The second in a series of extracts from Inside Track: Phil Hill with Doug Nye. Phil Hill explains the moment he crashed his Cadillac in the 1953 Carrera PanAmericana, and the moment he captured the scene
1953 Carrera PanAmericana Mexico – Phil Hill and Richie Ginther had just clambered out from Allen Guiberson’s Ferrari 340 Mexico Vignale Coupe (left) when the Chuck Royal/George Clark Cadillac Series 62 stock car followed their path into the scenery. Phil had his Leica in hand to record the scene. Very fortunately, nobody got hurt…
PHIL HILL: “We were on a twisty stretch over the mountains between Puebla and Mexico City. I was running so hard that on one turn I clipped a couple of big white boulders. We shot over a crest and there was a tricky, curling, downhill right-hander – with a lot of spectators hiding amongst the tall trees. I hit the brake pedal but the brakes were fading fast. I realised I wasn’t getting enough to take the turn. In fact the darned brake pedal and clutch pedal pivoted on the same cross-tube, and I’d put so much load on the brake pedal I’d bent the tube and when I kicked the clutch to down-shift it didn’t clear. All I found was neutral. So with faded brakes and the car out of gear it began to slide – still at high speed – towards the edge. I clearly remember wondering how far we were going to fall, because that’s what we were going to do. We slid off the edge, and the car rolled.
“It bounced and banged and clanged and then – silence. The roof was pushed-in, but we were the right way up. I shouted ‘You OK Rich?’. He said he was and then we both jumped out as quick as we could. Luckily, there was no fire.
“We climbed up to road level amongst all these excited Mexicans. But there was the most terrific shriek of tyres and a stock-car class Cadillac came vaulting over the same bank and crashed down on the high-side of the stout tree behind which we’d just ended up. It was crewed by two more Americans, Chuck Royal and George Clark. Like Richie and myself, they escaped unhurt.
“A soldier told us Fangio’s Lancia had nearly gone off just before we did. It turned out this was a notorious turn, and for entertainment the crowd had removed the warning sign…”
About the book
Reviewing the evocative years 1950 to 1962, the single volume Bookshop Edition covers 80 events with some 530 colour photographs, each captioned in Phil’s inimitable style and all beautifully laid out over 488 pages of the finest Italian art paper. The book is hardbound with a cloth case and a printed jacket, and will be delivered in a matching heavyweight slipcase.
The photographs themselves cover many of the most important events in Phil’s long and illustrious racing career, from his early successes in SCCA national races in the United States of America – at such venues as Pebble Beach, Elkhart Lake, Palm Springs, Sebring, Daytona and, of course Watkins Glen – through his breakout years onto the International scene in Europe and South America, to his hugely successful Championship-winning years with Ferrari.
His uniquely insightful coverage includes his three formative drives in the Carrera PanAmericana (1952-54), his early visits to the Le Mans 24-Hour race (which he would ultimately win no fewer than three times with Ferrari) and his subsequent drives in the great 1000Kms and World Championship sports car races on circuits as diverse as Reims-Gueux, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Monza, the Nürburgring, Montlhéry and Daytona, plus of course Sebring and Le Mans.
The Bookshop Edition also covers Phil Hill’s many appearances as a Ferrari Formula 1 works team driver, culminating in his Drivers’ World Championship title in 1961. Completing the story are his many appearance in numerous non-World Championship events, including fabulous photographs from his two capacity-class World Land-Speed Record drives for MG at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1957 and 1959.