|First race||Monaco Grand Prix||Monaco||May 18, 1958||Race results|
|Last race||Monaco Grand Prix||Monaco||May 11, 1975||Race results|
Determined, intense, record-breaking, humorous, Graham Hill was the perfect ambassador for the sport. All this and much more has been said of Hill, the only man to have won the triple crown of World Championship, Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
It has become something of a cliché to say that he was a man who worked at his driving rather than being imbued with natural ability, but Hill did not pass his driving test until he was 24. That same year, he attended a racing school at Brands Hatch and was hooked.
He immediately started working as a mechanic at the school, racing in one of its cars in lieu of payment. Then he met Colin Chapman and worked for him as he built up Lotus. Hill built his own Lotus for 1956 and became a works driver in 1958, making his grand prix debut at Monaco. He ran fourth before a wheel parted company with the car. He later became synonymous with Monaco as he won there five times.
Disenchanted with the fragility of Chapman's Lotuses, he left for BRM for 1960, a year in which he finished third at Zandvoort. After a lacklustre second year, 1962 was better as, equipped with a new V8, he won the Dutch, German and Italian Grands Prix to set up a South African finale with Jim Clark. Clark led but, when the Lotus broke, Hill snatched both victory and the title.
He was runner-up to Clark, John Surtees and Clark again in 1963, 1964 and 1965 respectively. His defeat by Surtees was particularly galling as he had scored more points than the former motorcyclist, but lost out by a point when dropped scores were considered.
He won the Indianapolis 500 in 1966, but there was a good slice of fortune involved, as Jackie Stewart led convincingly until he was robbed by a technical problem. After a troubled 1966 - the first year of the new 3-litre Formula - Hill was tempted back to Lotus as team-mate to Clark, who narrowly missed out on the title to Denny Hulme. However, the Lotus 49-Cosworth looked promising.
Clark started 1968 well enough, winning in South Africa, but was killed in a Formula Two race. The Scot's death devastated Chapman, but Hill put the team back on course by winning in Spain. He fought a three-way tussle with Stewart's Matra and Hulme's McLaren, winning his second crown with victory in the Mexican season finale.
Graham was outpaced by team-mate Jochen Rindt in 1969. Then, at Watkins Glen, he spun and popped his seatbelt. Unable to refasten it, he resumed but crashed and was thrown out, breaking his legs. He was determined to return, but was never as fast again.
Having won Le Mans for Matra in 1972, Graham raced on until mid-1975 when he elected to retire to concentrate on team management. Tragically, piloting his plane back from a test at Paul Ricard, he hit a tree on the approach to Elstree and was killed along with protégé Tony Brise, the team manager, designer and two mechanics.
Strengths and weaknesses
Contrary to the public image, Hill around race time was a curt, pedantic perfectionist who achieved much of his success through sheer hard work, and as a result he suffered in comparison with two of his great rivals - Jim Clark and the Jackie Stewart - who seemingly did not have to try. But he was nevertheless popular, an excellent team leader, and squeezed out every ounce of talent he had.
Lotus was in turmoil after the death of Jim Clark, so much so boss Colin Chapman stayed away from the Spanish Grand Prix. Hill almost single handedly pulled the team together by sheer force of his personality and then won the race, a result which got Lotus back on track and set him on his way to his second world title.
He had his fair share of major accidents, but few would argue against the fact he continued racing far too long in increasingly uncompetitive cars. The end came, sadly, at Monaco, the scene of his greatest successes, when in 1975 he failed to even qualify in his own team's car. Even Hill, a man whom could not let go, realised his time was up.
"I am an artist. The track is my canvas, and the car is my brush."
"He is the archetype of the driver of the future …precise, smooth, knowing. Graham is just as smooth as he looks." Stirling Moss in 1962
A keen rower, before he took up motor racing he stroked the London Rowing Club to victory at Henley in 1953
When starting out as a driver, he sometimes slept in haystacks by the roadside to save money
He was a driving force behind a campaign to ban three-wheeled invalid cars which he considered too dangerous
December 5, 1975
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August 19, 1975
© Sutton Images
October 5, 1969
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