice, much to my surprise, I started right out doing 1: 14 laps. I found I knew the circuit and car much better and finally got down to 1: 12.9, which was my qualifying time. I was 13th on the grid beside Jochen Rindt's Cooper, which also did 1: 12.9. Bandini had qualified at 1: 11.73 with one 12-cyl car, and Pedro Rodriguez, who joined the team after John Surtees was injured at Mosport, qualified at 1: 13.0 in the other 12-cyl car.
There was quite a bit of difference in the speed of our cars.. Much to my surprise, I found that Bandini would blow me off so badly down the straight that I couldn't even stay in his slipstream for more than a couple of hundred yards. Rodriguez' car and mine were about the same, but he was having ignition problems. When the 12s were running right I could stay with them up to about 100 mph in the V-8, then they'd pull me badly.
During practice I found I needed a gear change, which was done immediately, and then we bedded in a new set of brake pads and scuffed in another set of Goodyear tires. By the way, this was the first time F-I Ferraris had ever raced on Goodyear tires. When we added up the number of practice laps put on the car, it came to 120 laps, which meant that a new engine had to be installed before.the race.
On race day Bandini and I arrived at the circuit at about 11: 30 A.M.. The race didn't start until 2: 00 but this gave us time to get ready early and settle' down before the start. It was overcast and cloudy when we got there and shortly afterward a cold wind came up and it started to sprinkle. At 1: 00 there was a parade of drivers around the circuit in convertibles furnished by Ford and I rode with Ginther and Bucknum. The crowd was very enthusiastic, some groups with American flags, and others that were waving British, Japanese and Italian flags. This made it very colourful, especially the camp grounds, where some people spent the whole weekend.
At 2: 00 the cars were lined up on the pre-grid. As Tex Hopkins raised the flag, I revved my engine up to 8500 rpm and watched Tex closely. When I saw his hand start to move downward, I was off and away. The bunch was tightly packed into the first three turns and someone almost lost it in front of me. This made me back off for an instant, then I was hard on it again. In the next few laps, we began to string out. After 5 laps I was running 12th and beginning to move up. At the end of 12 laps I was in 8th, putting me behind Jo Bonnier in Rob Walker's Brabham-Climax. I diced with him for 10 laps or so and finally got past. The wind was stronger now and a big rain cloud was directly overhead. Then the rain let go. In a matter of seconds the track was completely soaked. Bonnier passed me and we had it out again. After a short battle I repassed him, but only for two laps.
About this time I started to have trouble seeing because my goggles wouldn't stay up. I finally figured out, that the elastic strap on my goggles was stretching because" it was wet. As they got looser, they vibrated so much I couldn't see through them at all. Six different times I had to slow down and pull them up because they blew down around," my chin. Each time it happened at the same place, the high speed left hander, one of the most crucial points on the entire circuit. They blew down at that. point because of the strong crosswinds blowing through an opening in the trees. The winds were reaching 40 mph, I heard later, and going down the back stretch the wind would blow me over one complete car width, then back, without me moving the steering wheel at all.
Unfortunately, I didn't have a spare pair of goggles. I never have worn an extra pair around my neck, like some drivers, never having had an occasion to need them before, but you can be sure I'll have a spare with me in the future.
After a while I discovered if I turned my face directly into the wind, it would blow the goggles back onto my face. I did this for the rest of the race, which made it very difficult to see where I was going and really shot my lap times. I finally finished 9th and only wish I hadn't had trouble with my goggles because my car ran perfectly from start to finish and I think I would have been able to do much better.
NURBURGRING 1965 in a Daytona Coupe Cobra
OUT AFTER NINE HOURS
A HILLCLIMB IS DIFFERENT