• Spanish Grand Prix

Hill victorious for mourning Lotus

ESPNF1 Staff
May 12, 1968
Graham Hill took his first win since the 1965 United States Grand Prix © Sutton Images

Graham Hill won the Spanish Grand Prix, his first victory for two-and-a-half years and one desperately needed by a Lotus team in mourning following the death of Jim Clark the previous month and weeks later his replacement, Mike Spence, testing at Indianapolis. Given the background against which it was achieved, it was probably Hill's greatest win.

With a devastated Colin Chapman missing, Hill, now 39, had to use all his experience to rally the team which was also battling with the authorities about its new livery and Gold Leaf sponsorship. In the end the cars raced with black tape blocking out the tobacco logos.

The absence of the fast Jackie Stewart, who had broken his wrist in a Formula Two accident, was about the only good news for Lotus, but even so, Hill qualified a distant sixth behind Chris Amon in a Ferrari and a brace of Brabhams.

In searing heat the lead swapped several times between Amon, Pedro Rodriguez in the BRM, and Jean-Pierre Beltoise in the Matra - but gradually they were forced to retire by mechanical failure or, in the case of Rodriguez when he crashed into the safety fencing. As he waited for help he could only watch as spectators "descended on the car like vultures and stripped off the mirrors, seat, windscreen and nose cowling before the mechanics arrived."

Twenty laps later, Amon - who in a career of 108 grand prix was fated never to win - was eliminated when a short circuit to the fuel pump ended his run.

Hill, who had been more than a mile behind, kept going with Denny Hulme in hot pursuit until Hulme's McLaren lost second gear, and Hill eased home by 16 seconds. "We badly needed this win just now," he told reporters. "It's been a long time coming and it could not have happened at a better time. I reckon I completed 1350 gear changes during the race today. It was real hard work."

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