Phil Hill Exemplifies An Era When Racers Just Wanted to Race

Graphic design by Becca Clason for Petrolicious / Vintage photographs courtesy of Ferrari North America and Mr. Roy Spencer

Everybody knows that Mr. Phil Hill is the only American-born Formula One World Champion, but less known is how conflicted he felt about racing, once commenting that "I'm in the wrong business. I don't want to beat anybody, I don't want to be the big hero." Fortunately, he stuck with it despite his misgivings and enjoyed great success.

But, in sharp contrast with today's F1 stars, Phil wasn't just a Formula One driver. If you can imagine, back then, racers actually seemed to enjoy racing! And so they did it often and in different classes, jumping from Grand Prix car to Sports GT to Prototype so that they could race frequently (and get paid). Obviously, there was less of an emphasis on safety back in that era and to some degree talent was viewed as replaceable. But the majority of racers relished the opportunity to mix it up and win. Regardless, Phil didn't only win the 1961 Formula One World Drivers' Championship driving for Ferrari; he also won the 24 hours of Le Mans three times (with Mr. Olivier Gendebien each time) in addition to multiple wins at Sebring, the Nurburgring, and Buenos Aires (in Ferraris and others).

Phil may have exposed himself to greater risk by climbing into more race cars than a modern driver would, but as a result he left a larger legacy too. We honor him and that legacy.

The photo immediately below is courtesy of Mr. Roy Spencer, taken by his father, and is from his just-released book, Motorbinder (click here to check it out). We'll have a full review soon, but it features gallery-quality photos of the cars and heroes of the 1950s and '60s. If this photo is any indication, it should be amazing!