Inside Track - Autobiography

Page 1


For the Family

FRONTISPIECE One of the Fuller Brush Company promotional shots, taken in period, of Phil Hill with the works 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa.

First published in 2017 copyright © The GP Library Ltd PO Box 67, Alresford, Hampshire SO24 0WU, UK Phil Hill photographs and memorabilia copyright © The Hill Family Archive Based upon personal interviews by Steve Dawson and Doug Nye Final Text copyright © The GP Library/Doug Nye Research Consultant Derek Hill Design and Production Ian Lambot All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in China ISBN 978-0-9954739-3-5


Contents

8

Foreword by Dan Gurney

12

Prelude by Phil Hill

16

Starting Out 1927-49

32

On Foreign Shores 1949-50

40

My First European Races 1950

66

Back in the USA 1950-51

86

Making a Mark 1952

98

A Professional Racer 1953

120

A Year Almost Lost 1954

130

Back Into the Fray 1955

152

Driving with My Heroes 1956

172

A Frequent Frontrunner 1957

190

Victory at Le Mans 1958

230

A Year of Frustration 1959

252

Changing Times 1960

266

Year of the Champion 1961

302

Ferrari Farewell 1962

318

An Error of Judgment 1963

332

All Change 1964

354

Moving On 1965

368

The High Chaparral 1966

382

The Final Victory 1967

398

A New Beginning 1968 and Beyond

402

Remembering Phil by John Lamm

408

The Family Man with Alma Hill

420

Index

426

Acknowledgements

428

Credits


Starting Out 1927-49 BELOW Young Phil (standing) with younger brother Jerry pose beside Auntie Helen’s new 1931 PierceArrow LeBaron in the driveway of 218 20th Street, Santa Monica, Phil’s family home, just down the street from her nearby house.

T

HE AUTOMOBILE HAS BEEN AN ABSORBING PASSION throughout my life. Apparently the first intelligible sentence I strung together was something like “Auntie’s car in garage”. My Aunt Helen had this marvelous Packard Town Car that she’d not only bought new back in 1918, but she actually had a fair amount to do with the details of the custom body made for it, by Fleetwood in Pennsylvania. I was born in Miami, Florida, on April 20, 1927, but within weeks a hurricane threatened. I had lived through the Great Hurricane of 1926 in my mother’s womb and she wanted no part of another one. She prevailed upon my father to move us somewhere safer, initially to New York. It was immediately after my brother Jerry’s birth in August 1928 that I took my first train trip to California, where my sister Helen then came into the world, in May 1930. We lived briefly in Hollywood then Pasadena, before settling in the cool Pacific coast city of Santa Monica. I was only four when my parents bought me piano lessons, but even then I was more interested in my mother’s Marmon Speedster. It had been one of a pair of New York Show cars; pioneer racing celebrity Barney Oldfield bought one, and my Mom had bought the other. My father – Philip T. Hill – was ex-US Navy. He had been city editor of the Schenectady ‘Gazette’ before marrying my mother – Lela Long from Cleveland, Ohio – and in Miami he worked as Sales Manager of the Mack Trucks company. In California he held a Government post as Foreman of the Los Angeles Grand Jury until 1935, when he was made Postmaster in Santa Monica. He

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RIGHT Phil’s mother, Lela, at Miami Beach, Florida in the early 1920s. The buckboard car is a Smith Flyer, also known at the time as a ‘Red Bug’ since nearly all Flyers were painted red. After Lela’s sister Helen married wealthy Cleveland industrialist Edward Grasselli, many winters were spent happily down in Miami.

was quite adept politically. He established a respectable position in local society, which was very important to him. I entered kindergarten at the Franklin Elementary School. It was during the Great Depression. On one occasion my brother Jerry and I had to endure the embarrassment of being delivered to school in my aunt’s chauffeur-driven Pierce-Arrow. To avoid being noticed by the other kids we’d try to hunker down and hide on the floor, but my aunt would pull us back up on the seat and we’d just squirm there miserably while our schoolmates gawked at us. It was then that I first began to resent my family’s social status. Home was not a particularly happy place … My father was a committed Democrat, my mother was politically a staunch Republican and religiously an old-fashioned, fire-and-brimstone revivalist. Family meals often degenerated into arguments, which were frankly disturbing for we three kids to witness. From 1935, I spent three years at the Hollywood Hills Military Academy. I was schooled in the ways of discipline and the school band, playing alto horn and drums. I was brought up to address my Dad as ‘Sir’. He was a remote presence. I could never talk cars with him. Out of school my brother Jerry and I would stand with the neighborhood boys on San Vicente Boulevard and have competitions to see who could correctly identify oncoming cars at the furthest distance. After a while the other kids quit because that game was no fun with me around. I was a fanatic at it, and no way can you compete on level terms with a fanatic.


RIGHT Philip Toll Hill Sr – Phil’s father – posing for a portrait as Postmaster of Santa Monica, a political appointment. BELOW Auntie’s sparkling new 1931 Pierce-Arrow 41 LeBaron Town Car Cabriolet – pictured outside her home in Santa Monica on the corner of 20th Street and Georgina Avenue, with chauffeur in command. This is the car that Phil and brother Jerry would restore 23 years later – during Phil’s enforced but temporary retirement from racing. Into 1955 their work would win Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours, on the same weekend that saw Phil win the nearby feature race on the pine-forest circuit in Allen Guiberson’s Ferrari 750 Monza.

STARTING OUT

1927-49

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BELOW May 26, 1949. A fabulous photo from Phil’s archive showing midget-car drivers Byron Courts (left) and Doug Grove (right) in the cockpits, with Arnold Stubbs, Phil and Rudy Sumpter himself the first three crew members left to centre beyond. BOTTOM Crash-helmeted young Phil positively smoldering for

the camera as the Hollywood-style midget-car racing hard man …

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the Trophy Dash and so forth, the semi-main, then the main. It was especially great to be involved with a competitive car. It was wonderful to be amongst guys engaged in what each of us regarded as the perfect job – perfect for each of us as individuals. Nobody had loaded them full of ‘you should be doing this’ – ‘you should be earning more’. Everybody around the midgets at that time was there by individual choice, and everybody was just having a ball. I didn’t get to race the midget, but increasingly I felt the urge to have a go in something. I had been reading more and more about European-style road racing. I was taking the British weekly magazines, ‘The Autocar’ and ‘The Motor’, and it was in them that I first read about the new British sports car – the MG TC – and then came the memorable day when I actually saw one of these new imports. It had become plain to me that I had to earn better money than I could make from tagging along with Rudy, so I’d begun work as a mechanic at Simonsen Schackmeyer, the Packard agency on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. I was dining one night in a little sandwich shop we liked, called the Soda Snack or some such, right across the street from work, when this little green TC just drove up outside. I was amazed because it had the top up and the dash lights on inside and of course I didn’t even know those things had dash lights. It was so different to see a car like that, brand spanking new and so intriguing. It had this really long hood and the fact that the occupants’ legs occupied half of it would have been devastating. Of course it was supposed to be all engine … The owner went into some place nearby and I left my meal to look it all over. What really impressed me was its new 19-inch diameter wire-spoked wheels – and its sweeping fenders. Just a few days earlier, George Hearst had told me they were selling these new cars at International Motors, in Beverly Hills. So I went over to try an MG just like the one I’d seen. I met Louis van Dyke who was one of the partners with Roger Barlow, and he took me out for a demo ride. Louis had chosen his demo route very well. There was a sharp right-hand bend you could see clear through, right smack where Cedars-Sinai Medical Center stands today, and when he saw the road was clear Louis practically threw that MG into it,


ABOVE Phil just loved his early

MG TCs, but his infatuation with the automobile and everything about it completely mystified his father who tried terribly hard to raise his elder son as a pillar of what he perceived as Santa Monica society.

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STARTING OUT

1927-49

RIGHT Phil was living largely with Aunt Helen to escape the charged and contentious home atmosphere between his parents when his father – temporarily separated – wrote this letter to him on his 19th birthday in 1946. The content is hardly the most cheering news any 19-year-old kid might wish to hear – a birthday check on his behalf was being paid to … the local boys’ club.


8

GOODWOOD

ABOVE April 8, 1950 – practice Saturday. 8) Phil’s first experience of real, live Grand Prix racing cars would

have continued with the crackling, raucous bellow of the 6-cylinder 1½-liter supercharged ERA, jacked up with its rear wheels spinning in gear to warm the car’s pre-selector gearbox and back axle. The No 25 car is Graham Whitehead’s ERA ‘R10B’, while the transporter beyond belongs to the rival British automobile distributor and racing privateer Bob Gerard, who was running his own ERA ‘R4A’ that weekend. As a student of these things, Phil was well aware that all ERAs were known by their individual chassis numbers, and that only 17 had been built in the 1930s …


9

10

11

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ABOVE April 8, 1950 – practice Saturday. 9) Enrico Platé at the wheel of his client Prince

MY FIRST EUROPEAN RACES

1950

‘Bira’s Maserati 4CLT, which has just been towed off track into the paddock. This doesn’t look good. 10) Aah – maybe it was only a fuel shortage issue as Platé in his trademark wind cap has the Prince’s car refueled with Shell’s finest brew. 11) Platé roped up and ready for a tow restart perhaps, in the paddock. 12) There is something definitively Italianate about the Maserati 4CLT engine with its four valves per cylinder head, eight exhaust primaries from two exhaust ports for each cylinder, plus that high-mounted cooling-finned supercharger up front, and the hand-fashioned multi-louvered body paneling alongside …


LEFT December 16, 1950– this

SCCA Southern California Region “Navigator’s Nightmare” rally signified the tail end of Phil’s XK120 career, as he sold the car soon after. OPPOSITE May 27, 1951 – Pebble Beach Road Races, Carmel, Cali-

fornia. What a fabulous sight and sound this must have been as Phil flailed around the coastal forest circuit in his fabulous ex-works, exMille Miglia 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C-2900B. He won the Del Monte Handicap race that day and finished fourth in the Cup feature …

ABOVE Phil’s 1950 SCCA membership badge. It was a small community, but an active one, whose leading drivers would have a huge influence upon majorleague motor racing far beyond American shores …

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RIGHT Phil’s employer Roger Barlow (left), creator of International Motors, Inc, with one of the two wonderful little Simca Specials he produced and raced – Phil self-conscious in the cockpit – enthusiastic client Clark Gable to the right.

for Richie and our friends to give me a push. This time the engine fired immediately, and I took off about 100 yards behind the rest of the pack. My pal Arnold Stubbs – who was becoming quite a good driver – was leading in the Cramer brothers’ V8-engined MG Special. I was making progress and passed some people, but several times I misjudged my revs while downshifting clutchless, which locked the rear wheels and aimed me at the straw bales. Stubbs went into the pits, leaving Mike Graham’s AllardCadillac leading two XKs, Bill Breeze in second, with me right on his tail, third. The Allard then shot up an escape road, so Breeze was first and I was second. I could smell the brakes on Breeze’s car and sure enough I got ahead and he retired next time round. Coming past the pits Richie held out a chalkboard pit signal reading, ‘LONG LEAD’. Who was this guy Long? Stubbs had just been in sight on the main straight when I thought he was leading, so had Long been ahead of him? I was desperate to win the race so I drove harder and harder. I was sliding wide in the turns, bouncing off straw bales and even visited the escape road. The Californian afternoon coastal fog was closing in beneath the dark pine trees, and the road surface was slick and treacherous. At the pits Richie waved another chalkboard pit signal, this time reading ‘ONE’. Again I agonized feverishly over its meaning. One lap to go? Still not a sight of this guy Long’s leading car, so I figured it was all over. But next time round there was no checker-

ed flag, and only then did I realize I must be leading … ‘long lead’ had described my lead. How dumb could I get? There were seven laps to run. My Jaguar was clutchless, and by this time brakeless. My brother-in-law, Donnie Parkinson, was up into second place in his XK and gaining, but I pressed on until Al Torres finally waved the checkered flag. Then came the soaring relief, the realization I’d just won the Pebble Beach Cup. I’d driven totally instinctively, taking absolutely stupid risks. The Jaguar’s fenders were covered with dents and scrapes. Its brakes were almost on fire and the clutchless shifts had abused the gearbox terribly, but I’d kept it together and had brought it home.

