Jim Clark won both Grands Prix held on New Year's Day

We’re so used to Formula 1 seasons kicking off in March that the very notion of a championship season starting much earlier in the year would seem completely foreign to many F1 fans. But there were twice – back in 1965 and 1968 – a World Championship Grand Prix on New Year’s Day…

The races in question were the South African Grand Prix, which acted as the curtain-raiser for the new championship season, with 1965’s race (which this article focuses on) a mere five weeks after John Surtees famously clinched his Drivers’ Championship at Mexico in a dramatic finale.

This race would be the last held at the high-speed East London circuit, and a field of 32 drivers – of whom half would be either local drivers or from the formerly-known colony of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) – would take to the track in 1964 machinery, it being too short a period of time to create new cars.

One driver making his Grand Prix debut would be a young Scot called Jackie Stewart, who would make his first championship start in a BRM, partnered alongside Graham Hill. A young Austrian called Jochen Rindt would also make his first start for the Cooper team, having made a one-off appearance at the previous year’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Qualifying saw Jim Clark (Lotus) claim pole position by over a second, sharing the three-car front row with Surtees (Ferrari) and Jack Brabham (Brabham).

Clark led the race from the off, shadowed closely by team-mate Mike Spence, who would spin on the 43rd lap and fall into the clutches of third-placed Surtees.

Spence would spin again before the end of the race, allowing Surtees and Hill through to complete the podium.

Clark was shown the chequered flag one lap earlier than scheduled, but he correctly ignored it and still went on to claim his fourteenth win from Surtees and Hill.

Spence finished fourth, ahead of Bruce McLaren and F1 debutante Stewart.

The sport’s last New Year’s Day race, in 1968, would also be won by Clark. It would be the Scot’s last World Championship success, for he would be killed at Hockenheim in April before the European leg of the championship season got underway.


1965 South African Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (85 laps):

  Driver Team Laps Result Grid
1. Jim Clark GBR Team Lotus Climax V8 33 85 2:06:46.0 1
2. John Surtees GBR Scuderia Ferrari V12 158 85 + 29.0 2
3. Graham Hill GBR Owen BRM V8 P261 85 + 31.8 5
4. Mike Spence GBR Team Lotus Climax V8 33 85 + 54.4 4
5. Bruce McLaren NZL Cooper Climax V8 T77 84 + 1 lap 8
6. Jackie Stewart GBR Owen BRM V8 P261 83 + 2 laps 11
7. Jo Siffert SUI Walker Racing Brabham BRM V8 BT11 83 + 2 laps 14
8. Jack Brabham AUS Brabham Climax V8 BT11 81 + 4 laps 3
9. Paul Hawkins AUS John Willment Brabham Ford V8 BT10 81 + 4 laps 16
10. Peter de Klerk ZAR Otelle Nucci Alfa Romeo 4cyl Special 79 + 6 laps 17
11. Tony Maggs ZAR Reg Parnell Lotus BRM V8 25 77 + 8 laps 13
12. Frank Gardner AUS John Willment Brabham BRM V8 BT11 75 + 10 laps 15
13. Sam Tingle RHO Sam Tingle LDS Alfa Romeo 4cyl MK1 73 + 12 laps 20
14. David Prophet GBR David Prophet Brabham Ford V8 BT10 71 + 14 laps 19
15. Lorenzo Bandini ITA Scuderia Ferrari V12 1512 66 Ignition 6
NC. Bob Anderson GBR DW Racing Brabham Climax V8 BT11 50 + 35 laps 12
DNF. Jo Bonnier SWE Walker Racing Brabham BRM V8 BT7 42 Clutch 7
DNF. Jochen Rindt AUT Cooper Climax V8 T73 39 Electrical 10
DNF. John Love RHO John Love Cooper Climax 4cyl T55 20 Halfshaft 18
DNF. Dan Gurney USA Brabham Climax V8 BT11 11 Ignition 9
DNQ. Trevor Blokdyk ZAR Trevor Blokdyk Cooper Ford 4cyl T59      
DNQ. Neville Lederle ZAR Scribante Lotus Climax 4cyl 21      
DNQ. Doug Serrurier ZAR Otelle Nucci LDS Climax 4cyl MK2      
DNQ. Brausch Niemann ZAR Ted Lanfear Lotus Ford 4cyl 22      
DNQ. Ernest Pieterse ZAR Lawson Lotus Climax 4cyl 21      
NPQ. Clive Puzey RHO Clive Puzey Lotus Climax 4cyl 18/21      
NPQ. Jackie Pretorius ZAR Pretorius LDS Alfa Romeo 4cyl MK1      
NPQ. Dave Charlton ZAR Dave Charlton Lotus Ford 4cyl 20   Practice Fire  
WD. Ray Reed RHO Realpha Alfa Romeo 4cyl RE1      
WD. Brian Raubenheimer ZAR Raubenheimer Lotus Ford 4cyl 20   Engine  
WD. David Clapham ZAR Lawson Cooper Maserati 4cyl T51      
WD. Alex Blignaut ZAR Blignaut Cooper Climax 4cyl T55      
Jim Clark GBR Team Lotus Climax V8 33 80 1:27.6  

[Image via NS Auto Forum]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.