• French Grand Prix

Gurney gives Brabham his first win

ESPNF1 Staff
June 28, 1964
Dan Gurney takes the chequered flag for Brabham's first victory © Sutton Images

The French Grand Prix moved back to the daunting road circuit of Rouen-Les-Essarts, set in a valley among the woodlands of Les Essarts hills. It proved to be a historic victory for Dan Gurney in Jack Brabham's self-designed Brabham Climax, the first for the Surbiton-built car.

Jim Clark started on pole with Gurney and John Surtees alongside him, and took the lead immediately. Surtees soon hit trouble and had to retire on the third lap when his Ferrari's engine packed up. Brabham moved up into third, and by the 11th lap Graham Hill had worked his BRM up to fifth, having started back on the third row of the grid.

By half way through the race, Clark had a comfortable lead, but on the 30th lap, he roared into the pits, only to come out in a cloud of smoke behind Gurney, obviously in an ailing car. He gave up the chase almost immediately and retired with his Lotus engine leaking oil. By now Gurney had a lead of over a minute from team-mate Brabham, who was being chased by Hill, who had driven superbly to fight back to third.

Six laps later Hill overtook Brabham, but he was not going to have it all his own way. Brabham refused to let him pull away and for lap after lap the two former world champions drove side by side, at over 100 mph, around the tortuous, narrow circuit.

Gurney cruised to an easy victory, and for a while it looked as if Brabham might be able to snatch second place back from Hill, but, in the end he was unable to match the BRM's speed. Although he didn't win the race, this grand prix was an auspicious one for Brabham, as he became the first man to win as a driver - in 1960 - and as a manufacturer - in 1964. Clark was now only one point ahead of Hill in the championship, with Richie Ginther and Peter Arundell joint third.

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