“I COMPETED IN THE JAGUAR ONE MORE TIME … THEN SOLD IT TO FUND THE PURCHASE OF A 1938 STRAIGHT-8 SUPERCHARGED ALFA ROMEO 8C-2900B.” That was a really big deal for me … yet I was still dogged by self-doubt. Had I won that important race, or had it really been the car that won it for me? I needed to be sure of the answer, and to me there was none that I found satisfactory. So instead of being overjoyed I felt confused … and even a little frightened. I had no way of knowing how good a driver I was. I certainly wanted to be good. But if you were any good would you know right away, or would it take a while? I thought that the top drivers were created with an innate ability – and nothing I’d achieved had yet proved to me that I’d been counted in on that deal. Today young drivers hear a lot about attending driving school and not being expected to know it all when they first start. I think that makes it much easier for them. But in California, 1950, there was no one to make such reassuring noises. I thought I should have had some great biblical sign or something that this might be true. And it gnawed at me … I competed in the Jaguar one more time, in a Californian mountain rally in December 1950, then sold it to fund the purchase of a 1938 2.9-liter straight-8 supercharged Alfa Romeo 8C-2900B, the ex-Alfa factory car that had been driven by Carlo Pintacuda



MAKING A MARK 1952

LEFT Another Phil-preserved rarity

– a lapel badge from the early 1950s Palm Springs Road Race.

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ABOVE By 1952 the Palm

Springs Road Race circuit had been amended to become more aerodrome, less service roads, but the resort town’s contribution to Californian motor sport thrived.

So people who watched this initially unimpressive take-off would just marvel when they heard the terminal speed. Meanwhile, in March ’51 while the Ferrari deal was cooking, a private owner named George Cameron had offered me a drive in his Chrysler V8-engined C2R at Palm Springs. This was a big deal for me, driving a car I’d raced against at Elkhart Lake, but a drive-shaft joint broke and sidelined me in the first turn. I must admit I found the Cunningham very strange. It just seemed ridiculously huge. I think Briggs had this thing about American automobiles being characteristically big and spacious, and he wanted his sports cars to reflect that kind of national trait. In fact, the Cunninghams’ voluminous aluminum bodies enclosed an awful lot of air rather than heavy metal so although they were certainly hefty, they were never quite as overweight as their appearance might suggest. But from the driving seat they really felt gigantic. Briggs, however, was a true gentleman and he would prove very kind to me – typical of that great sportsman – and I’d get to know him well when I tagged along with the team on their Le Mans trip that June. I’d been reading about the classic 24-Hour race for so long, I couldn’t wait to get across to Europe and see what it was really like … In fact it was Chinetti who fired me up to invest in a boat ride to Le Mans that year. He was typically cryptic, saying something like “I think maybe if you go there maybe, er, maybe, er …” which I took to mean that maybe, just maybe, he might find me a drive there. So, based upon that, I hustled the money together to buy myself a ticket to Le Havre, from where I would take a train to Le Mans. Before that trip, one motive for doing the Ferrari deal with Chinetti had been my ambition to excel at Pebble Beach that April. But I’d got myself in a muddle. I’d promised Chuck Hornburg I’d drive his white ‘Silverstone’ Jaguar XK120 there, so I entrusted my new Ferrari to Arnold Stubbs. In the Jaguar, I had to make two pit stops for water, while trusty Stubbs drove my Ferrari round safely to the finish – and he finished very well, second overall. The following month I drove my first-ever Ferrari race in the 212 in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. I finished second in the first race to Michael Graham’s big Allard, before closing rapidly

on Bill Pollack in the leading Allard V8, owned by Tom Carstens. I managed to chip his lead down from 25 seconds to just four. The Ferrari was going great … until the last lap when one of its two ignition coils fell off. I’ve kept the coil ever since. It had dropped down and tangled in the steering, which really put me off. My first reaction was that the steering box had gone, but simultaneously the engine had cut onto only six cylinders. That really confused me until I could look under the hood.

“I’D GOT MYSELF IN A MUDDLE. I’D PROMISED CHUCK HORNBURG I’D DRIVE HIS … XK120 THERE, SO I ENTRUSTED MY NEW FERRARI TO ARNOLD STUBBS …” But I learned a lot from that race. I realized the Ferrari’s shock absorbers needed an overhaul, and I added a front anti-roll bar which stopped the inside rear-wheel from lifting in tight corners, allowing it to spin. The biggest plus was that the Ferrari’s drum brakes seemed fade-free, which came as a complete revelation after the Jaguar XK experience. Then came the Le Mans trip. I arrived with great expectations, but when I found Chinetti, he wouldn’t look at me. So I knew what that meant. He had found another customer to drive the car. But regardless, I was happy just to be there. I heard that Cunningham had based themselves in Monsieur Guyon’s garage, so I found the number and telephoned from the Place de la République and asked for somebody. I don’t recall how I ever got through, but they just said “Hey, come right over” and kind of took me in. I went to the circuit with Briggs and the guys and hung around with them for the entire weekend. My first sight of truly premier-league European racing had the most tremendous impact on me. As an experience I found it truly stupendous. I walked along the pit line during practice, eagerly drinking in the sights and taking many photographs. The works teams alone left a deep impression, particularly my first sight of Mercedes-Benz with their latest 300SL ‘gullwing’ Coupes


BELOW (Clockwise from below left) March 23, 1953, Palm Springs – Phil

RIGHT A commemorative dash plaque for contestants from the short-lived Golden Gate Park Road Races, in San Francisco … an early victim of green concerns.

finding his feet in George Cameron’s privately entered Cunningham C2R, looking lost in its cockpit but happily exploring its limits of adhesion; May 31, 1953, Golden Gate Park – cornering hard in the 212 Export , only to finish second; April 20, 1953, Pebble Beach – final drive in Hornburg’s ‘Silverstone’ Jaguar XK120, fifth place proving it was outclassed. Delivery of the C-Type would put that right.

MAKING A MARK

1952

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RIGHT June 10, 1953, Le Mans 24-Hour scrutineering – reigning World Champion Driver Alberto Ascari in friendly conversation with Bill Spear and Phil, plus Ferrari team-mate (and mentor) ‘Gigi’ Villoresi to the left. Both Ascari and Villoresi were friendly and pleasant personalities.

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ABOVE Another wonderful piece of front-cover artwork on the 1953 Le Mans 24-Hour race program cover.

RIGHT May 30, 1953 – Golden Gate Park races, San Francisco. Phil in his Ferrari 250MM won one race, but struck trouble when seemingly set to win another.

to find my way past Spear, then caught Pollack – and passed him too. By the end of that race I had a clear lap’s lead over the Allard, which was very satisfying. I was very happy with that, and with my new car too. In May I raced it for the second time at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Having finished second there the previous year I was keen to go one better. I started way back on the grid, but by the third lap I had the lead sewed up. I’d lapped all but four cars by lap 15 when, without any warning, the damn back-axle split right open. It just broke off a tooth which went through the gears and, as it jammed in there, they tried to ride over it and burst the casing. It sprayed oil and hot fragments all over the track. Thornton High’s Baldwin Special promptly half-spun and Chris Berlo’s XK120 hit him. Eventually Masten Gregory scored his first big win, in his C-Type. A few weeks later, at the Ferrari Assistenza Clienti place in Modena, I raised this kind of failure and they just swore they’d never heard of such a thing, but then I found a room there containing a stack of old back-axle cases, all split wide open … My Ferrari 250MM was a good car and, despite having a lot of roll and pitch, it was still able to thread its way around a sinuous circuit and not be upset by bumps despite its live backaxle. It’s just that at Golden Gate Park, mine had proved too live. Two weeks later, I found myself in the race I had dreamed about for so long – the Le Mans 24-Hours. I was to co-drive Rees

Makins’ OSCA with him and Fred Wacker, the Allard driver from Chicago who was also President of the SCCA. I think Wacker got me the ride, and that he or Makins paid for my trip. I was like a kid in a candy store as the practice period began and all the big factory teams lined up their cars in front of the pits. It was wonderful to hear the first cars go out, sort of timidly at first, shutting off real early into the corners with a big cloud of dirt and dust raised behind them, even though the track had been swept and cleaned. When the V12 Ferraris went out there was all kinds of fierce backfiring, popping and banging as they slowed down for the first time to pass under the Dunlop Bridge. Seeing and hearing that scene was a great sensation. I just absolutely loved that. It was my first practice at Le Mans, and it was tremendous.

“I WAS LIKE A KID IN A CANDY STORE AS … ALL THE BIG FACTORY TEAMS LINED UP THEIR CARS IN FRONT OF THE PITS … IT WAS MY FIRST PRACTICE AT LE MANS AND IT WAS TREMENDOUS.” For me the weird thing about driving there was having to be so aware of overtaking cars. I wasn’t used to that at all. It was sort of disturbing to have to be continually aware of who might be sneaking up on you. But I was mainly concerned with just doing a good job in the little OSCA, and finishing, but it wasn’t to be. First gear failed and took the gearbox with it. I remember being accused of using first through the right-angled turn at Mulsanne, though I hadn’t. I might have done it once during practice, sort of by instinct, but we never did work out why the gear failed when it did. It might have been damaged 24 hours before. It went around lap 80, in the dark, and we were done. I thought the OSCA was a very good car but I just wished I was driving something bigger. It was interesting to find that most of the big cars – the majority of course had drum brakes – would come wafting past on the straight, but Rees’s little OSCA could then repass most of them under braking, because it was so light we could leave our braking late with no problem. But we certainly


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A PROFESSIONAL RACER

couldn’t do that with the works team’s latest disc-braked Jaguar C-Types. They could get deep into the corner before braking, and then there was no way even the OSCA could come back at them. Most of the big cars’ drum brakes shot their wad at the beginning. And in fact the disc-braked C-Types just blew away everything else – the Ferraris, Cunninghams, Talbots, everything. It was during that race that we got the news that Tom Cole had just crashed early on the Sunday morning. He’d rolled his 4.1 Ferrari at White House, and was dead. I didn’t really know him, but I’d heard a lot about him. And now he was another motor racing fatality. By that time I felt I really was fitting into the motor racing world. I’d begun to believe that maybe I really did belong there after all. As I became more familiar with it, I felt more comfortable. And there was also a weird feeling that somehow other people’s accidents – this is a terrible thing to say, but it’s what hap-

pened – somehow diminished the odds on my having a serious accident. In a sense this must have been a kind of defense mechanism. It was as if choosing to become a professional racing driver made you grow some kind of intellectual armor. Each individual would probably experience it in a different way. But this is how it happened to me – how I made sense of running the risks we all knew we were taking … After Le Mans I tagged along on a cultural trip to the Palace of Versailles before accompanying a very august American group to Italy, I would be visiting Ferrari for the first time. The group included Briggs Cunningham, Bill Spear, Sherwood Johnston and – as a minor character in what became a real drama – me. One of the main reasons we were there was to collect Spear’s brand-new 340MM race car, which he had ordered, for which he’d paid a large deposit … and which wasn’t ready for collection.

