• South African Grand Prix

Clark retirment hands Hill the title

ESPNF1 Staff
December 29, 1962

At the seaside track of East London, just after Christmas, Graham Hill won the South African Grand Prix, and with it the world championship. He was the first Englishman to win the title in an all-British car, with BRM also winning the constructors' championship after 12 years of trying.

Jim Clark once again took pole position in his Lotus 25, ahead of Hill and Jack Brabham. Clark roared away at the start and immediately took a commanding lead, which had increased to 26 seconds by the halfway point. Hill tried everything to catch him, but had no answer to the speed of the Lotus and could see the world championship slipping away. If Clark won, both he and Hill would be on 39 points, but Clark would be champion due to winning more grands prix throughout the season.

However, fate intervened on lap 59 when an ominous puff of smoke from Clark's car heralded a dramatic change of fortune. As Clark himself recalled; "Immediately after I had lapped Jack Brabham on my 59th circuit, I looked in the mirror to see where he was and to my horror I observed a faint haze of smoke issuing from my engine."

A tiny bolt on the Lotus engine's distributor drive housing had worked loose, and three laps later Clark pulled into the pits with smoke pouring out of the car. It was to be the end of his championship challenge, and Hill automatically became world champion, whether he finished or not.

Bruce McLaren, in a Cooper Climax, finished second in the race and third in the championship. A record crowd of 90,000 watched the drama unfold, and Hill was almost mobbed at the finish. Among the first to congratulate him were Clark, and a jubilant Sir Alfred Owen, who, after pouring money into BRM for years with no reward, finally had something to celebrate.

Hill said; "I would like to have beaten Jim but this is the next best thing and I'm delighted - although it hasn't really sunk in yet."

It was a memorable year for British manufacturers, who destroyed the weakened challenge of Ferrari, and proved they had the best Formula One racing cars in the world.

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