Motor racing 1962

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In the 1962 season Mike continued to drive the Jaguar 3.8s (VCD 400 and JAG 400) for Equipe Endeavour and the Ferrari 250 GTO jointly entered by Equipe Endeavour and Maranello Concessionaires.  He was also invited by SEFAC Ferrari to drive a works-entered car in two races, the Nürburgring 1000 Km. and Le Mans.

In the Jaguars he achieved three firsts (the Molyslip Trophy at Brands Hatch, the 25-lap Touring Car Race at the Lombank Trophy Meeting, and the Six Hour Race at Brands Hatch), two second places and one third place.

Mike’s results in the Ferrari 250 GTO were very impressive: first in the 25-lap GT Race at the BARC Gold Cup at Oulton Park, the International Scalextric Trophy 25-lap GT Race at Silverstone, the G.T. race at the Whit Monday Meeting at Mallory Park, the Peco Trophy at Brands Hatch, the Daily Mirror Trophy at Snetterton, and second in the 15-lap GT Race at the Sussex Trophy Meeting at Goodwood, the 25-lap GT Race at the Scott-Brown Trophy Meeting at Snetterton and the 1000 Km. de Paris at Montlhéry (co-driver John Surtees).  He also came first in the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch, driving a Dino 246P.

In the course of the year Mike drove in twenty-two races in all, as well as doing his regular job at Rootes – pretty hectic! In interviews he described his racing as a “hobby”, but it had become much more than that.

In 1962 the regulations relating to Sports car and GT racing changed.  The World Sports Car Championship was replaced by the Grand Touring Car Championship (which ran from 1962 to 1965) the Challenge Mondiale de Vitesse (1962-1966) and the Prototypes Trophy (1963-66).  In that year Ferrari won both the Division III (over 2000 cc) Grand Touring Car Championship and the Challenge Mondiale de Vitesse.  This was achieved despite the fact that at the end of 1961 there had been a major crisis in the Ferrari organization, with the contemporaneous resignation of eight senior staff including Carlo Chiti, Romolo Tavoni, and Giotto Bizzarini.

Mike’s first race of the year was the BARC Gold Cup at Oulton Park, a 25-lap GT race.   The chief competition was another 250GT driven by Innes Ireland and a Jaguar E-Type driven by Graham Hill.  Hill led initially but Mike succeeded in passing him on the first lap and from then onwards led to the finish.

At the 15-lap Sussex Trophy at Goodwood Mike won the GT category, also setting a new lap record, and finished second overall behind a UDT-Laystall driven by Innes Ireland.

In the 25-lap Scalextric Trophy GT event at the BRDC International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone Mike qualified on pole position, then led the race from start to finish setting a new GT lap record.

At the Nürburgring 1000 Km., in which his co-driver was Willy Mairesse, Mike was driving a works-entered 250 GTO coupé with a 3,967 c.c. engine.  There were three other Ferraris in the race, a 246SP, a 268SP, and a Dino 196SP.

They were up against Jim Clark in a 1.5 litre Lotus 23.  Clark led initially but dropped out after 12 laps and for the remainder of the race the Parkes/Mairesse car alternated in the lead with the 246SP driven by Phil Hill and Gendebien.  Hill and Gendebien won and Mike and Mairesse came second, 2 min 21 sec behind them.  This was the first time Ferrari had won this race since it was revived in 1956.  Commenting on his performance on this notoriously tricky track, on which he had raced only once before in 1960, the journalist Dennis May described Mike’s method of getting to know a new track: “Long and involved circuits suit Parkes.  He doesn’t find them difficult to learn, and he’s willing to take pains doing it.  On first visiting a circuit with any memory-taxing pretensions, he traverses selected sections on foot, minutely examining and mentally photographing the flanking terrain as well as the road itself”.