1953

ABOVE Phil, the stylish young visitor from California in the Le Mans pits with his first 24-Hour race mount – Rees Makins’ 1.5liter OSCA. He co-drove it with experienced Allard exponent Fred Wacker but they would not reach the finish.


LEFT Colorful English-language

regulations pamphlet for the “4th Mexican Pan-American Race – November 19 through 23, 1953” understandably made a big deal of the fact that, at last, “The road is totally paved”. BELOW Entrant Allen Guiberson’s rakish new Ferrari 340 Mexico Coupe, again bodied by Vignale, photographed so evocatively by Phil while he and Richie were ferrying it south down the Pan-American Highway towards the Carrera starting point in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, on the Guatemalan border. It was a glimpse of the cactus that persuaded him to stop …


RIGHT Despite the damage to his Ferrari 340 Mexico following an accident during the race, entrant Allen Guiberson was very sympathetic and treated Phil and Richie to a few days R&R at Acapulco, with Phil learning the ropes of game fishing

RIGHT Welcome break postCarrera on entrant Allen Guiber-

son’s converted Navy minesweeper at Acapulco saw Phil take this happy-snap. He watched rats trying to climb onto the ship up the mooring ropes, but always falling off into the water. That night as he slept he felt one brush his face and grabbed it, only to find his right hand had a death grip on his left wrist – it was his fingers that had brushed his face.

A PROFESSIONAL RACER

going to fall, because that’s what we were going to do. We slid off the edge, and the car rolled. It bounced and banged and clanged and then – silence. The roof was pushed in, but we were the right way up. I shouted, “You OK Rich?”. He said he was and then we both jumped out as quick as we could. Luckily, there was no fire. We climbed up to road level amongst all these excited Mexicans. But there was the most terrific shriek of tires and a stock-car class Cadillac came vaulting over the same bank and crashed down on the high-side of the stout tree behind which we’d just ended up. It was crewed by two more Americans, Chuck Royal and George Clark. And like Richie and myself, they escaped unhurt. A soldier told us Fangio’s Lancia had nearly gone off just before we did. It turned out this was a notorious turn, and for entertainment the crowd had removed the warning sign. Richie and I shook off the guards trying to drag us off for medical checks and tried to flag down and warn approaching cars. That started the, so far friendly, crowd booing and yelling insults. We were spoiling their fun. Finally the soldiers started poking us with their bayonets and ushering us away, so we had to move back. We ended up spending 17 hours on that damn mountain until the last car had gone by and we could hitch a ride – feeling very deflated – into Mexico City. Guiberson didn’t seem too fazed by what had happened to his beautiful Ferrari. In fact he was very generous and philosophical about it and insisted we spend some vacation time with his family and friends on his converted minesweeper in Acapulco. Up to a point that proved very therapeutic. He took us out sport fishing and I managed to haul in a 9-foot 2-inch, 103lb sailfish. Those days on the boat relaxed both Richie and me. But when I was alone I found myself brooding on our accident, and the other things I had seen that year. And on the news that the Carrera had just seen the veteran Italian driver Felice Bonetto killed in his works Lancia, and the Ferrari crew of Antonio Stagnoli and his factory mechanic Giuseppe Scotuzzi burned to death in another crash. I couldn’t help chewing on whatever could it be – when we were all doing the same job – that left Richie and me alive, and them dead?

1953

ABOVE The verified Carrera Panamericana crew card for Phil and Richie, November 1953.

time he hit a bump, his car’s radiator was twisting, working its hoses loose. As he lost water he had to back off to cool his engine. So we repassed him and led into the mountains. At the next checkpoint we changed all four wheels – and realized we’d forgotten to bring the key for the gas-cap padlock … Richie smashed it off with the wheel hammer. On the next section, despite having an extra 12 spokes in each wheel, they began breaking. We finished 10th, I think, after that first day – and had already used up nine tires. We decided to go easier next day, but the car was pushing badly – understeering in the tighter turns. This broke another wheel – and after changing it I just had to try harder to regain time. We were on a twisty stretch over the mountains between Puebla and Mexico City. I was running so hard that on one turn I clipped a couple of big white boulders. We shot over a crest and there was a tricky, curling, downhill right-hander – with a lot of spectators hiding amongst the tall trees. I hit the brake pedal but the brakes were fading fast. I realized I wasn’t getting enough to take the turn. In fact the darned brake pedal and clutch pedal pivoted on the same cross-tube, and I’d put so much load on the brake pedal that I’d bent the tube and when I kicked the clutch to down-shift it didn’t clear. All I found was neutral. So with faded brakes and the car out of gear, it began to slide – still at high speed – towards the edge. I clearly remember wondering how far we were

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Back Into The Fray 1955

I

T WAS IN FEBRUARY 1955 THAT AMERICAN RACING’S GREAT cultural divide between the speedway scene’s professionals and the SCCA road racers – who were meant to be strictly amateur – was dented when the SCCA ‘granted permission’ for its members to compete in the NASCAR-run Daytona Speed Trials as long as only trophies, not dollars, were the reward. I went along to watch, but Briggs Cunningham let me run his Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’ Coupe.

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ABOVE Another year, another Sebring 12-Hour race program – the Amoco gas company sponsorship that organizer Alec Ulmann secured for his Floridian classic would also bring major contractual problems where Ferrari and others were concerned …

RIGHT Daytona Speed Week 1955 provided Phil’s first sight of the latest D-Type Jaguar, brought along for Cunningham’s eventual deployment at Sebring.

I’d visited Daytona Beach before, in 1935 with a family friend, Al Pearce. I was just eight years old and we went there for the winter and stayed at the Granada Hotel. Especially during the Depression years, Florida had a lot of hotels that repeatedly changed name … I guess because they frequently changed ownership. For my 1955 visit, I think I stayed at the Spears’ place on Palm Beach, just a few blocks from Briggs. We would have driven up to Daytona. It was there that I set eyes on a D-Type Jaguar for the first time. It was short, stubby, yet well proportioned, with that dramatic headrest and tail fin behind the driver. The actual car had been sent over by the factory for Briggs’s team to sample, and if private testing worked out well then Mike Hawthorn would share it with Phil Walters at Sebring. Walters set fastest time on the beach at Daytona – where my loaned 300SL was disappointingly slow – and then we moved on to Sebring for the 12-Hour race. I shared Allen Guiberson’s latest 3-liter Ferrari 750 Monza there with Carroll Shelby, who still had an arm in plaster from his Carrera crash the previous November. The race turned into a

straight fight between us and Hawthorn and Walters in the Cunningham-entered D-Type. Their team was run that weekend by ‘Lofty’ England, who had come over from England with Hawthorn. One report later claimed that our two cars were never more than seven minutes apart during the entire race. Our team’s lap chart had us in the lead during the final hour and Shelby was driving but not going very fast, despite being a very good driver. We didn’t know what to do because we weren’t absolutely certain that we were really on the lead lap. Or were we bringing up the tail of the previous lap? The race announcer was telling everyone that we had taken the lead. Then Shelby was flagged home as the winner. We were called up onto the winners’ podium together. Nobody seemed really certain, but Carroll and I were presented with the winners’ wreaths and trophies. It all happened very fast but ‘Lofty’ must have been very certain about his own lap charting, because he was absolutely adamant that Phil Walters and Mike Hawthorn had just won in that Cunningham D-Type. I wish I could have been as certain. I pretended my darndest that I was certain, but I wasn’t really at all. We protested our case as if we really believed that we’d won: “What do you think you’re doing taking the race away from us?”, and “What kind of justice is this?”. I honestly don’t know what Carroll thought. We had often raced against one another, and this was the first time we’d been paired together, but his broken arm in its cast certainly wouldn’t have helped his driving. He took care of the car pretty well, but I thought we’d been passed by the D-Type. Then somebody else suggested that maybe we hadn’t, so I wasn’t too certain from the evidence we had. Then at the end when we got up on the podium they started reversing it all. I think it was maybe a week later, once the AAA’s chief timekeeper had reviewed the lap charts, that we finally got the super-official word on it – the Jaguar had won, by 25.4 seconds, and we had indeed finished only second. That’s what the official record says, so it must be true. Phil Walters had thus become Sebring’s first two-time winner, while Briggs chalked up his hat-trick of three consecutive wins as car owner, or perhaps more accurately as ‘entrant’. Meanwhile, Allen Guiberson had come up with the remarkable notion that Richie and I should take his Monza over to Europe


RIGHT March 11, 1955 – practice for the Sebring 12-Hours, Hendricks Field, Florida. Phil and Carroll Shelby nearly won the race in Allen Guiberson’s latest Ferrari and, indeed, since there was a major lap-charting screw-up, might well have done so. But Jaguar interests shouted louder. Even so, Ferrari works team manager Nello Ugolini noted his appreciation for the new young American driver back to Enzo Ferrari in Maranello, in part reporting, “His psychological qualities … make him a very interesting person …”.

ABOVE The Palm Springs Road

Race meeting was run on March 27, 1955, and the Pebble Beach Road Races followed on April 17. Californian road racing had advanced behind the pioneer phase and a successful annual pattern was now emerging …

BACK INTO THE FRAY

Throughout the 1950s, technical administration around the race circuits of the world was in the capable hands of Girolamo ‘Mino’ Amorotti – the wealthy land-owning friend of Mr Ferrari’s who would never accept any payment for his services, and so was the one man around the Maranello set-up who could answer back to The Old Man on equal terms. “You can’t fire me – because you don’t pay me” was a philosophy that just seemed to work well for them both. At the end of each season, the accumulated resoconto compiled by these Ferrari team luminaries would be bound into a single volume, and subsequently preserved (though a few have actually gone missing) within the company archives.

When the publishers’ friends and fellow enthusiasts Franco Lombardi and Antoine Prunet were researching the in-line engined Ferraris for a major book project on which they were working, they were given access to these reports. Significantly, Ferrari’s internal works-team report covering the 1955 Sebring 12-Hours includes Nello Ugolini’s, and his most flattering assessment of Phil Hill. He wrote: “Among the drivers present, the one that most impressed me was Phill [sic] Hill, who lapped at an average of less than 3m 50s. His psychological qualities and especially his quick overall view, reflexes etc, make him a very interesting person – at least when seeing him for the first time. In the United States, he is considered one of the best racing drivers and, above all, he seems to me to be fairly young. From what Mr Chinetti said to me, Hill will soon come to Italy with Mr Guiberson, who is prepared to buy a single-seater for him. On that occasion, it would not be a bad idea to get him to try one of our cars.” As Franco Lombardi put it to us, “… prophetic words destined to carry weight in the future choices of Maranello … ”

1955

EVERY RACE MEETING CONTESTED BY THE factory Ferrari team generated an internal company race report – known as a ‘resoconto’ which was compiled by the traveling team and technical management. Until 1955, Mr Ferrari’s direttore sportivo ‘in the field’ was Maestro Nello Ugolini. After he walked out – actually joining the rival Maserati team in a calculated snub to Mr Ferrari – he was replaced for ’56 by the journalist Eraldo Sculati, then subsequently, long-term, by Romolo Tavoni.

131


BELOW Motor racing stories in the 1950s hardly ever appeared anywhere other than the bottom of a column in the sports section. The Le Mans disaster of June 11, 1955, changed all that…and changed the character of road racing forever.

