The fourth in a series of extracts from Inside Track: Phil Hill with Doug Nye. Phil Hill talks about how he captured a flock of Ferraris at the 1955 Venezuelan Grand Prix
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1955 Venezuelan Grand Prix, Caracas – Phil Hill had a great eye as a photographer and the technical ability to back it up. This panorama of the Los Proceres circuit and its makeshift pits features the American-liveried No 46 Ferrari 500 Mondial for Bob Said/Ed Munoz, No 6 is Phil’s Johnny von Neumann-owned Ferrari 121LM and No 12 Piero Carini’s Ferrari 750 Monza, which would finish fourth.
PHIL HILL: “The Le Mans disaster was the last nail in the coffin for the November Carrera PanAmericana, which was cancelled. Instead, Luigi Chinetti came up with a deal for a bunch of us to run in the Venezuelan Grand Prix for sports cars, in Caracas, that November. He put the deal together in response to an invitation from the Venezuelan Government who wanted the best possible entry. Chinetti liked to keep things like that in house. Instead of referring everything to the Ferrari factory in Italy, he’d just call around his US customers, and organise us into a tour party.
“As an experience Caracas seemed very similar to Argentina, but in many ways more impressive. Argentina had already been in trouble, with unease and recession always in the air. In contrast Venezuela’s economy still seemed on the move. It was a dictatorship but oil-rich, and the hotel they put us in, the Domenico was just fabulous. It was almost worth the trip by itself.
“But until we got there I doubt I was really aware what I would be driving. In fact it turned out to be the 121LM that I’d co-driven at Le Mans, and which Johnny von Neumann had just acquired.
“One unusual incident in practice was that I found the circuit so poorly defined that I got off course and suddenly found myself entirely alone on a deserted roadway. That was weird. But on race day we never got going. The 6-cylinder Ferrari just boiled over on the darned starting grid, and I could only nurse it in the race before abandoning all hope. After the long flight that was a great disappointment. Fangio won for Maserati, heading three Ferrari Monzas. The Spanish Marquis ‘Fon’ de Portago finished second…”
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.