David Hobbs, whose career as a champion racecar driver spanned three decades and his stint as a television commentator four more, was honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club with its 2018 Phil Hill Award. RRDC president Bobby Rahal made the presentation at the annual RRDC members’ dinner on January 24, prior to the running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the season opener of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The Phil Hill Award has been presented annually since 1993 to the person who the RRDC feels has rendered outstanding service to road racing. It is named in honor of America’s first Formula One World Champion, and is not only a tribute to his masterful accomplishments on the racetrack, but also recognizes his contributions as a great ambassador for the sport. Hill passed away in 2008.
“Phil Hill represented everything that was great about the American spirit internationally,” said Rahal in presenting the award. “He was the first U.S. Formula One champion and multi-time winner of Le Mans. He was a gentleman in the finest sense of the word. He was very much a class guy, and he let his driving speak for him. He wasn’t a braggart. He just did his thing and he won a lot of races, including Le Mans in the ’50s and ’60s. He drove for Chaparral, and pretty much did it all.
“We think the Phil Hill Award represents something that’s very special in motorsport, and David Hobbs clearly lives up to that example. He is indeed a worthy recipient of the Phil Hill Award.”
Hobbs, born in Leamington Spa, U.K., in 1939, started racing in his mother’s Morris Oxford in 1959, then extended his driving career through to the U.S. Fast Masters Championship in 1993.
His racing accomplishments include winning the SCCA Formula 5000 championship in 1971 and ranking second to Brian Redman on the all-time Formula 5000 win list with 22, taking the SCCA Trans-Am championship with five victories in 1983, scoring 11 victories in IMSA Camel GT competition and three 3rd-place finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In his Formula One debut in Syracuse, Sicily, in 1966, he finished 3rd driving a Lotus 25-BRM He also contested four Indy 500s, finishing a best of 5th in 1974, and set a British closed-course speed record of 167.5 mph driving the then-secret Jaguar XJ13 in 1967, a record that lasted for 19 years.
Even before stepping out of the cockpit, Hobbs began fashioning his career in broadcasting, partnering Ken Squier for 17 consecutive Daytona 500 broadcasts, and then becoming a familiar host of American F1 broadcasts as that series appeared on a string of networks.
He’s also the owner of David Hobbs Honda in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, served as chairman of the Wisconsin State Dealer Council from 1993-’98, and was a member of the National Dealer Council for two years.
Hobbs, who now lives in Florida with wife Margaret, was unable to attend the dinner due to illness, so his award was accepted (above) by one of his broadcast partners, Leigh Diffey, and Andrew Marriott, co-author of Hobbs’ new book, Hobbo, Motor Racer, Motor Mouth, which will launch at the Amelia Island Concours in March.
Hobbs did send a video response to his award in which he told the gathering,: “Obviously, I’m amazingly proud to have been awarded the Phil Hill Award for 2018. Since 1993 when the award first came out, it’s been won by practically every North American racing driver, team owner, chief mechanic and writer. Finally, it’s my turn to win the award and, unfortunately, I just cannot be there to accept the award tonight and I am bitterly disappointed.”
Also feted at the dinner were Bobby Rahal himself, who received the 2017 Rolex Bob Snodgrass Award of Excellence, presented by the Gorsline Company to acknowledge a team owner or manager who has demonstrated the qualities of honesty, integrity, passion for the sport and an infinite, passionate love of cars, and Archie Urciuoli, an SCCA racer in the 1950s and ’60s, who was presented with the Bob Akin Award. The Akin Award is given to a driver who exemplifies the extraordinary qualities and characteristics that Akin represented, including a passion for motorsports and automobiles, a high level of sportsmanship and fair play, and who has contributed to the sport of motor racing and the community at large.
“I’m both embarrassed and humbled by this award,” said Urciuoli, who currently lives in Casey Key, Florida. “I’m embarrassed because I’m far more comfortable giving awards than receiving them. Frankly, I’ve always preferred working behind the scenes, rather than being in the spotlight. I’m humbled because it’s an honor to join the ranks of the previous winners of this award. Racing was never my profession, but it was always my passion. For almost 50 years I was privileged to run at almost all of the great tracks in America, and Bonneville, and many abroad. But, more important than that were the friendships racing brought to me.”
For more information about the Road Racing Drivers Club, please visit www.rrdc.org