140

The French veteran’s car hit the Healey’s sloping tail, rode up it, and was launched onto the top edge of the safety bank, which it struck nose-up, belly-pan first, at colossal speed. The energy of the impact was so immense that the Mercedes’ chassis broke its back, and its entire front end – complete with suspension, brakes and engine – shot through the packed spectators like a crashing plane. All this happened in less time than it takes to describe. My trigger was not sight. I don’t recall seeing any of this developing, not even out the corner of my eye, but I must have heard it. I must have been yelling across the road to Jim – or perhaps straining to hear what he was bawling back at me – when I suddenly heard the sound of racing going horribly wrong. That sound cue penetrated everything, and reflexively it meant ‘protect yourself ’. So that’s what I did. A leap backwards into that pit was already stored somewhere in my subconscious. It happened instantaneously. Unconsciously I had recognized unfolding disaster in a millisecond, and I was out of there …

“… THE IMPACT WAS SO IMMENSE THAT THE [CAR’S] CHASSIS BROKE ITS BACK, AND THE ENTIRE FRONT END … SHOT THROUGH THE PACKED SPECTATORS LIKE A CRASHING PLANE.” I landed in a heap on the pit floor. There was a single door at the back of each pit, and every team had been advised to keep it locked for the first two hours, as an anti-gatecrasher measure. There was a tumultuous racket from the trackside, thumps of cars hitting the wall in front of the pit and cries from a gendarme who had been hit, breaking both his legs. There was just this terrible, terrible racket which was way above and beyond the sound of a racing car going by and so, not knowing if it was going to end up in total chaos with everything catching fire, the main thing was to get out of the pits, which meant getting that door unlocked. Then I saw that Joan Cahier – Bernard’s wife – who had been with us, was getting trampled by people diving over the pit counter to escape from the trackside. I think someone else helped

me get her up, and then the door was open and we shot out the back. I wanted to return, I had to take over from Maglioli. Richie and Chinetti told me, “You’ve got to get out of here because he’s doing another lap”. Under those circumstances that was going to take another five minutes plus. But after what seemed only seconds, Chinetti and Richie opened the door again and said, “Come on”, and I remember climbing onto the pit counter, over the top, down and into the car. I remember there was lots of smoke and cars going through quite slowly and flags waving all over the place. And then I remember taking off and wondering how this was going to hinder progress round the track but, on that first lap, somewhere uphill as I recall – perhaps at the end of my first lap, running uphill into the Dunlop Curve – Stirling Moss came absolutely blasting past me in the Mercedes that he had just taken over from Fangio, and he was going like an absolute rocket – apparently just totally unfazed. That instant taught me a lesson I carried for the rest of my career. When peace turns to chaos get your wits about you and Get On With It, because it’s the ideal opportunity to make time while most people get rattled or screwed up and don’t do their best. And that was a good lesson from Moss, because he was flying. But even on my first lap out of the pits I’d also been startled to see how much other carnage there was, all around the track. There seemed to be cars stuffed into the sand, and cars in the ditch on their sides, and when I came through White House I saw this big column of smoke and I thought, ‘God I can’t be back at the pits already’, this was another big tower of smoke because Dick Jacobs had crashed his MG independently of the big ‘Levegh’ accident. The wrecked car was blazing away furiously, though he’d been pulled out badly injured. And then I got back to the pits straight where I found flags, marshals still on the track, and a lot of debris. A big fire was blazing on top of the bank on the left, and Macklin’s wrecked AustinHealey lay stranded opposite the pits. But gradually the organizers established a safe procedure there, finally cleared the track and everybody began to settle back into a proper race pace. I was trying to concentrate, to get the best from the car without punishing it. There were still 21 hours to go. I was sure


BACK INTO THE FRAY

somebody had died, but I had no idea whether it was one, two or ten – I never dreamed the toll could be 30, 50, 70 or more. Finally my stint was done, and I handed the LM back to Maglioli. For the first time I then began to hear what had happened. I went over to the Aston Martin area, near John and Tottie Wyer, and heard how Mike Hawthorn had broken down after he’d finally made his pit stop, sobbing uncontrollably, overwhelmed by apparent responsibility for triggering what had happened. But I couldn’t believe that, as it sounded just so out of character for Mike, regardless of whatever he might have done. I really don’t think he would have done that. But of course his friend and father figure, ‘Lofty’ England, had then said, “Get a grip, man” and all that RAF stuff did the trick, and Mike got a grip. Now, that I could believe. Subsequently, in all the time we were team-mates at Ferrari, Mike and I never ever talked about that accident. In fact I guess

we’d both blotted it from our consciousness. On that evening, and into the night, the thing that would have been on my mind was getting this thing over without doing anything stupid. At that moment, after my first stint, I was more occupied trying to work out what effect the accident was going to have on the rest of the race. But about midnight, while Maglioli was driving, our car started to overheat, and blew out its water. We were fourth at the time, but our race was over. Mercedes’ two surviving cars were running first and second, ahead of the Hawthorn/Ivor Bueb Jaguar, until at 2am orders came through from head office in Stuttgart for the German team to withdraw. I think John Fitch – who had been teamed with poor Levegh – had first suggested that in such horrendous circumstances, honorable withdrawal was the proper thing for the German team to do. The cars were called into the pits, the engines were revved to demonstrate they were still healthy, and then switched off. For me, our retirement was very disappointing,

1955

ABOVE June 11, 1955 – as the first scheduled refueling stops were in progress that Saturday evening the confined pit straight at Le Mans proved fatal. Here Lance Macklin’s stricken works AustinHealey, its tail torn where it had become a launching ramp for poor ‘Levegh’s Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, lies where it came to rest, having bounced off the pit counter (left). The rear of the Mercedes wreck blazes on top of the bank, its forepart having separated and torn through the spectators, right. Car 21 is the Karl Kling/Andre Simon second-string works Mercedes.


RIGHT Phil accompanied the factory Ferrari team to the 1957 German Grand Prix as “a spare part”. He spent practice out around the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit, taking photographs and wondering just how long it might be before ‘The Old Man’ would agree to him having a trial Grand Prix car drive or two. Here his shot of Tony Brooks practicing in the Vanwall captures much of the majesty of the wonderful old Eifel Mountain circuit. That weekend it provided a fitting stage upon which Fangio of Maserati could produce the fabulous performance which clinched his fifth and final Drivers’ World Championship title … at Ferrari’s expense. BELOW Program cover for the historic 1957 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring …

180



BELOW Letter to Phil from John Thornley of the MG Car Company Limited

at Abingon-on-Thames, England, re-arranging travel from the Swedish Grand Prix weekend at Kristianstad to MG’s world record-breaking activities on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA …

182

ABOVE The initial approach from John Thornley, general manager of the MG Car Company Limited, inviting Phil to act as reserve driver to Stirling Moss at Bonneville in “the quick car” while also taking a three-hour class record driving stint in the company’s “slow one”. Phil jumped at the chance, recalling his 1950 visit to Abingdon-on-Thames and his encounters that year with Lt Col Goldie Gardner and his wonderful MG EX135 recordbreaking car.


RIGHT Mid-August 1957 – the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA. One of Phil’s great Kodachrome photographs of the rear-engined MG EX181 record-breaking car being prepared for him prior to a run at the historic World Land Speed Record venue.

A FREQUENT FRONTRUNNER

It was weird to be locked away into that tiny little cockpit with the canopy transparency so close to my face. The front wheels were actually beside my knees, my feet on the pedals out in front of them, and the outside world was dazzling white in Bonneville’s crystal-clear air. I was very aware of the great length of the car, and the engine behind my shoulders, hurling me forward. There was a peculiar kind of wagging sensation as the tail yawed, just a little, side to side. Around 200mph I shut off a little, but the car didn’t seem to slow. I found I had to back right off the pedal to slow even slightly, and when I did that the carburetors began to spray nitrobenzene around the engine bay. The spongerubber sealing between the one-piece top body shell and the lower panels was by no means airtight and fuel fumes filled the cockpit, nearly asphyxiating me. I couldn’t breathe and, worse, I could hardly see as my eyes watered. All I could do was hold my breath and risk braking hard. Slowing down to a pace at which I could crack open the canopy against the airstream must have taken halfa-minute or more. I almost lost consciousness and began to panic. I found myself gasping for air. My heart was pounding. But at last the car came to a stop. I slammed open the canopy and gasped in great lungs-full of crisp, fresh Bonneville air. The MG guys were very

1957

John Thornley ran MG and I’d always kept in casual touch with the famous old factory at Abingdon-on-Thames. They asked me to help break in the latest Syd Enever-designed MG record car, EX181, and to identify and help correct any faults that might be found. Stirling would be the official driver, to attract maximum publicity. When I saw the tightly streamlined rear-engined record car, with its bolt-down canopy over the driver’s head, I was simultaneously intrigued, impressed and concerned. I was told the car had never been run fast, that they would be clocking me but that I should neither go for any outright records nor risk breaking the car. But they would like me to break the old Class record, which had stood since 1939, in case Moss might have to cancel. So I was aiming at 210mph. Veteran record-breaker Captain George Eyston – who was advising the team – also warned me not to correct any skid if the car got squirrelly while trying to follow the measured record strip’s black centerline, and to avoid any corrections which might spoil the car’s impetus. It was all about gaining speed and then maintaining every bit of it. He also warned me against braking too hard at the end of the run. At such high speeds the special, thin-tread tires were very vulnerable, and undue load could burst one.

183


218

ABOVE June 28, 1958 – The

Race of Two Worlds (aka Monza 500-Miles or ‘Monzanapolis’), Milan. Phil did his works Grand Prix car driving prospects a power of good by a brave and committed performance when he took over this big 4.1-liter V12 Ferrari 412MI single-seater from Luigi Musso and Mike Hawthorn, and finished third overall on aggregate of the three race heats.

This ‘Monzanapolis’ race was now being repeated. And not only was the prize purse increased to $80,000, but the national club – the RACI – announced that to be eligible for its annual bounty that it paid to the most successful Italian race-car constructor, entries had to be made in the Monza race. This cornered both Ferrari and Maserati. Ferrari built two special cars to compete. One combined a 4.1-liter 4-cam V12 engine with an old-style chassis using a de Dion transaxle rear end – with three-speed gearbox – and a kind of semi-Squalo body. The other car used a 3.1-liter Dino V6 engine in a Formula 1 Dino-style chassis, but with coil-spring suspension at the rear as well as the front. Its body looked like one of the works Grand Prix cars, but with an enormous wrap-around windscreen. I’d been spending a lot of time that summer with Denise McCluggage, the American journalist who was also a good driver

in her own right. She was feisty and fun. The day after the 24Hours she was with us amongst other friends in the dining room of the Hôtel de Paris, in Le Mans, and they began pressing me to demand a Grand Prix chance from Ferrari. I could only shake my head and mumble I could only hope, and they all began telling me how stupid I was just to suffer in silence instead of banging on Mr Ferrari’s door to demand a drive. Well, the Monza race was kind of the thin end of a wedge. And so straight after Le Mans I went to Monza, where Musso, Mike Hawthorn and myself were all lined up to drive. I guess Luigi perceived it as his patriotic duty to put these visiting Yanks in their place. He absolutely threw all caution to the wind in the big 440-horsepower V12 and took pole at 174.67mph. The Indy guys, to give them their due, looked at Musso with new respect. And so did I.


