Dan Gurney wins the 1962 F1 GP de France at Rouen in a Porsche 804

1962 F1 Rouen : Dan Gurney wins the race in a Porsche 804

Porsche’s only F1 victory as a constructor. 

The 1962 French Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Rouen-Les-Essarts on July 8 1962. It was race 4 of 9 in both the 1962 World Championship of Drivers and the 1962 International Cup for Formula One Manufacturers. Unlike ‘modern’ post war tracks such as Goodwood, Silverstone or Zeltweg that were built on wide, flat airbases, Rouen-les-Essarts, was an old school, naturally occurring circuit. The topography of the land creating a fast, flowing and fearsome layout, with an elevation profile that must have struck fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned drivers. Forget artificial run-off areas, gravel traps or catch fencing, drivers were either on the tarmac or in the trees, no exceptions. Porsche, with Dan Gurney as one of the factory drivers next to Joakim Bonnier,  didn’t expect the final results in this F1 race at all. Carel Godin de Beaufort entered the race as a privateer in his personal Porsche 718 F2.

Dan Gurney at work in the Porsche 804

It’s a reality that Porsche factory driver Dan Gurney had to come to terms with when he turned up to compete at Rouen in 1962 — the first time the circuit had held a Grand Prix since 1957.  “Rouen-Les-Essarts is very rough on suspension, gear-train, and steering,” Gurney said in a pre-race interview. “It’s a much rougher circuit than it looks like it is.”

But aside from his reservations about the state of the track surface, Gurney actually had reason to be optimistic. If anything, the rough nature of the circuit played into his hands — his Porsche 804 proving in testing to be more reliable than the quicker BRM P57s and Lotus 25s when the going got tough.So, despite suffering from, as he put it, a “doggone cold”, Gurney suspected that his 804 Formel 1 would come good towards the end of the race, telling reporters “we may be in pretty good shape”.

1962 F1 Rouen-les-Essarts

Dan Gurney takes checquered flag in the F1 race in a Porsche 804

And indeed, they were. Over the course of the 54-lap race, Gurney, who had qualified down on the third row of the grid, drove an ultra-consistent race to work his way towards the front of the field. And while others such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jack Brabham retired with mechanical issues, Gurney’s good old Porsche 804 never missed a beat. By the time the chequered flag came out Gurney had managed to open up a colossal gap over the following pack of Richie Ginther, Bruce McLaren and John Surtees. Dan Gurney secured Porsche’s first, and (so far) last Grand Prix win at a  F1 World Championship round.  The team from Zuffenhausen pulled out of the Formula One world championship at the end of the year.

In a previous article, we posted  some footage on Dan Gurney’s victory at Rouen-Les-Essart.

Pictures courtesy Porsche AG.