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The class of the field



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Top, from left to right: Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Lucien Bianchi, Jacky Ickx, Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Joakim Bonnier, Jochen Rindt; middle, from left to right: Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Piers Courage, Jackie Oliver, Jo Siffert, Jackie Stewart; bottom, from left to right: Kurt Ahrens, Silvio Moser, Hubert Hahne




1968 German GP (drivers' briefing)


At the time this shot of the Class of '68 was taken a patch of dry weather was apparently hovering above the Nürburgring paddock, but it can only have been a brief interlude in the foul circumstances that plagued the running of the 1968 German GP all weekend. Then, torrential rain turned the Grand Prix itself into a heroic battle for the 20 drivers starting the race - as it turned out not so much against each other but mostly against the track and the gods.

One driver stood out in the circumstances: Jackie Stewart in his Matra who took great strides away from the opposition, eventually winning by the largest margin ever recorded in a World Championship Grand Prix: over four minutes. (Not even Damon Hill's victory by two laps over Olivier Panis at the 1995 Australian GP was enough to beat Stewart's record.)

Strangely enough, the Scot was a declared adversary of racing in these treacherous conditions. Although off- track he fought hard to improve track safety, on-track he never wavered and was just as determined to win, unlike Prost or Lauda showing his tremendous skill in appalling weather just as well.

Even at Spa, which he thoroughly disliked after crashing into a trackside ditch at the humbling Masta corner (now part of the circuit which isn't in use anymore), he always pulled out all the stops. At the 1998 Belgian GP he was asked about the horrifying experience. After dismissing Eau Rouge as the ultimate kick ("At the old track this was just one of several challenges - at Masta you had to steer between two houses just at the side of the track!") he said he will never forget being rescued by Bob Bondurant and BRM team mate Graham Hill, who arrived first at the scene.

Back then, a scenario unfolded which will be hard to believe for the likes of Messrs Schumacher and Häkkinen. Hill and Bondurant, who finally managed to pull Stewart from his cockpit, dragged the Scot to a nearby farm where Graham and Bob started to remove his fuel-drenched overalls. Just after they started a couple of nuns entered the room and were so startled by the sight of the three rain-soaked Grand Prix drivers in their basement that it took a lot of persuading for them to help the wounded superstar driver...