Richie Ginther

Full Name:
Paul Richard Ginther
Born:
5th August 1930
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Died:
20th September 1989 (Aged 59)
Touzac, Poitou-Charentes (F), heart attack
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Richie Ginther may have only won a single Formula 1 championship race but the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix was a pivotal event. Not only was it Honda’s first victory as a constructor and engine manufacturer, but it was the first time Goodyear shod a winner at this level.

Early racing career

The Californian first raced an MG TC in 1951 and his serious introduction to the sport was as Phil Hill’s riding mechanic in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana. They crashed but that obviously did not put the passenger off for Ginther was again alongside a year later as Hill finished second with Alan Guiberson’s Ferrari 375MM.

Trained as a mechanic, the diminutive Ginther worked for Ferrari agent Johnnie von Neumann and began racing in his own right. He soon developed a fine reputation on the West Coast and made his Le Mans debut in 1957 with François Picard and a Los Amigos-entered Ferrari 250TR.

Now running von Neumann’s dealership, he quit to become a professional racing driver after finishing second in the 1960 Buenos Aires 1000Kms with Wolfgang von Trips and a 250TR. However, it was still a surprise when he was offered a long-term contract to join Hill as part of Scuderia Ferrari.

Formula 1 with Ferrari and BRM

Any doubts were soon dispelled by his testing ability and sixth place finishes in his first two Grand Prix starts in the 1960 Monaco and Dutch GPs. Second in that year’s Italian GP at Monza just confirmed his talent. His shark-nose Ferrari Dino 156 was second in the 1961 Monaco GP on a day when Stirling Moss defied the form book to win for Rob Walker and Lotus. The Italian team was the class of the field that year and Ginther finished fifth in the world championship.

Ginther moved to BRM for 1962 and his technical ability proved crucial as team-mate Graham Hill clinched the world title. His personal GP breakthrough remained elusive with Ginther runner-up in the 1963 standings after finishing second in Monaco, Italy and the United States. That he was destined to be a nearly man seemed certain after further second place finishes at Monaco (for a third time) and in Austria during 1964.

Grand Prix success for Honda

Having been Hill’s BRM understudy for three years, Ginther chose to lead the emerging Honda concern in 1965. It was a season of promise and frustration in equal measure before Ginther qualified third for the final two races of the year.

The 1965 Mexican GP was the final race of the 1500cc formula and Ginther led throughout. Not only was it the American’s only GP victory but it was a first for both Honda and Goodyear tyres. He then drove a Cooper T81-Maserati while Honda readied its new 3000cc contender for 1966. The Honda RA273 was only ready for the Italian GP and Ginther was lucky to escape lasting injury when he crashed out of second after his tyre punctured at Curva Grande. He ended the year by finishing fourth on his return to Mexico.

He joined Eagle when Honda chose John Surtees to lead its team in 1967. Ginther failed to qualify for the Monaco GP and decided to retire during a qualifying attempt for that year's Indy 500.

Away from the racing scene for many years, Ginther reappeared at Donington Park for a BRM reunion in 1989 when very frail. He then went to France on holiday with his family where he suffered a fatal heart attack.