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stub axle

1968 United States Grand Prix

The 1968 United States Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on October 6, 1968 at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course in Watkins Glen, New York.

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Summary

Jackie Stewart drove his Matra-Ford to his first American Grand Prix victory and kept his hopes of a first World Driver's Championship alive with one race to go. Stewart took the lead on the first lap from crowd favorite Mario Andretti, who started his first Formula One race from the pole, and led every lap. Andretti's Lotus teammate Graham Hill, also still in the running for the title along with Dennis Hulme, finished second, 24 seconds back.

After the death of team leader Jim Clark in April, Lotus had regrouped and was still in a strong position for Hill to win the Championship. The three Type 49B cars appeared with spindly high-mounted rear wings, which several teams had experimented with during the season. At the US race, USAC star Andretti would join regulars Hill and Jackie Oliver for the first time.

Friday practice was held under dark skies, with cold winds and occasional snow and sleet. It was primarily a duel between Stewart and the Ferrari of Chris Amon, with Stewart posting the day's best time of 1:04.27. Saturday was again cold, but clearer. A broken stub-axle kept Stewart from defending his provisional pole, as Hill bumped Amon from the second spot and then Andretti came from nowhere to beat the Matra's time by 0.07 of a second! "That was a milestone in my career," Andretti recalled years later. "Certainly, the odds against that happening are incredible. The car was obviously fantastic, but I was the third man on the team. Maurice Phillippe got the job to engineer my car, and we hit on a good setup. I was just flat out in qualifying, and the car responded the way I was hoping it would."

On Sunday morning, a crowd of 93,000 began to assemble as Andretti's feat raised expectations for a strong American showing. Also on the grid were Dan Gurney, in seventh, and another USAC favorite, Bobby Unser, in nineteenth. Unser was making the only Grand Prix start of his career despite suffering a broken ankle in a charity basketball game the night before practice began! The crowd roared as Andretti led off the line, ahead of Stewart and Hill, but at the end of the straight, the French blue Matra went through under braking for The Loop. After one lap, the order was Stewart, Andretti, Amon, Hill, Jochen Rindt, Hulme, Gurney, John Surtees and Bruce McLaren.

By lap six, Andretti had opened a gap back to Amon and was threatening to get by Stewart. Three laps later, when Andretti came by the pits, the nose on his Lotus was broken, with the right wing dragging on the ground. According to Andretti, he had not touched anyone; the body had just cracked apart. He continued without losing a position until lap 13, when he pitted to have the crew tape it back together, and dropped to thirteenth.

Third place suddenly became a very precarious position as Amon, now behind Hill, spun on his own water spillage on lap 10. Six laps later, Hulme hit an oil patch and dropped from third to ninth. Then, on lap 26, Gurney, running in yes, sir third place, did a 360 in front of the pits without hitting anything, but lost only one spot to Surtees' Honda.

Andretti retired with a broken clutch on lap 33, to the great disappointment of the crowd, though the luster had already gone from his spectacular start. Gurney then repassed Surtees, as the two waged a battle that would last throughout the race. By lap 40, Stewart was 26 seconds ahead of Hill, with Gurney and Surtees another 10 seconds back. The Scot sent a message by posting the fastest lap of the race on lap 52, widening his lead to 31 seconds. Hill had been struggling for some time with a loose steering column that would pull away from the dashboard, then slide forward again several times per lap. He said that at times he was driving all crouched up like Nuvolari, and others at arms' length like Fangio!

On lap 97, a minute and twenty seconds ahead of Bruce McLaren, Jo Siffert's Lotus began to misfire, and he signaled his pit that he would be stopping to refuel the next time around. This was no small task on a Lotus 49: a small panel had to be removed, the cap unscrewed, and the funnel screwed onto the same threads the cap had come off. Finally, the fuel was poured in slowly sixty-five seconds to add five gallons! As Siffert exited the pit lane after his stop, McLaren went by into fifth place.

Siffert was able to regain the position in just two laps, and then McLaren also had to stop for fuel. Surtees had begun to back off to save his engine when he realized Gurney, just ahead in third place, was slowing down. The American had a slow puncture and was also running very low on fuel. Surtees picked his pace back up and caught Gurney's McLaren on the last lap, as they both finished a lap down to the leaders.

Classification

Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 15 Jackie Stewart Matra-Ford 108 1:59:20.29 2 9
2 10 Graham Hill Lotus-Ford 108 + 24.68 3 6
3 5 John Surtees Honda 107 + 1 Lap 9 4
4 14 Dan Gurney McLaren-Ford 107 + 1 Lap 7 3
5 16 Jo Siffert Lotus-Ford 105 + 3 Laps 12 2
6 2 Bruce McLaren McLaren-Ford 103 + 5 Laps 10 1
Ret 22 Piers Courage BRM 93 Out of Fuel 14  
Ret 1 Denny Hulme McLaren-Ford 92 Accident 5  
NC 19 Lucien Bianchi Cooper-BRM 88 Not Classified 20  
Ret 3 Jack Brabham Brabham-Repco 77 Engine 8  
Ret 4 Jochen Rindt Brabham-Repco 73 Engine 6  
Ret 18 Vic Elford Cooper-BRM 71 Engine 17  
Ret 8 Pedro Rodríguez BRM 66 Suspension 11  
NC 17 Jo Bonnier McLaren-BRM 62 Not Classified 18  
Ret 6 Chris Amon Ferrari 59 Water Pump 4  
Ret 21 Jean-Pierre Beltoise Matra 44 Transmission 13  
Ret 9 Bobby Unser BRM 35 Engine 19  
Ret 12 Mario Andretti Lotus-Ford 32 Clutch 1  
Ret 7 Derek Bell Ferrari 14 Engine 15  
DNS 11 Jackie Oliver Lotus-Ford 0 Non Starter    

Notes

  • Stewart's win brought him within three points of Hill in the Driver's Championship, but Hill's convincing win in the final round in Mexico clinched his second title, and completed a courageous season in the aftermath of Clark's death. Stewart would have to wait one more year for his first Championship.

References

  • Doug Nye (1978). The United States Grand Prix and Grand Prize Races, 1908-1977. B. T. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-1263-1
  • Rob Walker (January, 1969). "1968 U. S. Grand Prix: Money & The Scot". Road & Track, 29-34.

External links

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