From your responses to last week’s blog about Jim HalI at the Nürburgring, it’s clear that many of you were taken by the Chaparral 2F long-distance sports/racer from 1967. Phil Hill and Mike Spence drove the winged 2F in that year’s International Championship for Makes and it was often the car to beat. Spence turned the fastest lap at Sebring, and Hill was on pole and set fastest lap in the Nürburgring 1000Kms.
But time and again the main drive-bearing in the 2F’s automatic transmission failed to go the distance, until the Brands Hatch (above) season-closer where Hill and Spence came through to beat Jackie Stewart/Chris Amon’s Ferrari 330P4 and Jo Siffert/Bruce McLaren’s Porsche 910. The CSI rewrote the rules for sports car racing that winter, mandating a 5-litre engine limit and effectively driving away the Ford and Chaparral teams. Hall and his partner Hap Sharp were ready to go in 1968 but the new rules brought an abrupt end to the Chaparral team’s European foray.
Nor did Hill race again after his Brands Hatch win with Spence. The 1961 World Champion’s Formula 1 career effectively came to an end in 1964 after a year with Cooper. He didn’t run any F1 races in ‘65 and started three GPs, each for different teams, in ‘66. Phil’s primary effort that year went into driving the Chaparral 2D in long-distance sports car racing and the 2E in Can-Am. He and Jim Hall were Can-Am team-mates in ‘66 when Phil (below) scored the Chaparral team’s only victory at Laguna Seca, heading a one-two sweep.
“Phil was a great guy with a lot of talent and really fun to work with because he understood a lot of what was going on,” says Hall. “I think he was probably as good as anybody at making the car finish. He’d put many cars together himself and knew how everything was made and how to take care of it. He was a great endurance driver for other reasons, but for that reason too.
“When we got near the Can-Am season in 1966 we decided we’d offer Phil a drive. He was a great guy to have on your team – he pulled for you and worked for you. And in the endurance races he was our man. I think Phil enjoyed driving for us, we just had a good relationship.”
Hall also had great respect for Spence (above with Jim Clark and Colin Chapman), who was killed at Indianapolis in May 1968. “I really thought a lot of Mike,” he says. “He was an awfully talented driver, very quick and a smart guy who worked hard. He was a good fit for Chaparral too. It takes the right kind of person to be on your team who fits in with your people and how they work, and Mike fitted us well and was a joy to work with.”
As epic a period as the ’60s was technically and aesthetically it was also, as we all know, a deadly time.
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