RIGHT Travel-stained and weary, a very happy and well-satisfied Phil celebrates his maiden singleseater race drive for the Ferrari factory team. He had impressed both Romolo Tavoni (left) and particularly ‘Mino’ Amorotti (right), and their reports of his exploits did him no harm in Mr Ferrari’s eyes, back at Modena …

Club’s distinctive cover art for the 1958 Monza-Indianapolis 500mile races featured this action photo from the previous year’s inaugural race on the Pista di Alta Velocità.

RIGHT ‘Monzanapolis’ practice. Phil looks lost in the big Ferrari 412MI’s capacious cockpit as he tries it for size, just in case. Luigi Bazzi in the background (right) is looking for something else for his restless hands to do. In Heat 3 Phil took over the car from a relieved Hawthorn and drove laps 25-60, finishing third behind Indianapolis stars Jim Rathmann and Jimmy Bryan.

VICTORY AT LE MANS

Ferrari rush along, though it was 400rpm down due to a dying battery for the coil ignition. Even so, it hurtled past the slower cars and Hill was gaining visibly”. Stirling had the Maserati’s steering box shear on the banking and was lucky to escape unhurt, and then it was all over – Jim Rathmann and Jimmy Bryan were first and second in their Offy-engined Indy cars – and I was third for Ferrari. I guess it shouldn’t have been that big a deal. I was three laps behind – but it didn’t feel that way. Amorotti and Tavoni made a big fuss of us. Musso had been the hero, but at the same time I felt I hadn’t done my cause any harm … However – still no offer came of a Grand Prix car drive. There was some talk of my driving the works team’s 1½-liter Formula 2 car in the supporting race to the French Grand Prix at Reims, but it was all the same old vague ifs, buts and maybes. Under a lot of pressure from Denise and many other friends my patience finally snapped. Since Mac Fraser’s death, when Jo Bonnier and I had clubbed together to get him a headstone and spent some time together, he had become quite a supporter of mine. He seemed to rate my driving and since Ferrari hadn’t yet shown much sign of giving me a Formula 1 ride, and Jo had just got a fresh Maserati 250F, he invited me to drive his old one in the Grand Prix at Reims. I jumped at the chance. But when I told Tavoni he blanched. I think he was, in fact, really concerned on my behalf. He said: “Don’t do this Phil. You are making a big mistake”. But what was the issue? What was the big deal about me driving the Maser’? I guess it was because I was going to drive another make and Ferrari thought he could tell me I couldn’t drive for anyone else, yet he wasn’t letting me drive an F1 car for him. I saw that as untenable. Tavoni actually told me that if I drove the Maserati it would be regarded as a betrayal. I’d never drive for Ferrari again. By that time I felt my record really was good enough. I’d helped Ferrari win a lot of races. And my innate rebelliousness against unreasonable authority certainly stiffened my resolve. Suddenly Tavoni’s warning struck me as probably a load of crap. All my friends in Europe were urging me on. So dammit – I was just going to drive the Maser’ regardless. To be honest I expected

1958

ABOVE The Milan Automobile

Maserati’s ice-cream sponsored ‘Eldorado Special’ used a 4.2-liter 4-cam V8 in a tailor-made open-wheeler chassis. When it rained during practice and the Indy guys wouldn’t run at all, Moss took out the Maserati in pouring rain and lapped around 145mph – passing the pits at nearer 160 – and the Indy guys looked at one other with raised eyebrows. I think their view of road racers was changing. Race day was thankfully dry, and in Heat 1 Musso raged around amongst the leading Indy guys with the throttle nailed wide open despite the big 4.1 Ferrari bouncing and bounding around on the bumpy banking. When he finally came in for a much needed tire change, he was swaying and groggy from exhaust fumes in the cockpit. Mike had no taste for that kind of racing, but took over – much more cautiously – to finish sixth. Meantime, I’d tried my best with the Dino V6 car but it was misfiring from the start and I was soon out with magneto trouble. It was another disappointment but I reveled in that forward view from the centerline, framed each side by uncovered tires. I told Tavoni that for Heat 2 I’d happily join Musso and Mike in sharing the big car, and when Mike came in he was notably quick to agree. I was just implacably intent on doing well, and in Heat 2 I got it back up to seventh before having to change tires again, then ran out of laps to recover and we were placed 10th. In Heat 3, ‘Jenks’ of ‘Motor Sport’ reported: “After 24 laps Hawthorn stopped for a change of the left-front tyre and Phil Hill took over and made the

219


RIGHT Like a speeding bullet on the bright, white salt – Phil at top speed at Bonneville in the works MG record car, EX181, ultimately recording 254.9mph to make the Syd Enever-designed projectile the fastest-ever MG.

248 ABOVE The right stuff – Phil photographed by a friend at Bonneville wearing the latest in twopiece fire-resistant cotton overalls by Dunlop. The days of tee-shirts and bare arms were passing …

RIGHT “Locked in there with my head in a goldfish bowl …”

Phil found MG EX181 disturbingly claustrophobic, but he had a job to do for the Abingdon marque and he fulfilled it brilliantly. He liked the little British team, and they liked him …

have had to go at the same pace, using up his tires. Had he then made a stop, which was likely, the other Ferrari could have won.” Well, maybe, but none of our cars could ever have run non-stop the entire distance, while Moss’s Cooper could. His win clinched that year’s Constructors’ Championship for CooperClimax – so Ferrari had now lost two title chances. In America, Alec Ulmann had got a date from the FIA for the first United States Grand Prix, to be run at Sebring in December. It would now be the Drivers’ World Championship decider. In the meantime I had been invited by MG to make some record attempts at Bonneville in the same EX181 streamliner I’d driven there for them in ’57. Then I had been very much the anonymous test driver, now I was top of the bill. They’d removed the tail fin, gained maybe 15-20 horsepower and the whole car had been repainted a kind of sickly green. They seemed much better prepared than in ’57, although I was a little troubled by the lack of shoulder harness and roll-over bar, but apart from rain everything went well. The course was all right to run on, but just getting away was tricky – tail wagging for a long time under acceleration on the salt crust. We went after International Class E records, from one kilometer to 10 miles, and broke them all. The fastest recorded was 254.9mph – making EX181 the fastest-ever MG. That October I ran a TR59 for Elinor von Neumann in the ‘Los Angeles Times’ Grand Prix at Riverside. Right at the start of practice I went out of the gate onto the track, headed into Turn


1959

A YEAR OF FRUSTRATION


Year of the Champion 1961

L

OOKING BACK, I GUESS I SCREWED UP THROUGH THE winter of 1960-61. Technically, Ferrari was in a state of revolution. The success of the rear-engined Coopers, Lotuses and BRMs just emphasized what Trips, Richie and I had been saying after driving our own prototype motore posteriore Formula 1 car. Putting the engine behind the driver was plainly the way to go. Since it allowed a smaller, more compact package overall, it would become even more significant when Formula 1 regulations changed for 1961.

266

ABOVE Race sponsorship makes an appearance on the cover for the 1961 Sebring 12-Hours, but is so subtle that Alitalia’s name almost disappears.

RIGHT March 25, 1961 – during the Sebring 12-Hours. Phil recovers with a cold drink after his opening stint in the high reardecked Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Indipendenti /61. He and Olivier Gendebien were very much the pre-race favorites for victory … and despite fierce opposition they carried it off with aplomb.

The old 2½-liter Formula of 1954-60 was dead. The new FIA rules cut engine size to just 1½ liters – or 750cc if supercharged (which none would be). They also applied a brand-new minimum weight limit of 1,100 pounds, so these new cars were not only going to have less power, they were going to be even heavier. The British constructors didn’t like the change at all, and they just squealed like you wouldn’t believe. They threatened to set up a rival Formula which would extend the old 2½-liter capacity limit to 3 liters, accepting small-block American V8-engined cars to add interest. It didn’t work and ‘Inter-Continental Formula’ as they called it would vanish after a single season. So 1961 was going to be an interesting year. But, not for the first time, Mr Ferrari’s strategic planning was just about perfect. When the old 2½-liter Formula had been changed in 1958 to ban alcohol fuels and demand aviation gasoline instead, Ferrari had been first to comply. The first Dino V6-engined Formula 1

cars had begun racing late in 1957, providing the springboard for Mike Hawthorn’s World Championship win in ’58. Now Mr Ferrari followed the FIA line (admittedly because he’d probably been instrumental in shaping it), and so we had a rear-engined 1½-liter V6 car winning at Formula 2 level through 1960, which Chiti and his engineers could quickly develop into the all-new Formula 1 Ferrari for ’61. Chiti had been trained as an aeronautical engineer. He appreciated the aerodynamic effects that could – if you got it right – stabilize a car at speed or make it just terrifyingly undrivable. He had no great grasp of what was right or wrong in this dark art – hardly anyone really did back then. But he was setting up Ferrari’s first in-house wind tunnel, using old 4-cylinder race engines to power the fans, and some of his research – coupled to a stylistic whim – introduced the new F1 cars’ most characteristic feature: their pointed, twin-nostril, nose treatment which earned the nickname they’ve carried ever since – the ‘Sharknose’ Ferrari. During my winter at home in Santa Monica, I kept in touch with Richie and what was happening in Modena. But it was no substitute for being there to put miles on the latest Formula 1 and sports cars. Richie did most of the testing, with Trips and Willy Mairesse contributing as often as they were asked. Being European-based made them almost instantly available. I was just out of the loop until March that year, and the Sebring 12-Hours. Someone reminded me I’d shared the winning car in our opening race in each of the previous three seasons – Buenos Aires 1,000Kms 1958 and ’60 sandwiching Sebring ’59. The latest V12 TRI/61 sports cars had redesigned bodywork with a head-high rear deck behind the cockpit and Chiti’s new signature ‘Sharknose’ front end. Tavoni paired Gendebien and me to drive one, with Mairesse and a new Italian rising star, Giancarlo Baghetti, sharing the other. But the fastest Ferrari proved to be the brand-new rearengined model – with the redundant Formula 1 V6 Dino engine – which Richie and Trips were to co-drive in its public debut. We faced strong opposition, with Maseratis driven by Moss, Walt Hansgen, Bruce McLaren, Masten Gregory and Graham Hill – and the Rodríguez brothers were in Chinetti’s Testa Rossa. But we were always confident that if we couldn’t outrun the


LEFT With race organizer Alec

Ulmann alongside them, the happy winners Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien lift the Trophy and acknowledge the crowd.

BELOW March 25, 1961 – Sebring 12-Hours. Spot the winning drivers … Phil and Olivier Gendebien are engulfed by the press of photographers, officials, well-wishers and spectators after winning by two clear laps from their Ferrari works team-mates Richie Ginther, Giancarlo Baghetti, ‘Taffy’ von Trips and Willy Mairesse, who all shared the second-placed Ferrari Testa Rossa Indipendenti /61. This was Phil’s third win in the Floridian classic.

YEAR OF THE CHAMPION

1961

267


RIGHT June 17, 1961 – practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at SpaFrancorchamps. Phil sits deep in thought on the pit counter, with his feet on the right-rear wheel of his team-mate von Trips’s works ‘Sharknose’. ‘Taffy’ himself, overalls unzipped, is standing to the right in conversation with Richie Ginther whose ‘Sharknose’ is No 6 to the right.

very fast circuits, and I’d gone quite well there the previous year, despite that fire in the cockpit … Ferrari ran four ‘Sharknose’ cars with an extra 65-degree engined one painted Belgian yellow for Gendebien. Practice ended up with me being the only driver to get below the four-minute mark, by seven-tenths of a second.

