The 1966 Season

Hailed as the "return to power" the 1966 season saw the start of the new 3 litre formula. Some teams were more ready than others and as a consequence a wide variety of engines and chassis were used ranging from Ferrari's new purpose built 3 litre V12 ( 312 ) to modified 65 season engines which were bored out to 2 litres. There were also various 4 cylinder Climax engines plus a 2.4 litre V6 ( 246 ) Ferrari based on the "Dino" engine.
Brabham :
Jack Brabham's "Brabham Racing Organisation" had commissioned "Repco" to build a 3 litre V8 loosely based on an alloy Buick engine. Mounted in the new light and nimble BT19 chassis the combination would go on to win the 1966 World Championship. Although not the most powerful in the field it proved to be a most reliable contender. A later BT20 fitted with the same engine was campaigned by Brabham's team mate Denny Hulme. Team Brabham also ran a BT11 chassis fitted with a 2.5 lt 4 cylinder Climax engine for Hulme in the first few races of the 1966 season. "DW Racing Enterprises" ran a similar but privately entered BT11 powered by a longer stroke 2.7 lt 4 cylinder Climax engine in the hands of their driver Bob Anderson. A third BT11 chassis was also campaigned by David Bridges Racing and Rob Walker teams. This car was powered by a high revving BRM 2 litre V8.
The "Owen Racing Organisation" otherwise know as BRM was one of the teams caught on the hop.Tony Rudd who was the chief designer at BRM made the fateful decision to build the complex "H16" engine. Although the engine promised an abundance of power the reality was that the engine's weight negated any power advantage. Besides this it took longer than expected to build and develop which meant the team starting the season with last years V8 engines modified and bored out to just under 2 litres. When the H16 finally did arrive it was mated to the new P83 chassis. In the mean time the older P261 chassis was used in conjunction with the 2 litre v8. The P261 in the hands of Jackie Stewart won the Monaco Grand Prix while Graham Hill was placed 2nd at the Dutch Grand Prix and 3rd at the British Grand Prix but from then on good results were thin on the ground. Another P261 also with the 2 litre V8 was privately entered by "Team Chamaco Collect" and mostly driven by Bob Bondurant.
Cooper :
The "Cooper Car Company" had recently been taken over by the Chipstead Group who were also the UK distributors for Maserati. Although the Maserati engine had its origins in the 50's, politics dictated that the team would use the Tipo 9 2.5 litre V12 which was bored out to 3 litres and fitted to the new T81 chassis. As well as running the works cars driven by Rindt and Ginther ( the later on loan from Honda ), Cooper also supplied cars to privateers Rob Walker Racing, Guy Ligier and Jo Bonnier teams. Later in the season John Surtees joined the team after leaving Ferrari. There is no doubt that Surtees's influence in developing the car greatly improved its capabilities and this culminated with Surtees winning the last race of the year at Mexico City.
Anglo American Racers :
The Eagle T1G designed by Len Terry for Dan Gurney's "Anglo American Racers" started the 1966 season powered by a 2.7 litre 4 cylinder Climax engine with which Gurney had some success, being placed 5th at the French and Mexican Grand Prix and a 7th at the German Grand Prix. The Climax engine was always intended as a stop gap because Gurney has commissioned Harry Weslake to build him a brand new 3 litre V12 engine. The Weslake V12 eventually arrived late in the season to make an appearance at Monza and Watkins Glen but reliability issues meant Gurney running the last race of the season with the sturdy and reliable Climax unit.
Ferrari :
While other teams were arguing with the governing bodies and trying to get the 3 litre formula changed to 2.5 litres, Ferrari just got on with it and produced an all new 3 litre V12 to be known as the 312. John Surtees was Ferrari's top driver and was given the car to start the season. Lorenzo Bandini had to make do with a 2.4 litre V6 based on the "Dino" mounted in last years chassis to start the season. But despite this Bandini almost won the Monaco Grand Prix but had to retire with throttle linkage problems. In the next race at Spa-Francorchamps the 312 and John Surtees was unbeatable. Mike Parkes driving the second 312 scored a creditable 2nd at the French Grand Prix. Unfortunately Surtees and Ferrari parted company before the French Grand Prix but the 312 went on to dominate the Grand Prix of Italy at Monza coming home 1st and 2nd in the hands of Scarfiotti and Parkes.
Lotus :
Colin Chapman's "Team Lotus" was another team without a 3 litre engine so they were forced to use last year's Climax V8 modified and bored out to 2 litres. This was fitted into the Lotus 33 chassis also from the 1965 season. Eventually a deal was done with BRM to use the H16 engine which was fitted into the all new Lotus 43 chassis but unfortunately the Lotus Team suffered the same fate as BRM with this complex and overweight engine which rarely finished a race. One exception to this was the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen where Jim Clark who was Chapman's number one driver managed to hold the car together long enough to cross the line in first place giving the H16 its only win in 1966. Lotus also supplied cars to privateer "Reg Parnell Racing" who entered a Lotus 33 chassis powered by a BRM 2 litre V8 and driven by Mike Spence.
Honda :
The 3 litre V12 car known as the Honda RA273 arrived late in the season to make its debut at Monza where it qualified well being just over a second off pole. Unfortunately Richie Ginther crashed the car and did not finish the race. In the next race at Watkins Glen the car was once more on the pace, this time less than one second off pole, but again it did not finish. The last race of the season saw the RA273 less than half a second off the pace and 4th on the grid. At the start it blasted into the lead with phenomenal acceleration. But tyre troubles later in the race would see it slip down the leader board eventually finishing one lap down.
Mclaren :
Bruce Mclaren had served his apprenticeship with Brabham and Cooper. For 1966 he decided he wanted to build his own cars and thus was founded one of the most well known names in racing to this day. The Mclaren for 1966 was the M2B designed by Robin Herd and powered by an Indy Car based Ford V8 of 3 litres. As the season progressed Mclaren would try out the Serenissima V8 but returned to the Ford V8 which gave him most success including a 6th place in the British Grand Prix and a 5th at Watkins Glen.
Paul Skingley