Richie Ginther a Californian grew up in the same bunch of aspiring racers as Phil Hill, a friend of his older brother was drafted to Korea for two years' national service. On his discharge, he partnered Phil Hill in the 1953 Carrera Panamericana, later managing John von Neumann's Ferrari agency in California before making his Le Mans debut in 1957 in a Ferrari 250TR. In 1960 he got the opportunity to become one of the Maranello factory's test drivers, a chance which he seized with both hands. He made his F1 debut in a Dino 246 at Monaco in 1960 and impressed the tifosi with an assured second place behind Phil in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, a race boycotted by the leading British teams in protest at the continued use of the bumpy banked circuit. Ginther is credited by many with introducing the rear spoiler to racing by convincing Ferrari to add it to his sports cars. In 1961 he was part of the squad racing the sensational Dino 156s, putting in a tremendous display to finish second to Stirling Moss's infinitely more agile Lotus 18 through the streets of Monte Carlo. At the end of the season he shrewdly accepted an invitation to join the BRM team as a number two to Graham Hill just as the British 1.5-litre V8s were entering their most successful phase. During his three-year spell with BRM he finished second at Monza in 1962, at Monaco, Monza and Mexico in 1964. He was runner-up in the 1963 Championship behind Graham and fourth in 1964. Immensely reliable, consistent and popular, Ginther was a splendid team man but lacked the aggressive edge to develop into a regular winner. Replaced at BRM by Jackie Stewart at the start of the 1965 season, he signed up with the fledgling Honda F1 team and celebrated this move with a commanding victory in the Mexican Grand Prix, fending off a strong challenge from fellow American Dan Gurney's Brabham- Climax in the final race of the 1.5-litre F1.
He drove a couple of races for Cooper- Maserati in 1966 before Honda's 3-litre V12 was ready, and was lucky to survive a highspeed shunt at Monza when the bulky Japanese machine flew off the road after a tyre failure. In 1967 Ginter signed to drive as second in Gurney's Eagle-Weslake squad, a deal which also involved a run at Indianapolis. It was at the Brickyard, as he waited in the line-up to do his qualifying run, that it finally dawned on him that he wanted to retire. He did so immediately, without fanfare or fuss. In the ensuing years, Richie 'dropped out', leading a nomadic existence in the wastes of southern California, living in a motor-home without a clock to remind him of the passing of time. In 1977 he was an honoured guest at Hockenheim to watch Niki Lauda's Ferrari score the 100th Goodyear Grand Prix win, the first of which had been his success at Mexico City.
Another twelve years passed and Ginther, now prematurely frail and very unwell, was invited to Donington Park to become reacquainted with a 1.5-litre F1 BRM on the marque's fortieth anniversary. He tried a few laps, but the effort was just too much. A few days later, whilst on holiday in France, Richie succumbed to heart failure at the early age of fifty- nine. He once said that Monaco was the circuit where you left the impression of your eyeballs on your goggles.