Jim Hall

Full Name:
James Ellis Hall
Born:
23rd July 1935 (Age 83)
Abilene, Texas
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Who introduced the fan car? Brabham. What was the first composite racing chassis? The McLaren MP4/1. Ground effect pioneers? Lotus. Who made rear the aerofoil work? Lotus again. The answer to all is in fact the groundbreaking sports cars and single-seaters of Jim Hall’s Chaparral concern. Not only that, but Hall was quite a driver himself who was particularly successful in sports cars in North America.

Education and family background

By the time he graduated from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Hall had lost his parents and sister in a light plane accident. He inherited a fortune as a consequence and ran a Maserati dealership with Carroll Shelby before working in the family oil business with his brothers.

Formula 1 and Chaparral

He first raced an Allard in 1953 and made his Formula 1 debut in the 1960 United States Grand Prix when seventh with a private Lotus 18-Climax. Now with a type 21, he entered the race again a year later and was fourth in the non-championship 1962 Mexican GP. However, by then the Chaparral legend had begun.

Hall tinkered with a Lister sports car before commissioning his own chassis in 1961. That first Chaparral-Chevrolet was built by Troutman & Barnes in California’s Culver City and Hall used it to finish sixth in the 1962 Sebring 12 Hours.

He returned to F1 in 1963 for a season with a British Racing Partnership Lotus 24-BRM. Sixth at the British GP and fifth in Germany were rewarded by 12th position in the world championship. But Hall was not overly impressed by F1 and having started a total of 11 GPs, he returned to sports cars. He won four of the ten rounds to win the 1964 United States Road Racing Championship for Chaparral.

His mark two Chaparral-Chevy won the 1965 Sebring 12 Hours with Hap Sharp as his co-driver and Hall won another six times in that year’s United Stated Road Racing Championship. Hap Sharp added another victory for the marque but Hall was just beaten to the 1965 title by George Follmer who drove a Lotus 23-Elva in the Under 2000cc class.

Sports car success in Europe

Hall then raced in Can-Am and his cars won World Sportscar Championship races at the Nürburgring in 1966 and Brands Hatch a year later. Hall rolled his Chaparral 2G-Chevy after hitting Lothar Motschenbacher’s McLaren during the 1968 Las Vegas Can-Am race. With both legs and his jaw broken, Hall eventually returned only to be severely scalded below the waist when he crashed while testing at Chaparral's home circuit – Rattlesnake Raceway. He drove in the 1970 Trans-Am Championship before retiring from racing.

Successful team owner

Chaparral continued to set new standards and win races for another three decades as manufacturer and team. Al Unser drove Hall’s First National City Lola T500-Cosworth to victory in the 500-mile Indycar races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Ontario during 1978.

Hall then hired John Barnard to design the ground-effect Chaparral 2K-Cosworth that took Johnny Rutherford to the 1980 Indy 500 and Champ Car World Series. But another win at Phoenix at the start of 1981 was followed by withdrawal for Hall had achieved everything possible in the series.

However, he did return in 1991 in partnership with Count van der Straten’s VDS concern when sponsored, as Rutherford had been, by Pennzoil. John Andretti’s Hall-VDS Racing’s Lola T91/00-Chevy immediately won at Surfers Paradise but it ultimately proved a false dawn. Teo Fabi spent two years with the team before being replaced by Gil de Ferran in the renamed Hall Racing for 1995. The Brazilian won twice during his couple of seasons before the team was disbanded at the end of 1996.