278

ABOVE Phil in thoughtful mood

during the introductory driver parade before the Belgian Grand Prix (top), and in decidedly somber pose in the pit-lane, with bespectacled engineer Carlo Chiti in the background.

“… I WAS JUST THRILLED TO WIN MY SECOND GRAND PRIX. IN FACT OUR ‘SHARKNOSE’ FERRARIS ACHIEVED A VERY RARE RESULT, COMING HOME FIRST, SECOND, THIRD AND FOURTH …” I once explained the atmosphere within our team like this: Ever since I joined back in ’56 I’d been involved in many flare-ups, and witnessed even more. You could never really relax with Ferrari, because there was always someone who wanted to see you goof, who was ready to take your place if you didn’t keep your wits about you. The drivers argued with the engineers, and the team manager argued with the drivers and the mechanics

argued with everybody – though each of them would often defend whoever happened to be his regular driver. It was even more unsettling in 1961 – with the Formula 1 World Championship ours to be won, but in the balance. Trips wanted it very much, and so did I. And despite the fact that we were members of the same team, we each knew that we’d have to fight with everything we had to win the title. Therefore, the tension continued to build from race to race. Gendebien led the first lap at Spa until the last turn – at La Source, the only slow corner on the circuit. I outbraked him there, and later Trips and I began swapping the lead between us. Eventually I took control, although I was half blind in the later stages after a pebble had been thrown up and hit my left eye. But there was no way I was going to give ‘Taffy’ an inch, the pit signaled ‘HIL–TRI’ in a reverse of what had been shown to us at Zandvoort, and I was just thrilled to win my second Grand Prix. In fact our ‘Sharknose’ Ferraris achieved a very rare result, coming home first, second, third and fourth – Hill-Trips-Ginther-Gendebien. This left me leading the World Championship by just one point from Trips.


LEFT Team-mates together in

the hotel garden at Spa – Richie Ginther and his pregnant wife Jackie with Phil pre-race. The Ginthers shared their Maranello apartment with “a strong-minded dachshund named Puck” …

RIGHT June 18, 1961 – Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps. Phil mid-race locks his ‘Sharknose’ hard right round La Source hairpin (right) on his way to a superfast win, then leads secondplaced von Trips back into the downhill pit lane after the finish (far right).

279

RIGHT Phil’s fleeing ‘Sharknose’

YEAR OF THE CHAMPION

1961

Ferrari on this opening lap leaving Les Combes leads Graham Hill’s fast-starting BRM-Climax P57, Richie’s sister ‘Sharknose’, John Surtees’s Cooper-Climax T53 (No 24) then the other team ‘Sharknoses’ of ‘Taffy’ von Trips and Olivier Gendebien. Down in the valley beyond, the Masta Straight awaits them…


RIGHT August 3, 1962 – practice for the German Grand Prix, Nürburgring. Phil looks on as new boy Lorenzo Bandini prepares to give Mauro Forghieri’s interim new Formula 1 Ferrari 156 an early run – as the team mechanics fasten the engine cover behind his shoulders. The new car featured a lighter spaceframe chassis and, of course, its nose-cone had lost the Chitisignature nostril styling of the preceding ‘Sharknose’ series … After four race laps, Bandini crashed out and the car never raced again.

316

ABOVE The Milanese organizers of the annual Italian Grand Prix retained this self-same cover and program design for some time in the 1960s …

ed his career. At least Ferrari now managed to smuggle out a further-updated car for me – as a solo entry – in the British GP back at Aintree. I qualified 12th and then posted a DNF on race day because the engine dropped a valve. In that British Grand Prix I was never in the hunt – it’s not nice to read a line like that, even now, all these years later … but it’s true. Once the guys at Maranello got back to work, Ferrari sent a full team to Nürburgring for the German Grand Prix – four cars for me, Baghetti, Ricardo Rodríguez and Bandini. We simply could not compete and I didn’t finish. In the Italian Grand Prix at Monza I qualified 15th and finished 11th. It sure was a tough year for me. After Le Mans we just got nowhere. Getting out of racing wasn’t in the picture. Race driving had become more of a job than a passion for me – but I knew nothing else. The Trips thing could have played a bigger part in my changing attitude than I care to recall – you had to believe you’re invincible to get in those cars and go like that, and the more you associated with like-minded people, the more convinced you became … But through 1962 I was losing the company of like-minded people. In particular, perhaps, Richie had gone to BRM in England and I’d become just the ageing American on his own in Modena

– which itself had once been the world’s motor racing Mecca, but was now being left high and dry, like a half-tide rock as the racing focus switched to England. Ferrari’s politics, Dragoni’s antipathy, and above all our total collapse in form just saw my enthusiasm drain away. I was consciously determined to avoid just going through the motions – but by the end of that year I could have been on autopilot. I wasn’t sorry then finally to leave Ferrari. Years later I told writer Bill Nolan that Enzo Ferrari never understood me. I wasn’t his type, not super gung-ho enough to suit him. A lot of fine drivers died racing for him and he always favored the man who would take that extra risk in a live-or-die situation. I won a lot of races for him – which is why he kept me around – but I was never his kind of driver. I wasn’t willing to die for Enzo Ferrari. I wasn’t willing to become one of his sacrifices. That’s what I told Nolan. In retrospect that last line looks a bit harsh, but it’s a sad fact that when drivers died for Ferrari, their misfortune contributed to the relentlessly growing legend that built the brand. So was there life for me after Ferrari, the devil I knew? For sure, I was about to find out … this time with another mistake. And it was a truly grotesque one.


RIGHT The 1962 Italian Grand Prix meeting at Monza. Phil is seen here (left) with his likable, friendly (but luckless) Milanese team-mate Giancarlo Baghetti (center) in discussion with Mauro Forghieri at the Ferrari pits. BELOW No gold fedora hats for the works team mechanics at Monza this year, as the works ‘Sharknose’ Formula 1 cars are finish-prepared for their swan song public appearance in the historic old Autodrome’s cobbled porphyry-block paddock. No 6 is the 65degree V6-engined car for new cadet driver Lorenzo Bandini, while No 4 beyond is the 120-degree V6-engined mount of Ricardo Rodríguez.

AN ERROR OF JUDGMENT

1962

317


342

ABOVE April 25, 1964 – practice for the Targa Florio, the Piccolo Madonie , Sicily. Phil muscles the “entirely unsuitable” works Shelby American Cobra Roadster out of the top of Cerda township, early in yet another punishing 44-mile lap of the majestic mountain circuit. But after nine race laps he and codriver Bob Bondurant were forced to retire the car due to suspension damage.

The weekend after Aintree and those Le Mans crashes, we were in Sicily for the Targa Florio. Shelby’s Cobra Roadster was like a mountain goat on the mountain circuit. Its springs and shocks were so harsh and wheel movement so little that over the bumps and seams and potholes it just slammed and skipped and bounded around like a jackrabbit. The Cobra was set up far stiffer than any Ferrari I can recall. In every turn it wanted to understeer straight on, but you could correct that easily on the throttle, then just muscle it round. What you couldn’t correct was the suspension bottoming almost everywhere around the 44-mile lap. The driver just got beat up by it. Dan Gurney found the same, and he used to tell a story about going out once without fastening his seat belt and the ride was so wild he was practically thrown out of the car. I could absolutely empathize with that. In those Cobra roadsters, on anything other than a perfectly smooth surface, you had no option but to hang on and wrestle your way round. It was a tribute to the cars’ stamina that it tended to be the puny driver who wore out first. Power and response from the Ford 289 engine was fine. Shelby’s Cobra engines weren’t really highly tuned so reliability was good, while the torque curve was such that you didn’t really

have to worry too much about keeping them revving within the right band – it was strong everywhere. But Bob Bondurant and I didn’t finish that race. The Targa was followed in the calendar by the Monaco Grand Prix where I drove the Cooper, then the Spa 500Kms where Ford and Shelby had asked me to give their aerodynamic Cobra Daytona Coupe its European debut. Then it would be back to Cooper for the Dutch Grand Prix, followed by the Nürburgring 1,000 Kilometers where Bruce and I would debut the Ford GT. Although I might have felt kind of diminished and racing on a secondary level with Cooper in Formula 1, that definitely was not the case in that year’s GT and prototype racing. Today, when drivers tend to split entirely into a rarefied elite doing Formula 1 and nothing else, with an entirely different group who concentrate on GT and prototype racing, there is no comparison with the versatility demanded from us back in the ’50s and ’60s. And often several different races over one weekend. What did someone say about the past being a foreign country? I knew and liked the high-speed road circuit at Spa, and I regarded a quick lap there as a real achievement. I guess Carroll and John Wyer also trusted me to give useful feedback. Once I


LEFT April 26, 1964 – Targa

Florio. Phil rolls his works Cobra Roadster up to the start line of the great World Championshipqualifying road race classic …

had bedded-in the car I went for a lap time, and my immediate feedback was that we had a massive problem … The Daytona Coupe accelerated wonderfully well out of the one slow corner, at La Source, but through Spa’s long, neverending high-speed sweepers, the handling was just evil. I felt I could set a time with it, if I really screwed up all my courage and took my life in my hands, but if I ever tried to do quick times consistently I was certain to have an enormous accident. What I could gain over the GT Ferraris round the tighter corners and flat-out along the straight, I would lose to them through the sweepers. Whenever I tried to maintain maximum speed round the curves I was having to use every available inch of road width. Flat-out in fourth gear, the Daytona’s tail wanted constantly to step out. Spa was exactly the kind of really high-speed track for

which Pete Brock had designed that body shape, but it was so unstable when cornering very fast there was no way you could exploit its advantage. I told Shelby and Phil Remington, his crew chief, that we ought to try a tail spoiler like the ones Richie had devised years before on the Ferraris – and like Lunn had evidently vetoed during the fateful Ford GT session at Le Mans. The Daytona didn’t have one either. Overnight, Rem folded up a spoiler out of aluminum sheet and riveted it onto the top edge of the Coupe’s Kamm tail. He fixed a little welding-rod brace as triangulation at both ends of the new spoiler, to ensure it wouldn’t fold flat at speed. In the next day’s practice I took it out, driving quite tentatively. But as I went through the first really high-speed curve at Burnenville, and then again at Stavelot – at the other end of the

343 ABOVE This poster for the Sicilian road race plainly identified with the all-Italian home favorite – La Ferrari.

ALL CHANGE

1964

RIGHT May 15, 1964 – practice for the Spa 500-Kilometers, SpaFrancorchamps. Phil found the high-speed stability of the new Shelby American Cobra Daytona Coupe “frankly terrifying” at first acquaintance around Europe’s fastest road circuit. Here he is fighting to clip the apex of the Raidillon climb beyond Eau Rouge, but with his experienced input the team were able to correct the problem pre-race …


RIGHT March 1, 1965 – the Australian Grand Prix, Longford, Tasmania. Little recognized today, but one of the postwar era’s finest and hardest-fought ‘Grand Prix’ races was won by Bruce McLaren in his CooperClimax T79, shod with the latest in Firestone road racing tires. Former World Champions, Jack Brabham was second and Phil third. This was Phil’s last race in a single-seat open-wheeler …

