The third in a series of extracts from Inside Track: Phil Hill with Doug Nye. Phil Hill on photographing the start of the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours – a race that would live in racing memory for all the wrong reasons…
Read extract one
Read extract two
Read extract four
Read extract five
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1955 Le Mans 24-Hour race –Three-time Le Mans winner Phil Hill photographed the dramatic start almost every year he attended. Here’s the first action frame from his 1955 sequence – when he made his debut as a Ferrari works driver. At extreme left is none other than Colin Chapman heading for his Lotus Mark IX (No 48) which he co-drove with Ron Flockhart, also prominent here are No 43, the Ken McAlpine/Eric Thompson Connaught ALSR and No 64, the Ted Lund/Hans Waeffler MG EX182 works car – forerunner of the MGA – which finished sixth in the 1500cc Sport category. Two and a half hours after Phil took this shot the Le Mans disaster engulfed the crowd just here…
PHIL HILL: “Maglioli did the opening stint in our Ferrari, and just after 6 o’clock the first scheduled refuelling stops were due, and I was up on the pit counter ready to take over for my very first works Ferrari drive. And while I was standing there, one of the Ferrari mechanics down below, on the ground, tugged on my pant leg and pointed across the track, and there was this guy I recognised, Jim McGeechan, standing in the crowd and yelling something across the track at me. If we waited until there was a gap between passing cars we could actually hear one another because the roadway was so narrow.
“He lived just four or five doors down from me on West 20th Street, Santa Monica, and until that moment I’d had no idea he was there. He was calling out ‘Hi – how’s it going…’ that sort of thing – and then, like a lightning strike, our world exploded…
“I remember just launching myself backwards off the pit counter, and months later he verified this by saying he was looking at me, trying to hear what I was saying, when suddenly I just stepped backwards off the pit counter and vanished from his sight. Down just like that. And instantaneously all hell broke loose around him. He was right in the middle of it all, yet didn’t get hit by anything. But his camera case had blood all over it…
“So what in the heck had happened…?”
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.