america’s first world champion...and much more
FERRARI 156 “SHARKNOSE”
Ferrari’s first rear-engine Formula 1 car might
not have been the absolute equal of the
Lotus 18 in 1961, but it was undeniably more
beautiful. With F1 engine capacity reduced
from 2. 5 to 1.5 liters for ’ 61, Ferrari started
the season with a 65-degree Dino V6, then
switched to a 120-degree unit. Its 190hp
outgunned the 18’s four-cylinder Climax,
making it the car to beat on power tracks.
mate on a friend of a friend’s Midget
racer. Then he joined International
Motors, which was Beverly Hills only in
terms of its address, but at least paid him
and sent him on an apprenticeship to
Jaguar Cars and SU Carburettors in
post-war austerity Britain.
Having already scored his debut
victory in a self-tuned MG at Los Angeles’
homespun Carrell Speedway in July 1949,
an extracurricular trip to the 1950 British
Grand Prix at Silverstone set Hill firmly
on his path. The Jaguar XK120 and
Alfa Romeo 2900B he graduated to were
earned the hard way, but his Ferrari 212
Export of ’ 52 was an inheritance purchase.
Hill’s relationship with his late father, a
city postmaster, had been difficult – but
he was about to replace it with another.
He’d fallen hook, line and sinker for
Ferrari’s romantic shtick – with which
Enzo would “beat” him often.
Although Hill won the races – three
Le Mans, plus three Sebrings – that
forged Ferrari’s name in affluent America,
Enzo would casually label him “not
outstanding.” They met in the summer of
1953 when Ferrari’s “Captain America,”
Luigi Chinetti, recommended Hill to Enzo.
Two years later, having finished a close
second at Sebring as a paid driver in a
privateer Ferrari co-driven by Carroll
Shelby, Hill was awarded a works drive at
the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans. His
encouraging performance would be
ended by a clutch problem, and hugely
overshadowed by the sport’s most
Hill was on Ferrari’s roster – it was
Phil Hill’s first race in
Europe was the 1953
24 Hours of Le Mans,
sharing an O.S.C.A.
with Fred Wacker, Jr.
(ABOVE). The car
completed 80 laps
before the rear axle
broke. Hill recalled the
team accusing him of
pushing too hard...
IN AT THE
(From LEFT, clockwise) Hill was joined by fellow
American Richie Ginther in Ferrari’s 1961 lineup;
heading to Monza, the penultimate GP, Wolfgang von
Trips had won in Holland and Britain (pictured, with
Enzo’s wife, Laura, presenting the trophies); unsure of
the severity of von Trips’ accident, Hill took the win
and title at Monza, before learning the scale of the
disaster – von Trips had died, along with 15 spectators.