356

ABOVE March 1, 1965 – the

Australian Grand Prix. Tyler Alexander, the McLaren team’s American chief mechanic, stands alongside Phil in the 2½-liter 4-cylinder Cooper-Climax just before he heads out onto the circuit. The new 13-inch Firestone front tires made these McLarenteam Coopers front runners

in to change my $20 bills, the teller had phoned the police. It took some time to sort it all out and to prove that I really was a racing driver, and even more that I didn’t have a spare-time hobby mugging people. Bruce and the team guys just thought this was hilarious when I finally arrived over an hour late for lunch. They asked me where on earth I been, and the other diners in the restaurant just sat there stunned when I bawled: “Where have I been? I’ve been in jail, godammit!” The last race of this New Zealand tour was at Teretonga, which is the world’s most southerly motor racing circuit, way down on the tip of the South Island outside the town of Invercargill. Next stop was Antarctica. Jim Clark won his third straight race, with Bruce second again. One local report read: “Team-mate Phil Hill turned on his best performance with the second McLaren Cooper to complete all but one of the 50 laps for third place …” In Teretonga practice we had run the 13-inch wheels we really needed, fitted with new Firestone sports tires, but they

didn’t offer as much grip as the Firestone Indy 15-inch size, so we had to revert and again just do the best we could with what we had to hand. Again, the cars were a handful, but it was encouraging to know that Firestone was trying hard on our behalf. Their representative with us was Bob Martin, a good tire engineer, and his feedback was plainly getting results. The local ‘Kiwi’ crowds were fascinated by him, because he always wore his Firestone Indy uniform, white trousers and bright-red jacket with the company name on the back. They thought it was very ‘jazzy’ – a real bit of Americana in the British colonies. The Championship’s first Australian round followed at Warwick Farm at Sydney, which was another motor racing circuit laid out around a horse-race course. Bruce and I experimented again with 13-inch front tires, but neither of us finished the race – while Jimmy Clark won again. Sandown Park at Melbourne was very similar to Warwick Farm, again around a horse-race venue, but practice there saw another death, this time veteran Australian driver Lex Davison, who had been one of the country’s greatest motor racing characters. Firestone had at last gotten us some decent 13-inch tires and the cars handled so much better on them we realized what we had been missing. But it was very hot there, and Bruce got cooked inside his car, and as he faded I finished third behind the winner, Jack Brabham, with Jimmy second between us. The commentator I remember made a big fuss about us being three World Champions, finishing 1-2-3. That was a nice reminder for me … of my former status. Bruce was exhausted, but finished fourth. Next day we all piled onto a Tasman Sea ferry from Melbourne to Tasmania, where I found the Longford Circuit for the Australian Grand Prix was just incredible. It was almost like Reims, transported 12,000 miles from France. It used public roads closed for the weekend’s racing. They ran between farm fields and pasture, there was a ‘Flying Mile’ straight, and the circuit included two long bridges that we raced over, both of them lined by post-and-rail parapet fences made of huge timber balks. One bridge was actually the center portion of a fast left-hand sweeper, which really concentrated your mind as you dove into it with that frightening-looking fence awaiting any mistake ...


RIGHT Phil on the way to his third-place finish in the Australian Grand Prix, in the McLaren team’s Tasman Cooper, seen here about to shoot under ‘The Viaduct’ that spans the magnificent 4.5-mile Longford road circuit. Aptly nicknamed the ‘Reims of the Southern Hemisphere’, the race saw Jack Brabham leave the circuit lap record at 117.4mph, while Phil finished ahead of two multiple World Champions – Graham Hill and Jimmy Clark. It was, indeed, a star-spangled swansong for Phil’s ‘Grand Prix car’ career.

MOVING ON

Brabham was nerfed-off down an escape road by a backmarker, losing the lead to Bruce. Graham was hurtling round second, then myself and Jimmy, right together. I think we were all worrying about where Jack Brabham had got to. We knew he was still running, coming up from somewhere behind, and he would be closing fast. Then here he was, flickering around in my mirrors. He’d just caught and passed Clark and it was plain I was next. I did the best I could, yet he drafted past me on the ‘Flying Mile’. But, hey – I was enjoying this. A real old-fashioned openwheeler dog fight. You could never quite be confident with Jack. His close quarter tactics were always muscular, but that was about the only thing you could predict where he was concerned. Out there amongst the Tasmanian pastures we were two real serious old racers, with terrific shared experience between us – and we were just driving our heads off. So I repassed him immediately – and later learned I had set a new record lap in doing so. Jack responded with another new lap record, and came back by. But I didn’t make it easy for him. Up front, Bruce’s clutch was beginning to fade and his lap times lengthened. I was signaled the gaps from the pits and worked out what was required. To help cover Bruce’s tail I had to pass Jack and then see what I could do about Graham in second place. And I found I had the car and the tires to do the job.

1965

We had good short-stroke, high-revving Climax FPF engines, and grip of the shallow-tread 13-inch Firestones came good for us. Bruce and Jack Brabham had a thrilling battle for pole position in Friday practice, and Bruce took the Reims-style 100 bottles of champagne for pole time. He then won the 10-lap qualifier on the Saturday from Brabham and Graham Hill. On the opening lap of the big race, a young Australian driver named Rocky Tresise crashed his Cooper on the pit straight, hitting and also killing a really unlucky press photographer. Tresise had been Lex Davison’s protégé, and he was racing the Davison family’s car only upon the insistence of Lex’s widow. I saw the mess there as we ripped by, but didn’t hear about the outcome – of course – until the race had finished. After three laps, Bruce led from Brabham, Graham Hill and Clark, whose Lotus was misfiring at peak revs. I was right behind him and could hear his exhaust note rippling with the misfire. I ducked out of his slipstream and shot by. On the ‘Flying Mile’ straight we were reaching around 170mph between the fence posts and cattle wire and trees. This was real old-style open-road racing in Grand Prix-style open-wheelers. I was in there again with a competitive car, and if I’d only had time – and spare capacity I guess – to think about it, I would have loved every instant. Jimmy drafted back past me, then I repassed him. We went on like this, swapping the same position, for lap after lap. Jack

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The High Chaparral 1966

D

URING THE 1965 SEASON, FORD AND I HAD JUST grown apart. I had originally joined their program thanks to John Wyer’s invitation and had been reassured by his involvement. Carroll Shelby was perhaps more of a long-time old rival of mine than a real close friend. But the real stumbling block for me was Ford’s uncompromisingly corporate, bureaucratic way of doing just about everything. We had been discussing the possibility of a new contract for 1966, but it involved their attorneys. I had to get some special attorney to check what they were requiring me to sign, and the whole thing just got more and more faceless and stifling. I didn’t really know who I was dealing with and I didn’t like that one bit. In particular I felt that if anything should go really wrong – say I got involved in a big accident or something in which maybe spectators got hurt – then I wasn’t at all confident that the corporation would not just cut me loose, stand back and say “nothing to do with us”. The potential of all that kind of thing was so far reaching, it troubled me. It’s an area which I would scarcely have registered in previous years, and I would never have begun chewing on it but for those attorneys. Ford’s people were demanding I should sign away everything, while my guy was advising me never to agree to this, and that, and the other thing. It all just became intractable, and very uncomfortable. So when I got a call from Jim Hall saying “Hey Phil – Hap and I want

368

RIGHT February 4, 1966 – practice for the Daytona 24-Hour race, Florida. A new team line-up makes its debut, with Chaparral Cars Inc principals Jim Hall and Hap Sharp sitting on the pit counter in what would today be described as a ‘debriefing’ with their new driver Phil Hill (right), who co-drove the ChaparralChevrolet 2D Coupe there with his friend since the mid-1950s, Jo Bonnier.

to run in the FIA World Championship next year. Would you like to drive for us?” the reply was “I sure would …” Jim, his partner Hap Sharp, and I were long-time friends. We went way back into the ’50s. I just hadn’t been a business owner yet so by mind-set I had slightly left-wing leanings, which I can tell you was really the way to push Jim the Texan’s buttons. To sound like you were anything but properly gung-ho … well, let’s just say that side of our relationship only surfaced if our conversation got away from the race cars, and engineering, and came within a country mile of what might be described loosely as politics. I had seen a great deal of the wide world outside America. I guess I’d grown up as a rebellious Californian kid, so I was by temperament a mild liberal. That was enough to set off Hall, and there would always be just a hint of a built-in antagonism between us. Jim was also so closed-mouth about everything he would never embrace you – an outsider – as being a real part of the Chaparral family. In essence he was the family together with the people he had been involved with over so many years, including the guys at GM Research & Development with whom he worked so closely, and so clandestinely. Publicly, GM was not supposed at all to be involved in racing. It was because of GM’s cloak-and-dagger assistance thing that the Chaparral habit of security and secrecy had developed. And I am sure that Jim enjoyed the air of mystery it generated. His Chaparral cars certainly had a real character, a presence, and a mystique all of their own. Hall was sort of intimidating because he was also a bit of a control freak. He liked to run the whole damn thing. And not only did he like to – he really did. Maybe that went to his head a little bit. He had done an awful lot over his career, but within such a narrow field of endeavor that maybe it wasn’t all as significant in a global sense as he seemed to think. I guess I was realistic enough to know, that as racing guys, our obsession with just chasing each other round and round in circles most weekends wasn’t really what makes the whole world go round. But while all of this is the way it was – I also had great admiration for everything else that Jim did, and for the way he and Hap went racing. In technology terms I’d just come away from Ford GTs which had been quite a step beyond anything seen in Ferraris. I


elegantly graceful closed Coupe body shapes ever created for a purebred race car, the ChaparralChevrolet 2D was in effect a roofed-in version of the Texan marque’s existing Can-Am sports car. And it was good enough to qualify second fastest at Daytona, and then lead the 24-Hour race before striking petty problems.

THE HIGH CHAPARRAL

was thrilled to find that Chaparral’s technology was way beyond the Ford level. There were tremendous steps being taken then. Just the aerodynamic developments in achieving downforce and balance were light years ahead of anything I’d experienced with Ford. Developing a real understanding of aerodynamic forces and how they could be controlled and put to work, made it possible for Chaparral to develop the chassis not just more rapidly, but further. Then of course there was the novelty of Hall having this GM-derived auto transmission and even now into the 21st century, I still can’t believe the silliness of having kept all this stuff secret for so many years. I never got to love that Chaparral auto transmission – and as things worked out in fact I learned to detest it. But until I joined them, it had been both reliable and successful in shorter-distance US road racing. I believe that through 1965 the Chaparral-Chevrolet team had won 16 of the 21 races they entered. At the end of 1965, Hap Sharp had decided to retire from driving to concentrate on management. Jim was saying “I’m

not very keen on long-distance races. It was Hap who wanted to do the Manufacturers’ Championship. I enjoyed building the cars, developing and preparing them, but I still didn’t particularly want to drive in the races”. And that, I guess, is why they asked me. I might have gone down to Midland, Texas, where Jim was based before the first race in ’66. I do remember I didn’t much like going there, having to tear around this little track they called Rattlesnake Raceway that they had all been around 15,000 times and that Hall and Sharp knew like the backs of their hands. It was like trying to beat one of those Ferrari collaudatore test drivers at Modena – it just cannot be done. So you’re always going to be on the back foot. Partly on my recommendation, Hall and Sharp got Jo Bonnier to join us as co-driver for the World Championship races. Our new car was the Chaparral-Chevrolet 2D Coupe. I thought it was strikingly handsome and purposeful. It was in effect one of the open roadsters with a roof on top. And it had a rear flipper

1966

ABOVE Surely one of the most

369


LEFT October 15, 1966 – prac-

tice for the Monterey Grand Prix, Round 4 of the new Can-Am Championship, Laguna Seca, California. Here’s Phil in discussion with Jim Clark (center) and Graham Hill (right). Between them, they amassed five F1 World titles, four Le Mans 24-Hour race wins and two Indy ‘500’ victories – sheer class.

