It is with great regret that we report racing great Phil Hill passed away this morning, August 28th, due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.
Philip Toll Hill Jr., (1927 – 2008) is the only American-born driver to win the Formula One driving championship.
Raised in Santa Monica, California, Phil Hill began racing cars at an early age, going to England as a Jaguar trainee in 1949 and signing with Enzo Ferrari’s team in 1956. He made his debut in the French Grand Prix at Reims France in 1958 driving a Maserati. That same year, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Belgian team mate Olivier Gendebien while driving for most of the night in horrific rainy conditions. He and Gendebien would go on to win the famous endurance race two more times.
In 1961, Hill won the 24 Hours of Le Mans again and the Formula One driving championship for the Ferrari team. He secured the F1 championship when he won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza that year. Earlier that year, during a practice session at the German Grand Prix, Hill became the first man to lap the Nordschleife at the Nürburgring in less than nine minutes. Unlike Mario Andretti, Hill was born in the USA, and is still the only US-born F1 champion.
After leaving Ferrari at the end of 1962 in the great walkout of engineers, he and fellow driver Giancarlo Baghetti started for their new team ATS. Hill continued in Formula One for a few more years until he switched to sports car racing with Ford Motor Company and the Chaparral Cars of Jim Hall.
Phil Hill has the distinction of having won the first (a 3 lap event at Carrell Speedway in a MG TC on July 24 1949) and last races of his driving career, the final victory driving for Chaparral in the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch in England in 1967.
Following his retirement, Hill built up an award winning classic car restoration business in the 1970s called Hill & Vaughn with business partner, Ken Vaughn until they sold the business off. Hill also worked as a television commentator for ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
Hill had a long and distinguished association with Road & Track magazine. He wrote many articles for them, including road tests and retrospective articles on historic cars and races. He shared his “grand old man” status at R&T with ’60s racing rival Paul Frère.
Hill also devoted his time to his vintage car collection and to judging at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. In 2006, he judged the event for the 38th time, more often than any one individual.
He is survived by his wife Alma, son Derek, two daughters Vanessa and Jennifer.