Thursday, August 28, 2008

Phil Hill, One Of Racing's Greatet Drivers... Gone

Phil Hill has passed away... There I said it, something I hoped never would cross my lips. There are some great men who we wish would never leave us, and possibly Phil Hill is just such a man and because of his many legendary accomplishments just maybe he never will. Anyone that knows anything about racing knows Phil Hill was one of racing's greatest icons.

In the history of the international Formula 1 Grand Prix Championship, the highest prize in the world, only two Americans have taken home the coveted GT Crown: Phil Hill in 1961 and Mario Andretti in 1978. Phil was the first American to win the classic 24 Hour race at Le Mans, the first American to win three times at Sebring, the first American to win a modern championship Grand Prix and the finally become the first American Champion. Besides a list of accomplishments too long to list, between his sports car and Grand Prix victories, Phil Hill won more races for the Ferrari team than any other driver to date.

My son Will and I are truly blessed that we both got to spend a day with Phil and to experience first hand one the greatest drivers of all time. Will said to Phil, "Mr Hill, what an honor it has been to meet someone like you who has won so many championships, great races, endurance races and so on." But Phil put his hand on Will's shoulder, leaned over and said, "Yeah, but I never won a 25 hour race like you guys did," (Referring to us winning the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.) He was all about making those around him feel as special as he did.

Photo courtesy of Dyana Marlett.
This is the actual Ferrari 340 Mexico Vignale in which Phil raced in La Carrera Panamericana with co-driver Richie Ginther as it was on display at this years Monterey Historics. It was this very car that was owned by Allen Guiberson that Hill and his friend Richie Ginther were lucky to survive a huge accident which took place on the Oaxaca/Puebla leg. Although Phil Hill thought of retiring at that point the truth is that he was at the start of the Le Mans 24 hours.

Phil loved racing and did everything he could to make sure everyone around him enjoyed it as much as he did. As we walked around the paddock we came up to a car that was on display and in front of it was a placard describing how many races the car had won driven by Phil Hill. When the man seated next to the car saw us examining it he began telling us more about the car and it quickly became apparent he didn't realize he was talking to Phil Hill himself. After we walked away I asked Phil why he didn't tell the man he who he was. Phil said, "I have never seen that car in my life." Then I asked why he didn't set him straight and he said, "Why? Besides, someone probably sold him the car telling him all those lies and who am I to ruin his day? Let's just let him go on living his dream."

Dreams about racing are in fact what Phil Hill left us with. Thank you Phil. God's speed.


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