The 1966 United States Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on October 2, 1966, at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course in Watkins Glen, New York. It was the eighth and penultimate round of the 1966 World Championship. The race was the ninth United States Grand Prix (16th including the American Grand Prize races of 1908–16). It was the sixth to be held at Watkins Glen. The race was held over 108 laps of the 3.78-kilometre circuit for a total race distance of 408 kilometres.
The race was won by British driver Jim Clark driving a Lotus 43 for Team Lotus. Clark lapped the field to claim his 20th World Championship win by over a lap. The podium places were filled by Cooper Car Company team mates; Austrian driver Jochen Rindt and British driver John Surtees in their Cooper T81s.
While none of the Brabhams finished, the engine failure of Lorenzo Bandini's Ferrari 312 saw that the Anglo-Australian team could not be caught in the race for the Constructors' championship with only the Mexican Grand Prix. This gave Jack Brabham a unique double, World Drivers' and Constructors' championships in a car of his own make.
With most of the teams struggling to come to grips with the new 3-liter formula in 1966, Jack Brabham won the World Championship with a neat, simple and lightweight chassis, the Brabham BT19. It was the Australian's third Drivers' title, and the first by a driver in a car of his own manufacture. But it was Jim Clark's Lotus, with the powerful, normally unreliable, BRM H16 engine, that crossed the line first at Watkins Glen. Inheriting the lead when Lorenzo Bandini and Brabham retired, Clark finished a full lap ahead of Austrian Jochen Rindt, and recorded the ill-fated H16's only win.
This was the year the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation departed from the traditional starting money system, and instead offered prize money ranging from $20,000 for first to $2,800 for twentieth. The total purse of $102,400 was easily the richest in the World Championship, and the first prize amount was more than the first prizes of all the other races put together! "$100,000 was a magic number at the time," said race director Cameron Argetsinger. "It was a number that spelled 'big league' to American sport fans." The enthusiastic acceptance of this arrangement by the European team managers and owners marked a huge philosophical change for the Grand Prix establishment in how to promote a race meeting.
With the prize money system, finishing was doubly important and Clark intended to use the more reliable two-liter Climax engine until he discovered how quick the H16 could be. Bandini's Ferrari was the first to break the 120-mph barrier at The Glen, as he posted a time of 1:08.67. John Surtees, now in a Cooper after leaving the Ferrari team in mid-season, and Graham Hill were the only other drivers under 1:09 on Friday.
In the closing minutes of Saturday's session, Brabham grabbed the pole at 1:08.42, and Clark joined him on the front row with a 1:08.53. Immediately after recording his best time, Clark heard a thud behind his back, and when he stopped in the pits, there was oil dripping from the H16's exhaust. The BRM team offered a much-used spare H16 engine, and the Lotus mechanics worked into the night fitting it into Clark's race car.
Sunday was cool, but dry, and a crowd of 75,000 included actors James Garner (Pete Aron), Toshirō Mifune (Mr. Yomura) and Jessica Walter (Pat Stoddard), as well as director John Frankenheimer, who were in the final stages of creating the movie Grand Prix. An hour before the start, Clark was still unsure which car to use in the race. He finally chose the Type 43 with BRM's spare H16, and it, too, was leaking oil on the dummy grid before the crew tightened it up and he began his warmup lap. At the flag, Bandini jumped from the second row into the lead, ahead of Clark, Richie Ginther, Brabham, Surtees, Jackie Stewart, Hill and Denny Hulme.
Ginther immediately began dropping back, while Brabham found his rhythm and moved up, taking Clark in 'The 90' on lap four, and then Bandini for the lead on lap 10. Surtees also got around Clark for third spot and had attached himself to the leading pair when they came upon Peter Arundell's Lotus on lap 16. Brabham and Bandini got by entering 'The 90,' but Surtees remained stuck behind. He tried to get around Arundell on the pit straight, and again in The Esses, but as he pulled alongside, the cars touched and both slid across the grass, then headed for the pits. Surtees actually pulled in to the Lotus pit to confront Arundell and had to be restrained by Lotus mechanics. Having wasted several minutes there, he rejoined in thirteenth position, two and a half laps behind.
On lap 20, Bandini regained the lead from Brabham and began to draw away until, suddenly, on lap 34, his engine blew and Brabham found himself alone with a sizable lead over Clark. Surtees, meanwhile, was still steamed over his bout with Arundell and was the fastest car on the track. He unlapped himself once and set the fastest lap of the race on lap 31. Just past half distance, on lap 55, Brabham also blew his engine! Clark was surprised to find himself in the lead, almost a minute ahead of Rindt's Cooper. Surtees continued his charge, unlapping himself for the second time and passing Bruce McLaren and Jo Siffert for third place.
Clark was unchallenged the rest of the way, and came home with the only victory the BRM H16 engine would ever record. When Rindt coasted in two minutes, 28.5 seconds later and out of fuel, his last lap was not counted since it was more than twice the leader's lap time. He retained second place, anyway, on the same lap as teammate Surtees, who was third. The win– Clark's first of the year– ended Graham Hill's three-year string at The Glen, but it marked the fourth year in a row that a BRM engine had won the American Grand Prix.Notes: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Only the best 5 results counted towards the Championship. Numbers without parentheses are Championship points; numbers in parentheses are total points scored.