The French Grand Prix was run on a beautiful, sun-kissed day on July 8, 1962, in Rouen, France.
While two British drivers, Jim Clark and Graham Hill, seemed to be the fastest on track, at the end of the day it was an American that claimed the victory.
The victory was a first not just for himself, but also for his car manufacturer, Porsche. Dan Gurney stole the victory, stole the show, and ended up giving Porsche their only win in Formula 1, all at the same time.
The Race Begins…
An industrial strike in Italy meant that Scuderia Ferrari was not able to attend the race. Phil Hill, who was Ferrari’s main driver and was second in the championship, still attended the race regardless.
He watched the race from the stands as his fellow competitors charged around the track.
Jim Clark sat on the pole; however, it was Graham Hill that had the fastest lap of the race. Hill took the lead from the beginning and quickly began turning over fast lap after fast lap.
Right behind Hill was John Surtees, Clark, and Bruce McLaren. The lead group of four was blindingly fast and began to pull away from the rest of the pack with ease.
Jack Brabham and Gurney did their best to close the gap but to no avail. The distance between the leaders and the pack continued to grow until Lap 9.
Lap 9 saw Brabham’s rear suspension break and McLaren lose fourth gear and spin. McLaren was able to rejoin the race, but he was way back in the field and out of contention.
Hill continued to be fast and opened up a large lead, over twenty seconds, over Clark. On Lap 30 Hill tangled with Jackie Lewis and Clark was able to surge past him. Hill was able to stay on the track, recover, and began a charge after Clark.
Clark’s front suspension failed on Lap 34 and it looked like Hill had the race wrapped up. It’s never over until it’s over though and on Lap 42 Hill pulled off the track with throttle linkage and fuel injection problems.
Hill was able to continue after some time in the pits and ended up finishing the race last.
Gurney’s Surprise Win
Gurney suddenly, and surprisingly, found himself in the lead. He carefully and masterfully finished the race earned his first Formula 1 victory.
His first victory was also the first, and only, Formula 1 victory for his manufacturer Porsche. Tony Maggs finished second behind Gurney in his Cooper-Climax V8, and Richie Ginther came in third in his BRM car.
The 1962 French Grand Prix was a race full of surprises. The two fastest drivers in practice and qualifying, Hill and Clark, were also fastest in the race.
One finished last and the other didn’t finish. Gurney and Porsche both experienced their first victories, the only one for Porsche. The race was exciting from the first lap to the last and gave fans and teams a like a reason to cheer.