In 1963 Ferrari won the Grand Touring Car Championship in the over 2000 cc. class, the Challenge Mondiale de Vitesse, and the Prototypes Trophy. Jaguar and Chevrolet came second and third in the GT Championship, Porsche and Jaguar second and third in the Challenge Mondiale de Vitesse, and Porsche and René Bonnet second and third in the Prototypes Trophy. In all three Championships the competition was a long way behind Ferrari in terms of points.
1963 was the year in which Ford attempted to enter into financial partnership with Ferrari, as part of its plan to revamp the Ford image. After protracted negotiations the deal fell through when Enzo Ferrari realized that under the terms of the proposed agreement he would no longer have full control over the racing side of the business.
In 1963 Mike drove Ferrari GTOs or Prototypes in fourteen races in all, of which five with SEFAC Ferrari entries (Sebring 12 Hours, Targa Florio, Nürburgring 1000 Km, Le Mans 24 Hours and the Prototype/GT Race at the Rheims French GP meeting) and nine with Maranello Concessionaires entries. The majority of these were medium or long-distance races. He achieved two first places (in the 21-lap Goodwood Whitsun trophy and the Martini Trophy at Silverstone), four second places (in the Goodwood Sussex Trophy, the Goodwood RAC Tourist Trophy, the Monza Coppa Inter-Europa, and the Snetterton Autosport 3-hour race) and one third place (in the Le Mans 24 Hours).Ferrari sent three works cars to the Sebring 12 Hours, two 250Ps and a 330LMB. Mike was driving the 330LMB with Lorenzo Bandini. Shortly after 2 pm, after four hours racing, Mike was battling with the 4-litre Ferrari Spyder entered by NART when he spun off near the MG bridge, probably on a patch of spilled petrol, and hit a tree. The body of the car was badly damaged and the fuel tank had split. He managed to get back to the pits but the damage was such that there was no alternative to withdrawing the car, much to the disappointment of Bandini. The other Ferraris came first, second and third. Ferrari had three works cars in the Targa Florio: two 250Ps and a Dino 196S. There was also a second, privately entered Dino 196S. Mike was driving one of the 250Ps, with Surtees as co-driver. Mike did the first three laps (134 miles), then handed over to Surtees. Two laps later Surtees went off the road, damaging the bodywork and the fuel tank. With petrol pouring out of the tank, he had to abandon the car. The other 250P and the privately entered Dino dropped out and the works Dino came second. At the Nürburgring 1000 Km there were three works entries, all 250Ps. One was crashed in practice by Vaccarella, so only two started. Mike’s co-driver was Scarfiotti. The two 250Ps led until lap 16. Mike had only just taken over after a pit stop and was driving with Mairesse hot on his heels in the other 250P when he spun going through the Aremberg curves, possibly because he had been nudged by Mairesse or simply because he had misjudged the curve. The rear end of the car hit a bridge and was so badly damaged that it could not continue the race. Mairesse punctured a tyre on the debris from Mike’s crash and had to go into the pits. He and Surtees gradually made up the delay and eventually won the race after Phil Hill, who was leading the race in a Porsche, went off the road, also at Aremberg. The Ferrari prototype line-up at Le Mans comprised eight cars: three works entries, three NART entries, one car from Maranello Concessionaires, and one entered by Pierre Noblet. Mike was driving a 250P with Umberto Maglioli. They led briefly in the third hour of the race, then had mechanical problems and slipped back to seventeenth place a third of the way through the race, but gradually made up ground and finally came third. The race was won by another 250P driven by Scarfiotti/Bandini. Two privately entered 250 GTOs came second and fourth. At the AMOC Martini Trophy at Silverstone in July, scheduled as a 52-lap race but then cut to 30 laps owing to the torrential rain, Mike put up a brilliant performance. He was driving a GTO entered by Maranello Concessionaires. He was in pole position at the start and by the end of the second lap had already lapped five cars. By six laps he had lapped all but six cars. At the finish he was a lap clear of every other car. At the Whitsun Trophy race at Goodwood he drove a new GTO delivered to Maranello Concessionaires only five days before the race. He won the race, also clocking up the fastest lap (1 min 35 sec, 90.38 mph). Mike MacDowell in another GTO came second and another Ferrari third. In the Sussex Trophy race at Goodwood, a 15-lap GT race, Mike drove