THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF UNASSUMING HEROES
“Phil Hill prospered
despite the court politics
at the Scuderia”
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It’s a story for another time, but the life of Phil Hill (ABOVE, with
Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, René Dreyfus and Dan Gurney at
the 1976 Long Beach GP) after racing was a fascinating and varied
one – as you’d expect from such a multi-dimensional character.
Robin Miller didn’t
to write about
four-time Indy 500
winner Rick Mears.
A slightly tougher
ask was getting him
to sit down and sift
through all 99 past
“500s” to choose
his best five...
t was only when we’d assembled our cast
of heroes for RACER ’s 24th anniversary
issue that we noticed an obvious link: given
their natural modesty and self-effacing
style, none of these guys would regard
themselves as heroes. In fact, they may
even be embarrassed by the attention –
so apologies to Rick Mears, David Pearson
and our cover star, the late, great Phil Hill...
All are worthy subjects, and all have a
fascinating story. Mears, the desert racer
with an incredible affinity for The Brickyard.
Pearson, the NASCAR winning machine
who didn’t much care for the grind of
contending for championships. And Hill, a
cultured trailblazer who delivered America
its first Formula 1 World Championship,
despite Enzo Ferrari’s reluctance to cast
him into the cauldron of grand prix racing.
Hill’s relationship with Ferrari is in stark
contrast to the productive and enduring
alliances forged by Mears with Roger
Penkse (ABOVE) and Pearson with the
Wood Brothers. Where “The Rocket” and
“The Silver Fox” thrived in an environment
that provided them the support structure
and the tools to do what they did best, Phil
Hill prospered despite the court politics
and dysfunctionality at the Scuderia.
Il Commendatore saw his American hire
as one of the guys to burnish Ferrari’s
sports car racing legacy – and hence sell
Ferrari road cars... But Hill wanted more,
and it says much for his character and
determination that he eventually got
(albeit grudgingly) what he desired.
Henri Toivonen eventually got what he
desired, too. In his case, a state-of-the-art
Lancia Delta S4 – a Group B rally
rocketship that would finally allow the
ultimate flying Finn to deliver on his
promise. Tragically, 30 years ago, May 2,
1986, the dream ended in a shocking
pyre on the French island of Corsica.
Toivonen, like Hill, Mears and Pearson,
was an unassuming hero. RACER salutes all
of them and feels privileged that our sport
contains such extraordinary individuals.