Phil Hill, the American pioneer

Phil Hill, the American pioneer

First American driver to win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Phil Hill (1927-2008) holds a very special place in motorsports history.

Having preferred to play out most of his career in Europe, Phil Hill never raced on an oval circuit in the U.S. By the time he signed with Ferrari, this great music lover had become a regular at the Scala de Milan operas and even brought music to listen to when he was racing. In 1961, he became the only driver in motorsports to win in the same year the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Formula 1 world title.

Hill took the start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans eight times at the wheel of a Ferrari, from 1955 to 1962. In 14 participations, he only made it to the checkered flag three times...but, as a winner! These three victories (1958-61-62) were shared with the same teammate, Belgian driver Olivier Gendebien. It was the birth of one of the greatest duos in Le Mans history, and the start of a prestigious lineage of multiple winners including namely Henri Pescarolo-Gérard Larrousse and Jacky Ickx-Derek Bell. A tradition carried on by the trios Frank Biela-Tom Kristensen-Emanuele Pirro and now Marcel Fässler-André Lotterer-Benoît Tréluyer.

After having left Ferrari, Hill completed his Le Mans journey with two American manufacturers. After having played a part in the beginning of the Ford saga in 1964 and 1965, he ended his career with Chaparral in 1966 and 1967. That last year, along with British driver Mike Spence at the wheel of the 2F with its huge mobile spoiler, he won at the 1000 km of Brands Hatch (Great Britain) before retiring as a driver and concentrating on the restoration of collection cars, all while regularly participating in big vintage car races.

Jean-Philippe Doret / ACO - Translation by Nikki Ehrhardt / ACO

Photo: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SATURDAY & SUNDAY JUNE 21-22 1958. At the wheel of the famous Ferrari 250 TR "Testa Rossa," Phil Hill won the first victory of an American driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.