At the Whit-Monday GT event at Mallory Park Maranello Concessionaires entered two GTOs, driven by Mike and John Surtees respectively.  The race consisted of three seven-lap heats and a 25-lap final.  Mike won his heat beating Surtees and Graham Hill in a Jaguar E-Type.  In the 25-lap final, starting in pole position, he led the race from the start and came in first.

At Le Mans he drove a works-entered 4-litre GTO coupé with Lorenzo Bandini, one of four works cars.  Having put up the second fastest time in practice (3 min. 58.6 sec.), he went into a sandbank on the first lap near the end of the Mulsanne straight because Kerguen, in an Aston Martin, had cut in front of him.  He spent half an hour digging the car out with a shovel and subsequently rejoined the race but the car started to overheat because of problems with the cooling system caused by the sand and Ferrari withdrew it seven hours into the race.

At Brands Hatch on August Bank Holiday Mike competed in three races.  He won the saloon car race in Equipe Endeavour’s 3.8 Jaguar, the 25-lap Peco Trophy GT race in a Ferrari GTO beating five other GTOs and setting fastest lap, and the Guards Trophy event for sports cars in a 246SP Dino loaned by Ferrari, with the young engineer Mauro Forghieri in attendance to see how it performed.  Forghieri was to become one of Mike’s closest colleagues in later years, but of course neither of them imagined it at this stage.

At the RAC Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, the most important GT race of the British season, there were five Ferrari GTOs in the line-up, driven by Mike, John Surtees, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill, and David Piper.  After a hard-fought race Innes Ireland won, Graham Hill came second and Mike came third.

On the day preceding the Daily Mirror Trophy at Snetterton, a 3-hour race, Mike had driven his race Ferrari, which had just received a complete overhaul at Maranello, from Italy to England.  As Colonel Hoare recalled: “Mike did a fantastic drive in bringing that car to Snetterton as he had picked it up at the factory, left Modena at 5.00 am, caught the last air ferry from Calais to Southend that evening and arrived at Snetterton at 1.00 am on race day morning, then ran in the 3-Hours and won it!”  In 1962 most of the route from Modena to Calais was on ordinary roads not autoroutes.  Mike led the race from start to finish.

The end of the season saw the first ever Maranello Concessionaires “away” race across the Channel, at the Montlhéry 1000 Km. Mike’s co-driver was John Surtees.  After chasing the NART-entered GTO driven by the Rodriguez brothers and a Belgian-entered GTO driven by Mairesse and Bianchi for the entire race, swapping places as the different cars came in for pit stops, they finally took second place, despite an oil leak.

1962 also saw Mike’s first stab at Formula 1 driving in a lightweight 4-cylinder Cooper Climax at Mallory Park.  The car he drove was a last minute entry to the race, having been brought to the circuit as a source of replacement parts for the team’s main entry, a Bowmaker V8 Lola-Climax driven by John Surtees, which won the race.  When the team manager Reg Parnell realized that no parts would in fact be required he invited Mike to drive the car in the race and he achieved a very creditable fourth place.

In his 1963 book “Men at the Wheel” Peter Miller quotes the views of Colonel Ronnie Hoare on the driving performance of his protégé: “Mike is one of the foremost, if not the leading G.T. driver in the world.  Apart from his quite exceptional driving ability, he is also a fully qualified engineer, with a technical knowledge, in my opinion, second to none among racing drivers.  In practice, he seldom asks for any alterations to be made to his car.  If he does so, he never changes his mind after it has been completed, because he knows precisely what was wanted.  Having got it, he is perfectly satisfied and it would be perfectly foreign to him ever to blame the car.  The fact that in two busy seasons on Ferraris he has never had a mechanical failure of any kind, speaks as highly of his technical expertise and its influence on his driving, as it does to the stamina of the car.  His charm and outward complacency, especially before a race, are completely disarming.   The bigger the “flap” within our own organization, the calmer Mike becomes.  No patron could ask for a finer driver, a more dedicated team member or better companion than Michael Parkes.”

Next: The move to Ferrari in 1963

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