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Phil Hill


It can come as a great surprise to a driver who has looked forward for years to racing a Formula I car to-find that the grandest of all racing machines is much easier to drive than a sports-racing car or a Gran Turismo car. It can come as even a greater surprise to find that it is much harder to drive really well.

As far as the actual manipulation of the machine "is concerned, it is a revelation and a joy. The steering is beautifully precise and willing. (And you can watch your wheels turn.) The gearbox is a pleasure. The brakes work quickly and smoothly. It is only after you've had some time in the single-seaters that you realize that although they seem friendlier than the bulkier sports-racing cars, they have a far quicker and more deadly bite. You can lose control of them so fast it can leave you breathless.

The old Formula I car-the 2.5 liter-was Probably harder to drive than the new 1.5 liter car. That is, fewer people could drive it competitively. The new Formula I, however, po~es the paradox of being harder to drive because it is easier. That means that more people can drive the cars well enough to lap a given course within a certain time spread, hut to drive them really well-to he truly and obviously superior -requires a lot more. And in giving them that "lot more" you discover the tricky nature of the beast.

All the recent advancements in race car design, particularly in suspension systems and tire development, have led to improved road adhesion, pointing to an entirely new, cornering technique. The sight of powerful, fire-breathing racing cars sliding around turns is a thing of the east. The newer cars corner much more neatly with much less waste of energy, and the fastest way around a corner is almost literally - "on rails" .

This new breed of car gives less warning than the older type. You could hang the tail of the older cars out a foot or more, feeling the Progressive precariousness of the situation before you really "lost" it.

Now it may be a matter of inches, and without warning a docile, well-behaved car can turn and stomp on you.


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Hill P first

Another bit of the picture:

It came down to the last two rounds, the Italian and Moroccan GPs. Ferrari sports car star Phil Hill was given his first real F1 chance alongside Hawthorn at Monza: "I got off to a good start, and led for the first four or five laps until Mike came by. I got a flat tyre and I went straight into the pits. Back out I was able to make up a lot of ground [he smashed the lap record] and I regained the lead when Mike made his scheduled stop. That changed around when I stopped again and Mike led from Tony Brooks's Vanwall, then me. But Mike's clutch began to slip" Brooks took the lead and as Phil continued charging round: "Our team manager, Tavoni [the Jean Todt of his day] held out a signal board saying `BRO' for Brooks, so I thought Brooks was catching me, and I speeded up. In fact, he was leading, which meant instead that I was catching Mike. I came right up on his tail and suddenly this arm shot out and he waved me back, like `Get back you idiot, stay there!' Then Tavoni signalled `HAW-HIL' so I realised what was required" And here's the crucial passage. As Phil recalled: "I thought I shouldn't make backing-off too obvious. So in front of the grandstands I flicked the ignition off and on, making the engine pop, splutter, BANG!, then run clean again. That way I just drifted back from Mike, he finished second and his championship hopes were kept alive."

In Morocco, Phil had to press Moss into breaking his Vanwall. "I took off from the second row and just about busted my ass trying to get ahead of Moss until my drum brakes just faded away and I shot up an escape road" He rejoined fourth, and within four more laps had fought back into second place, ahead of Hawthorn, but "Stirling was just uncatchable" Hawthorn lay third, but if they finished in that order Moss would be world champion with Hawthorn runner-up. So Tavoni held out the "HAW-HIL" board again, specifying the required result "There was still quite a way to go, so I just barely backed off. I was still ahead of Mike, and Tavoni began wagging his finger at me, like a schoolmaster - then after another lap I came by and there he was in the pit lane, down on his knees in a praying position; kinda `Pheel, per-lease, izza my job at stake here!' and I rolled it off But again we managed to swap places little by little - so it didn't look too contrived, to the crowd at least" No great fuss, no great controversy - and the first-ever British World Champion Driver, for Ferrari.

Author: ArchitectPage

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P.Hill 2