378

ABOVE While Can-Am racing grew out of the US West Coast professional series of fall races in the early 1960s, its bloodline also embraced the United States Road Racing Championship as founded by the Sports Car Club of America in 1962. And that series itself had its roots in the kind of less-formalized road racing in which Phil had found his feet in the early 1950s.

RIGHT October 15, 1966 – practice for the Monterey Grand Prix. Can-Am Championship contenders Phil Hill, Bruce McLaren, Mark Donohue and John Surtees enjoy a joint TV interview in the Californian sunshine …

location had broken, so all that happened was the wing fell over. It wasn’t the broken part that cut the tire, but that bolt head sticking out on the other side. Jim said: “Sometimes, until you see a failure you don’t realize that you’ve made a mistake. Had I realized that my car was likely to fail too, I wouldn’t have sent you out in mine”. My car was withdrawn, but Jim’s was prepared for me to drive instead with reinforcing pieces welded to the struts. I ran fifth early on but soon passed Surtees’ Lola-Chevrolet T70, and both Bruce and Chris Amon in their works McLarens, to run second behind Dan Gurney’s Lola T70. Everything seemed to be going fine until mid-race when the actuation system for the wing failed, leaving it flipped into the failsafe downforce position. It was like dragging an anchor down the straights. When the throttle began to stick, I came into the pits to see if anything could be done, but then we had the standard Chaparral trouble restarting a hot Chevy engine after a pit stop, and I finished fifth – where I had begun. When the actuation system went screwy there hadn’t been much I could do about Gurney. He drove very well that day, and I’m not sure how well I would have been able to do against him anyway. I was amused in later years to see a Jim Hall quote, saying: “The most fun for me with Phil was in ’66 with Can-Am because he was just so incredulous about the way the cars handled and

the way in which, according to him, I abused them. I had to convince Phil that he could abuse the cars too, bouncing then over curbs and dropping wheels into drains on the apex of turns, and that they were durable enough to survive that without any failures. I had so much confidence in the durability of the cars, and he had so little …” Gurney was going really well again in practice at Mosport Park for Round 3 of the Championship. My car had a bad twitch and I sort of had to live with it. There was one particular place where it gave a nasty feeling. Hall had no such problems and was very quick, lowering the lap record. In the race Mark Donohue and I were trying to decide which of us would finish third and Chris Amon came up to lap us. I saw a yellow flag being waved ahead so I shut off, but Chris was unsighted and rammed me smartly up the tail. Dan’s car broke, and I inherited a really fortunate second place. The first weekend in October saw the United States Grand Prix run at Watkins Glen. Dan had offered me his prototype EagleClimax again, but I couldn’t drive it due to – of all things – a darned hernia. Bondurant took the drive instead. Laguna Seca’s Can-Am round followed, three weeks after Mosport. My hernia problem had been treated and I was fit to drive the Chaparral. Again Jim broke the lap record and in the intervening time our 2Es had been fitted with even wider wings carrying endplates to maximize downforce. Jim led from the start followed by Bruce and me, but when he ran wide in Turn 3, I dived through and took the lead, and Bruce followed me through – much to Hall’s disgust. Around half distance Jim repassed Bruce and closed up on me, so we had a great Chaparral 1-2 finish and I was told I’d just set a new lap record. We later got outfumbled by Parnelli Jones’s Lola which won the second heat, but Jim let me by into second place and I was declared overall race winner. There was a big fuss at the end. Jones had passed Surtees under the yellow flag and thought that we had protested him. But it wasn’t us at all – it must have been McLaren. Anyway he came up to us madder than hell … By that time, Chaparral Cars were leading the Can-Am Championship. The ‘LA Times’ Grand Prix was due at Riverside.


THE HIGH CHAPARRAL

1966

BELOW October 16, 1966 – the Monterey Grand Prix. Phil leads in the high-winged Chaparral-Chevrolet 2E from Bruce McLaren’s works McLaren M2B (No 4) as they lap backmarkers with Jim Hall chasing hard in the other Chaparral 2E.

RIGHT Phil and Jim Hall with their laurels after finishing 1-2 respectively in Heat 1 and 2-3 in Heat 2 – that Heat won by Parnelli Jones in John Mecom’s Lola T70 – to finish first and second overall on aggregate in the Monterey Grand Prix. It was a Chaparral-Chevrolet team triumph … and Phil’s second outright race win of the season.


RIGHT May 13, 1967 – practice for the Targa Florio, Piccolo Madonie, Sicily.

British photographer Geoffrey Goddard was a total Targa addict, and here is his classic image of the Phil Hill/Hap Sharp Chaparral-Chevrolet 2F Coupe thundering down into the center of Collesano, around 100 meters below the exit from the town-top hairpin. The ghost-white Chaparral’s elegance belies the bellowing racket of its 7-liter V8 engine, battering back and forth between the town’s surrounding walls and revetments … BELOW Another practice photograph on the Targa Florio. Phil always greatly admired Geoff Goddard’s action photography and liked the lighting in this contre-jour shot of the ‘Winged Wonder’ racketing down from the mountains into the upper outskirts of Collesano township.

388


THE FINAL VICTORY

1967

389


Remembering Phil by

John Lamm

W

HEN I’VE BEEN ASKED WHAT KIND OF PERSON Phil Hill was, I simply say he was just the sort of man you would like to be your Champion. He was highly intelligent. He had a wry sense of humor. He was always fun to be with: fast – tolerant. He was a proud family man. He was sensitive, and always curious. And he had an almost Edwardian sense of decorum. He was also a faithful friend, which is why, on the day before entering the hospital for the last time, he insisted on going to the Motorsports Gathering at the Quail Lodge near Pebble Beach. He hadn’t been feeling well, but his old pal Dan Gurney was being honored and Phil would not miss it under any circumstances. That evening he was taken to the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and family and friends began to gather to be near him. We wanted to make certain he was never alone, so we took turns sitting with Phil, who was medicated. At one point, I was there with two other friends, Bob Mosier and Glenn Vaughn, the son of Phil’s former business partner, Ken Vaughn. The room was dark and we felt the need to make contact with Phil, so two of us were holding each of his hands, the other touching one of his feet. It was quiet. What do you say at a time like this? One of the others said: “Let’s tell Phil stories.” Heaven knows there were plenty of those and here, in no particular order, are Phil stories for you to enjoy and get a feeling for the sort of person he was:

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RIGHT June, 1978 – at the Nürburgring Sudschleife circuit during a week-long ‘Salon’ track test and photography session for ‘Road & Track’ magazine, Phil explains to Doug Nye the finer points of setting up drum brakes for racing – in this case on the Mercedes-Benz Museum’s 1939 Typ 154/163 Grand Prix car, in which he completed many laps around the historic old course, then largely untouched by the modernization of the adjoining, much longer, Nordschleife loop.

• Phil was sent to England in 1949 to study at the likes of Jaguar, Lucas and SU. He bought a Jaguar XK120 and shipped it back on the ‘Queen Mary’, and when recounting the trip he liked to mention getting a haircut next to Harry Truman. Phil drove the Jaguar back to California and he and his pal, Richie Ginther, stripped it down and enlarged the engine to race it. Taking it to the inaugural Pebble Beach road races, the XK120’s clutch broke and Phil needed a push start, beginning last in the feature race for the Pebble Beach Cup. He began to tear through the field, but lost track of where he was in the order of things. Phil was handily at the front when Richie held out a pit sign that read, ‘Long Lead’. Phil immediately assumed some guy named Long was in the lead, so he pushed even harder. Next lap Richie puts out the sign that now read ‘1’, so Phil assumed there was only one lap left. Actually there were seven laps to go and he didn’t know he’d won until the race was over. You might call that Phil Hill focus. • Phil never talked much about Wolfgang von Trips’s death at Monza in 1961. The German had been his rival for the Championship and they were friendly with one another, but not pals. Phil didn’t know until after the race that Trips had died. He said one look at the face of team manager Carlo Chiti said it all. One day in the early 1980s we were rushing along an Autobahn in Germany and, out of the blue, Phil said: “Want to see Trips’s grave? You need to get off at the next exit”. He hadn’t been there in many years, but knew exactly how to get to the site. Once there he said several times, “I never thought I’d come back here”. We went to the family estate and Phil recalled the funeral, how gracious von Trips’s mother was, and, technical as always, how the clutch slipped on the Ferrari when driving slowly in the funeral entourage. Phil and now-team-mate Richie Ginther had been asked to take Mrs Ferrari to the funeral, but they begged off saying they were going to Sweden for a few days afterwards. They weren’t, of course, and were rushing back to Modena in their Peugeot when they realized they were about to pass the car in which Mrs Ferrari was riding.


ABOVE One of John Lamm’s

typically superb studies of Phil reunited for ‘Road & Track’ magazine with his old 1953 Vignalebodied 3-liter V12 Ferrari 250 Mille Miglia Barchetta. This was actually chassis ‘0266MM’, although Phil did not subscribe to “the modern religion of chassis numbers”. He had been around long enough to recall how, in period, such identities were often – and cheerfully – re-stamped for Customs duty, tax evasion or re-sale purposes. But he was very happy that this had indeed been his car – in which he had won at Pebble Beach, Santa Barbara and Stead Air Force Base during 1953.

Richie said, “Quick, duck down”. And they rushed past. They heard later that Mrs Ferrari had spotted the car and said: “Isn’t that Richie Ginther’s car?” And she was told, “Ah, there isn’t anyone in it”. And the conversation ended there. I swear, I heard Phil tell that story numerous times and always while chuckling to himself. • It was well known Phil had quite a rocky relationship with Enzo Ferrari. We were in Maranello in the late 1970s having lunch at the Ristorante Cavallino across from the factory entrance. Today both sides of the road are built up, but back then it was open. We’d finished lunch and were wondering where Phil had gone. Outside we found him sitting silently in a chair, legs crossed, arms tightly folded, staring intently at the factory entrance. Phil related how when he went to visit Ferrari in late 1961 to settle on his contract for 1962, ‘The Old Man’ met him in his pajamas and a bathrobe. He was said to still be mourning Trips, but Phil figured it was really all an attempt to get a lower price for the following season. • The relationship between Phil and Mr Ferrari warmed up in the early 1980s and now for a story from his dear wife, Alma. She

REMEMBERING PHIL

tells how they were visiting Mr Ferrari in his office at the Fiorano test track. The conversation was going nicely, but several times Ferrari mentioned his new driver, Gilles Villeneuve, and the fact that where Phil would ride to a test session on a bicycle, Villeneuve would arrive piloting his own helicopter. This fact came up several times during the conversation, as though Ferrari was goading Phil, just a bit. There was a test session scheduled and Ferrari invited them out to watch Villeneuve drive ... and, of course, to watch him land in his helicopter. Come 11.00 and no Villeneuve. At 11.15 he still wasn’t there. Now it was close to 11.30 when they looked up and saw Villeneuve wheeling into the track on, you’ve got it, a bicycle. Turns out his helicopter had struck trouble and he’d had to land in a farmer’s field. He borrowed the guy’s bicycle to get to Fiorano. Alma, who loves to tell the story, then adds with a smile, “That’s when I knew there was a God”. • Phil may have won his Formula 1 title in a 1½-liter mid-engined machine, but he loved powerful race cars with the engine up front and tires not all that wide. He once got out of a powerful, supercharged pre-war Mercedes-Benz W154 Grand Prix car at the Nürburgring grinning and simply said, “I was born 20 years too late”.

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A long journey travelled - a long life lived - so many races won. Godspeed Phil ‌