Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How La Carrera Panamericana Helped Make Phil Hill Famous

A few days ago a good friend sent me a link to a Fuller Brush magazine which focused on Phil Hill's racing career. Not only did the full page color photos show Phil with many of his cars but it was also a time line of sorts as to how he got his start and went on to be the legend he is. I also enjoyed how they took time to show Phil away from the track enjoying his hobbies, wife, family and more while at home or traveling. But what stood out most of all was realizing how La Carrera Panamericana set down the foundation as it had for Hershel McGriff in that it opened so many doors of opportunity. One can't help but wonder had it not been for their involvment in La Carrera Panamericana would the names Hill and McGriff be what they are today or would destiny taken them down other paths?

I have several well written books all signed by Phil in person all of which tell stories about various races he won and so on but I found this simple little cover style magazine most intriguing and when you stop and realize it was published in the late 50's the quality of the pictures are quite impressive indeed. To see the entire display of photos CLICK HERE.

Here is the cover of the Phil Hill Fuller Brush Special Edition

Phil Hill & Richie Ginther in a Ferrari owned by Allen Guiberson driving past Mount Popocatépetl.

This is photo was taken thru Lucky's rear view mirror by Co-Piloto Jon Emerson while driving by Mount Popocatépetl in Lucky during the 2007 La Carrera Panamericana. Not only is Mount Popocatépetl a still active volcano but in fact it erupted a few days after we passed causing some evacuations.

Denise McCluggage, sports columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, who wrote this feature article had a most descriptive way of writing which really added flavor and color. I had to hold back a belly roll when I read... "The Mexican Road Race is the world's longest race. It stretches for five days and 2000 miles the length of Mexico from the tropical town of Tuxtla Gutierrez on the Guatemalan border over the snaking mountain passes the with of a wagon road through the high, cool capital of Mexico City, on across the hot dusty flatlands of Ciudad Juarez the struggling, dirty border town across the Rio Grande from El Paso."

It really amazed me to learn was this was Phil's very first International race and he finished sixth. But even more interesting was that when Phil tried again the following year he was so nervous about the race that the only thing he could eat was baby food, possibly because of his narrow escape after he plunged off a cliff on a bling curve in the mountains.

Here is the actual car driven by Phil Hill and Richie Ginther at last years Monterey Historics.

Phil Hill and Richie Ginther try again in 1954 this time finishing second in the 1953Ferrari 375 he drove to second place in the fifth Carrera Pan Americana.

This time Phil was driving the #20 and Ferrari prepared ride called the 4.5 Mille Miglia. Phil finished an amazing second right behind Italian Maglioli who drove a newer Ferrari but with a bigger engine. On the last leg Phil averaged over 140 miles per hour but much more importantly, because of his success it was during this race when he realized that racing was what he wanted and then he began to dream of driving for a factory team in Europe. And as they say... the rest is history.

Here is the #20 Ferrari today.

Having been blessed to have known Phil Hill personally is something I will be eternally grateful for but one of my favorite memories of him was the day this photo of Phil and I was taken. My son asked Phil, "Of all the races and records you've set not to mention all the world championships is it possible for you to pick one that stands out more than any other?" Without any hesitation whatsoever Phil's eyes lit up as he looked at Will and replied, "Absolutely... During my entire racing career not a single race was ever more exciting than the La Carrera Panamericana."

1 comment:

carson said...

WOW ... and in a way some of us are lucky enough to follow in his tire tracks ----------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- giddy up