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Phil Hill

Full Name:
Philip Toll Hill jr
20th April 1927
Miami, Florida
28th August 2008 (Aged 81)
Monterey, California
Most recent race (in database):

Best known as America’s first Formula 1 World Champion, it was in sports cars that Phil Hill truly excelled. His 14 victories in the World Sportscar Championship spanned more than a decade and included three victories at Le Mans.

Background and early racing career

Hill grew up in Santa Monica, California and it was in the vibrant West Coast road racing scene that he emerged. He left the University of Southern California to pursue his love of cars. Initially working as a mechanic, he raced an MG TC for the first time in 1949. He travelled to England that year where he worked for Jaguar for a short time and it was with an XK120 that he won the following year’s Pebble Beach Cup.

That led to an invitation to drive Allen Guiberson’s Ferrari 212 Export in the 1952 Carrera Panamericana – Hill finishing sixth as works Mercedes-Benz 300SLs finished first and second. He entered the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time in 1953 and the OSCA MT4 he shared with Fred Wacker ran third in the 1500cc class before the transmission broke during the night. It was back in Guiberson’s Ferraris that he confirmed his promise.

Works Ferrari driver in sports cars

He was second in the 1954 Carrera with Richie Ginther and repeated that result in the 1955 Sebring 12 Hours when sharing with Carroll Shelby. That led to an invitation from Scuderia Ferrari to race a 121LM in that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. Hill and co-driver Umberto Maglioli ran third overall before retiring when the transmission failed. He drove a Ferrari 750 Monza in SCCA races that year and he won five times on the way to the D Modified class title.

He joined Ferrari’s sports car team at the start of 1956 and he immediately finished second in the Buenos Aires 1000Kms. Third at the Nurburgring, he shared the winning Ferrari 290MM with Maurice Trintignant in a 1-2 for the team in Sweden.

Hill was due to share a Ferrari 335S with Peter Collins in the 1957 Le Mans 24 Hours but the car retired after just two laps and before the American took the wheel. He shared with the Grand Prix star for the final two rounds of the World Sportscar Championship – finishing second in the Swedish GP at Kristianstad and winning on the streets of Caracas as Ferrari clinched the title.

F1 as a privateer and with the Scuderia

Their Ferrari 250TR won the opening two sports car rounds of the 1958 (Buenos Aires and Sebring) and was fourth in the Targa Florio. They were split for the Le Mans 24 Hours with Collins partnering Mike Hawthorn and Hill sharing with Olivier Gendebien. Hill/Gendebien inherited the lead in the third hour when Stirling Moss’s Aston Martin retired and Hill starred in the wet, despite spinning at Mulsanne, to win by 12 laps. Even with that success, Enzo Ferrari refused to give Hill his F1 debut so he hired Joakim Bonnier’s old Maserati 250F for that year’s French GP which Hill finished in a lapped but noteworthy seventh position. However, the deaths of both Luigi Musso and Collins had weakened Ferrari’s F1 options so Hill was included in the Scuderia’s line-up for the last two GPs of the year. He led at the start of the Italian race only for a delaminated tyre to soon force him to pit. He recovered to finish in a fine third position to vindicate his inclusion. He played a crucial part in the title decider at Casablanca. Hill was running in second position when he slowed to let Hawthorn through to clinch the world championship.

The 1959 season began with victory in the Sebring 12 Hours and Hill was now a fulltime F1 driver with the team. Ferrari missed the British GP due to a strike in Italy but Hill scored points in five of the seven races he did start. Those included second place finishes in France and Italy as Hill finished fourth in the world championship.

Grand Prix winner and America’s first World Champion

However, Ferrari’s front-engine Dino 246 had been rendered out-of-date by the nimble, title-winning Cooper-Climax. Ferrari persevered with the design during 1960 but it only won when the British team boycotted the Italian GP in protest to the use of Monza’s dangerous combined road course and oval. Third in Monaco, Hill won that controversial Italian race in what was the first GP victory for an American driver since 1921 and last success for a front-engine car. Ferrari may have been eclipsed in F1 but it regained the World Sportscar Championship with Hill winning the Buenos Aires 1000Kms once more.

A new 1500cc maximum engine capacity was introduced for the 1961 F1 World Championship and, despite ample warning, the British teams were not ready at the start of the season. In contrast, the “shark nose” Ferrari Dino 156 had been in development since 1960. It was a surprise therefore when Moss won the opening GP at Monaco but the expected order was soon restored. Wolfgang von Trips won the Dutch and British GPs and Hill was successful in Belgium and, in tragic circumstances, at Monza. Von Trips and 14 spectators were killed after the German’s car was launched into the crowd on the second lap and Hill became 1961 World Champion on one of the sport’s saddest days. Hill also teamed up with Gendebien to win the Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours as he continued his fine sports car career.

