Remembering Phil Hill
The passing of American racing icon Phil Hill touched the entire American Le Mans Series paddock. Hill, America’s only F1 World Champion died Thursday. Hill, a three-time Le Mans 24 Hour winner, three-time winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring, and a winner in numerous other endurance races prior to his retirement, leaves a void in the world of sports car racing that will be impossible to fill. Personalities in the American Le Mans Series offered their thoughts on the passing of this racing icon.
|Phil Hill (L)|
Johnny O’Connell, Driver, Corvette Racing:
“I’ve always had Phil Hill as one of my heroes. About 10 years ago I had the chance to meet him at Sebring. Then Phil became my only hero. The key to that is that Phil wasn’t a ‘lovefest’. His racing wasn’t all about him. It was about the cars and the era. He was a quiet, humble man. Phil did not race for the fame, money or glory. He enjoyed taking the car to the limits.”
Roger Penske, Owner, Penske Racing:
“I knew Phil Hill for more than 40 years, and always respected not only his driving ability, but his personal character. He was an icon and a great friend, and he will be missed by racers around the world.”
Duncan Dayton, Owner, Patr¢n Highcroft Racing:
“It’s just a very sad day. He was America's first world champion but more than that, more than his driving abilities and his accomplishments on the track, he was a true gentleman and epitomized everything that I could ever aspire to be as a man. (Phil was) thoughtful, generous, kind, always had time for anybody that wanted to talk to him; a true sportsman on the track. He was somebody who always was looking out for the little guy. You’d never hear him swear, you'd never hear him say anything bad about his fellow competitors or anybody else.
“As a gentleman would never have done anything dirty or underhanded and wouldn’t have wanted to win in any other way than was fair and honest. It's a great loss for the motorsports community and for America as a whole. He was a shining example of a man from a generation that really set the bar as to what it means to be a true sportsman. Phil was just a marvelous individual.”
David Brabham, Driver, Patr¢n Highcroft Racing:
“It’s a great loss and our family feels a great loss. Racing has lost a great character.”
Giuseppe Risi, Owner, Risi Competizione:
“I always found Phil Hill to be the consummate gentleman. I would see him at Ferrari events and Ferrari reunions. The reason for that is that Ferrari always held him in the highest esteem. When I would meet him, I would enjoy the tales and reminiscing about Ferrari’s past.”
Rob Dyson, Owner, Dyson Racing:
"Phil Hill was one of the reasons I got into sports car racing. He was an American that competed mightily against the finest European drivers. He always did it with such class. He was a very quiet man and always impeccably polite but at the same time, a supremely competent driver especially in sports car, plus his record and championship in Formula One speak for themselves. Phil was a man of incredible character and he had a great sporting sense. He appreciated not only what he was doing, but what his competitors were doing and why they were all there. A remarkable man and a man whose sense of the sport was spot on – which is not always the case today. He was a very positive force for all Americans involved in international sports car racing.
“We would talk at various races and car shows. He followed sport car racing avidly and he always had time to come over and talk about racing. He was always a delightful man and a class act.”
Dave Sims, Team Manager, Risi Competizione:
“I was able to meet Phil on several occasions. When I worked for Lotus in 1964, Phil would come to the Grand Prix at Watkins Glen even when he was doing sports cars. You really took him for granted being at all the Grand Prix especially in America. Learning of his death really shook us up. It’s a really sad time.”
Marino Franchitti, Driver, Dyson Racing:
"The word legend is used too often today, but Phil was definitely a legend to me. I was lucky enough to know him and drive with his son Derek at Sebring at 2004. That produced one of the most enjoyable car trips I have ever had. I drove Phil back to the hotel and the conversation we had on the way was just fantastic. He was a very unassuming man. But he won everything that mattered – he won the Formula One championship, he won Le Mans three times but more than that, he was truly a great man. My heart goes out to Alma, Derek and the girls and his grand kids.
“It was neat to seem him honored at Goodwood in 2006. It was fantastic to see Derek there driving some of his cars and have him recognized while he was still able to enjoy it. I think the measure of the man is the man his son Derek is. His personality and his greatness will live on through Derek and the girls.”
Tony Dowe, Technical Director, Tafel Racing:
“I was fortunate to meet Mr. Hill on a couple of occasions. Clearly he was a very impressive person in that he had raced Formula One in probably its most dangerous era. Not only did he survive but he was World Champion. I think he did an awful lot for American racing at a time when it wasn’t generally regarded as something to be taken seriously outside of America. He brought a lot of understanding to Europe about what Americans were able to do. He should be remembered very, very fondly.”
Doug Fehan, Program Manager, Corvette Racing:
“When we look at sports icons today, we tend to know them as celebrities, not as people. Phil Hill was unique in that he was a person first – a gentleman, a true statesman for motorsports. Americans should be very proud that he was our first Formula 1 champion. You could not ask for a finer person to achieve that.
“Phil never wanted the spotlighted focused on him; he just loved racing. He did what he loved, and he did it better than anyone else on the planet.”
Scott Atherton, CEO, American Le Mans Series:
“I had the honor of meeting Phil at the Monterey Historic races many years ago. I was the freshly minted GM of Laguna at the time. He was quiet, but warm and friendly. I knew who he was, but didn’t have the full understanding of his peerless accomplishments at the time. Later I came to know that he was the first American to win Le Mans and the first American to win the Formula One World Championship – blazing the trail for legions of American racecar drivers who would follow his path in Europe and around the world. His accomplishments in sports car racing alone make him one the best of all time.
“In an era when drivers are better known for doing victory donuts or back flips off the roof of their car, Phil let his results do the talking. He was the driver you wanted representing America on the world stage. A consummate professional, fiercely competitive, but above all a gentleman.”