Phil Hill was a racing driver of promise since his childhood when he was 9 years old and found himself behind the wheel of a car simulating being a racing driver with the steering wheel and the pedals. The car’s owner encouraged him to start the engine and not long after this incident the young Hill created the basis for his brilliant future. One outing was enough to inflame his passion for motorsports. In the year 1946, at the age of 19, he gained his first victory at the San Fernando Valley rally, before he left for the UK in 1949. The experience he gained in England was extremely helpful for his following career, when he took part in several competitions, from road to endurance races.
It was a sparkling career with numerous victories and great results, such as the win of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1955. Without doubt this was Hill’s first great achievement in Europe while making himself known to those, like Enzo Ferrari, who were always looking for new talents.
Also in ‘55 the US-driver started as Oliver Gendebien’s co-driver in a Ferrari at the 1,000 km. It was like a flash: Hill brought home a second place in the race and gained the Commendatore’s confidence. Now it was just a small step for the ambitioned driver to Modena, ready to be part of Ferrari. In the following two years Hill, together with Peter Collins, took part in several prestigious competitions in the States. The winning team Hill-Gendebien came back in 1958 for the 24 Hours of Le Mans: A hard-earned second place in a race under dreadful weather conditions, followed by two more wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring, which fed Hill’s passion for motorsports and competition. Sensitive and flexible, with an impeccable driving style and the Scuderia’s school behind him, the American driver was now ready for Formula One. In 1958 he didn’t have his Formula One debut at the French GP behind the wheel of a Ferrari, but with its biggest competitor Maserati.
At that point Enzo Ferrari offered Hill to race in the most prestigious Championship as official Scuderia driver, making the young American’s dream come true. In the first race, held at Monza, he immediately gained third place. While he constantly grew over the following GPs, he gained his first place on the podium in 1960. It was a good year for Hill, who was more aggressive and faster than ever. His biggest competitor was Wolfgang von Trips, an indifferent driver, who knew how to approach every single track. Exciting duels between the two rivals followed over the whole season. A record year for Phil Hill, who managed to be the first driver ever to drive a lap on the Nürburgring in less than nine minutes with the Scuderia’s 156 and gaining the Drivers’ World Title, thus becoming the only American-born driver to win this Championship.
In 1961 and ‘62 he won the race at Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the end of the year Hill left Ferrari for an uncertain future at the ATS team and retired in 1967 at the age of 39.