a Ferrari 250 GTO entered by Maranello Concessionaires. He was up against Graham Hill in a lightweight E-Type Jaguar entered by John Coombs. Hill led from start to finish followed by Mike in second place, 1.4 seconds behind him. To the joy of the spectators, the Coppa Inter-Europa at Monza saw a hard-fought duel for first place between Mike, in a 250 GTO and Roy Salvadori, in an Aston Martin DB4GT. The Aston Martin was slightly faster on the straight but the GTO was faster out of the corners, due to its five-speed gearbox. Mike and Roy passed and re-passed each other, lap after lap, all the while lapping the slower cars. A couple of laps from the end they caught up with two slower cars on the approach to the Lesmo curve. Salvadori succeeded in getting past on the inside just before the apex to the curve, having managed to give Mike the impression that he was going to follow them. Mike was left to follow the two cars through the corner and clipped the edge of the grass. This enabled Salvadori to gain a slight lead, which was enough for him to win the race. Salvadori commented: “For me it was a fantastic race, not least because Mike was great to race against and completely trustworthy.” At the 3-Hours race at Snetterton in September Mike, driving a 250 GTO, was pitted against Jimmy Clark in a Lotus 23B. Clark won the race, Mike came second, winning the GT class, and Jack Sears, in another 250 GTO entered by John Coombs, came fourth. At the Goodwood RAC Tourist Trophy Mike was driving one of the two GTOs entered by Maranello Concessionaires. Graham Hill, who by then was Colonel Hoare’s principal driver (and also won the World F1 Championship in that year), was given the choice of car. Hoare decided that if Mike and Graham found themselves competing for first place the team strategy was that Graham should win. This required some diplomacy. When asked what Mike was like as a team member Colonel Hoare commented: “No problem. I only had one very embarrassing and tricky situation with Michael. That was in one of the various TTs at Goodwood. Because Michael was engaged by the factory he was not available for every race. So we eventually decided that we would have to get someone else and we got Graham Hill who was as good as they get in those days. When the time came for the TT I had two entries, one for Graham and one for Michael. I knew this was going to mean tears, sooner or later. I left it until as late as I possibly could and then about half an hour before the race I said to Michael: ‘Look, I’m frightfully sorry but I’m under contract to Graham and he must be the number one car. Therefore, I hate to say it but you must not carve him up, you must help him to nurse his car as you nurse yours. I’m sorry, but you must be second.’ Mike was very upset about that. Anyway, the race took place and they finished one second apart.” Notwithstanding this team strategy, which could have taken the spice out of the race, it was actually quite competitive, since both Ferraris had to battle with Innes Ireland in an Aston Martin, and Mike and Graham alternated in the lead. In the Silverstone BRDC 25-lap Race, after a hard-fought battle to overtake Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori (driving E-Type Jaguars) in the early stages of the race he was comfortably in the lead with less than four laps to go when he spun off at Becketts. Colonel Hoare was not amused: “I remember one of the May Silverstone meetings. Michael had one of my GTOs. He got off to a splendid start. I think it was a twenty-five lap race. He built up a substantial lead and I was foolish enough to put out the ‘Slow’ sign because I wanted him to nurse the car. One lap later he lost it, the car went off the track, it was very badly damaged, and that was that.” In the Prototype and GT race at the French Grand Prix Meeting at Rheims, a 130-mile race, Mike was at the wheel of a works-prepared experimental version of the 250P fitted with a 4-litre engine on loan to Maranello Concessionaires. He had clutch problems on the very first lap and had to go into the pits. He then set a new Prototype/sports car record of 2 min 22.5 sec as he tried to make up for lost time, but eventually the car succumbed and was retired. At the sports car and GT race held at the British Grand Prix Meeting at Silverstone Mike drove the same car, again on loan to Maranello Concessionaires. The engine gave problems at the start and he was rammed on the grid by Chris Williams in a Lotus 23, then climbed to fourth place, but after a while the car’s mangled exhaust pipes fell off and it subsequently developed a serious oil leak which obliged him to retire.