Just after 6:00pm on Sunday the 30th July 1967, as Phil Hill brought his bewinged Chaparral 2F over the line in first place on the 211th and last lap of the BOAC 500 Sportscar Race, he allowed himself a brief smile. He was indeed a man satisfied with a job well done. Hill and his co-driver Mike Spence, who was sadly to lose his life at Indianapolis the following year, had driven hard and fast for over 6 hours and brought their car home in one piece. It had been a pivotal race in more ways than one.
Pivotal for the pensive Californian in that, after several seasons in the Grand Prix wilderness following the abortive ATS Formula One venture and hard times with Cooper and others in sports cars, the triple Le Mans winner and 1961 Formula One World Champion had shown that he still had what it took to deliver victory in a world-class, long distance event.
Pivotal also for Chaparral, being only the second major European victory, following the previous year’s experimental foray at the Nurburgring 1000kms, for the inspired Texan duo of Jim Hall and Hap Sharp and the latest in their long line of innovative sports car designs. This win being especially significant, breaking up as it did the Ferrari/Porsche hegemony which had existed for so long at the highest level in Sportscar racing.
Pivotal, finally for both the Ferrari and Porsche home-teams, as the race was the closing round of the 1967 F.I.A. World Sportscar Manufacturers Championship, bringing down the curtain on the most hotly contested season for many years. The two grandee teams had come to Brands Hatch with everything to play for; their scores separated by but a single point after the Ford whitewash at the previous month’s Le Mans 24 hours had denied them access to the winner’s circle.
Three days earlier, when the cream of the International Sportscar racing set had gathered for practice, prior to joining battle at the tight and twisty Kentish circuit, the eager spectators had been amazed that closed-wheel racing of this calibre was once again on the menu in Britain. This was indeed the first truly international race, other than a Grand Prix, to be held on British soil since the Goodwood TT’s of the 1950’s!
Not only were all the crack teams present, making up a very full grid, but just about everybody who was anybody from the world of Grands Prix had been signed-up to drive. In addition to the sole 7.0 litre, alloy-block Chaparral entry of Hill/Spence there were three works 4.0 litre Ferrari P4’s, with crews including Jackie Stewart, Chris Amon and Ludovico Scarfiotti, all entered in the open roof ‘Prototype’ category. These were ably backed by the privateer Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 412 P Coupe of Richard Attwood and David Piper and a number of older LM Ferraris also in private hands. Porsche in turn had pulled out all the stops to field no less than five works cars. The total made up of four 910’s in 2.0 and 2.2 litre guise and an ex-Le Mans long-tailed 2.2 litre 907. Their driving roster included such luminaries as Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Jo Siffert, Bruce McLaren and ‘Quick’ Vic Elford. Flying the Ford flag was a John Wyer entered 5.7 litre Gulf-Mirage to be piloted by the great Pedro Rodriguez, in his first drive for the team to which he would later bring much glory, and the S.C.C.A. veteran Dick Thompson. Five privately-entered GT40’s ran in a supporting role. The ubiquitous Lola T70 was not to be ignored either, represented, amongst others, by a 5.7 litre MkIIIB works car for John Surtees/David Hobbs and a similar; Sid Taylor entered machine for soon to be crowned Formula One World Champion Denny Hulme and his boss Jack Brabham.