Ferrari’s British rivals soon recovered from their disappointing 1961 campaigns with Graham Hill’s BRM and the Lotus of Jim Clark disputing the following year’s F1 title. Hill finished the first three GPs of the year in the top three (including second at Monaco) but did not score another point all season. Sixth in the 1962 F1 standings, Hill again partnered Gendebien in sports cars. Second at Sebring, they won the Nurburgring 1000Kms and Le Mans 24 Hours (for a third time together) as Ferrari captured the new Speed World Challenge.

Formula 1 career on the wane

All was not well at Ferrari and designer Carlo Chiti and Team Manager Romolo Tavoni left to set up a new constructor in 1963 – Automobili Turisimo e Sport. Hill joined the newcomers but that venture proved to be a shambolic failure. The Chiti-penned ATS 100 was unreliable and slow with 11th place at Monza – when lapped seven times – his only classified finish.

World Champion just a couple of seasons before, Hill was left without an F1 ride for 1964 until tragedy intervened. The promising Timmy Meyer was killed during the Longford Tasman race so Hill was hired by Cooper as Bruce McLaren’s team-mate instead. However, the team was on the wane and Hill only scored one top six finish. He was even dropped for the Italian GP after crashing both his intended race car and the team’s spare in Austria.

With his fulltime F1 career now over, Hill returned to his first love of sports car racing. He won the 1964 Daytona Continental with Pedro Rodriguez and a NART Ferrari 250GTO and helped to develop the Ford GT40 over the next couple of seasons.

Final Grand Prix appearances

There was a brief return to GP racing in 1966 – driving the camera car at the 1966 Monaco and Belgian GPs while John Frankenheimer filmed Grand Prix. He joined Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers from the Italian GP but failed to qualify the Eagle-Climax. He was then replaced by Bob Bondurant for the subsequent United States GP when admitted to hospital with a hernia. In sports cars, Hill switched to Jim Hall’s sports car team that year and won the Nurburgring 1000Kms when sharing the winged Chaparral 2D-Chevrolet with Jo Bonnier.

The new Chaparral 2F was fast (qualifying on pole position for three World Sportscar Championship rounds) but unreliable in 1967. It all came right at Brands Hatch when the car held together long enough for Hill and Mike Spence to win the BOAC 6 Hours.

That proved to be Hill’s last season for he retired back to Santa Monica where he ran a car restoration business. Often seen at historic festivals, Hill eventually died in 2008 after suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1967 International Championship of Makes
Jim Hall
Chaparral Racing
2 0 1 1 9
1966 F1 World Championship
Phil Hill
Anglo-American Racers
1 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
1966 International Championship of Makes
Chaparral Racing
Jim Hall
2 0 1 1 9
1966 Can-Am Challenge
Chaparral Cars
1 0 1 1 0
1965 International Championship of Makes
Shelby American
1 1 0 0 0
1965 Tasman Cup
Bruce McLaren Motor Racing
6 (1) 0 3 0
0% win rate
5th 15
1964 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
9 0 0 0
0% win rate
19th 1
1964 International Championship of Makes
Ford Motor Company
Ecurie Ford France
North American Racing Team
3 0 1 1 10
1963 F1 World Championship
Automobili Turismo e Sport
Ecurie Filipinetti
6 0 0 0
0% win rate
1963 Speed and Endurance World Challenge
David Brown Corporation
1 0 0 0 0
1962 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
6 0 3 0
0% win rate
6th 14
1962 Speed World Challenge
Scuderia Ferrari
North American Racing Team
3 2 3 2 29
1961 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
2 0 2 2 16
1961 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
7 5 6 2
29% win rate
1st 34 (38)
1960 F1 World Championship
Yeoman Credit Racing Team
Scuderia Ferrari
9 1 2 1
12% win rate
5th 16
1960 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
4 1 3 1 18
1959 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
7 0 3 0
0% win rate
4th 20
1959 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
4 0 3 1 18
1958 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
Joakim Bonnier
4 0 2 0
0% win rate
10th 9
1958 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
5 1 3 3 30
1957 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
3 0 2 1 14
1956 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
3 0 3 1 18
1955 World Sportscar Championship
Scuderia Ferrari
Allen Guiberson
2 0 1 0 6
1954 World Sportscar Championship
Allen Guiberson
1 0 1 0 6
1953 World Sportscar Championship
RT Makins
1 0 0 0 0
1950 AAA National Championship
Basil Panzer
1 0 0 0
0% win rate