It happened today - 12 June

It happened today – 12 June

On 12th June 1966, the Belgian Grand Prix was held at Spa-Francorchamps. Dominating qualifying was John Surtees in the Ferrari. The 1964 World Champion left the others trailing in his wake on the 14.1 km Ardennes circuit at the wheel of a 312 F1-66, in a time of 3.38.0, 3.2 seconds faster than Austria’s Jochen Rindt (Cooper) and 3.5 ahead of Jackie Stewart in the BRM. Lorenzo Bandini, in a 246 F1-66, was fifth. The race got underway under threatening skies: Surtees went into the lead but halfway round the opening lap, the pack got caught up in a proper storm. Surtees came through the tempest unscathed, but Bonnier, Spence, Siffert, Hulme were less fortunate and all went out. Rindt had a scary spin, avoiding the barriers and was able to keep going.

Then, Stewart, Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant also spun, the American destroying his car but escaping unscathed. Hill realised that Stewart was injured and stopped to help. Hill managed to get Stewart out, his race suit soaked in petrol, just a few seconds before his car caught fire, thus saving the Scot from certain death.

Of 18 starters, only 7 finished the opening lap. Rindt proved to be an ace in the wet, managing to catch Surtees and passing him to take the lead. When the track began to dry however, the superiority of Surtees’ Ferrari became clear and the English champion retook the lead. Only five drivers finished: Surtees the winner, securing the third triple of his career, as apart from the win and pole he also set the fastest race lap, followed by Rindt and Bandini.

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