WORLD RACING'S ONLY TRIPLE CROWN WINNER
By David Cook
BRM - Rail Route
BRM - Matchbox
Lotus 49 - Champion
Lotus 49 - Champion
Our story about Graham Hill and his cars will take us back to a couple of recent articles as well as show some new small-scale cars. The triple crown we speak of here is the unique combination of Formula One champion, Indy 500 winner and LeMans winner. In the era that Hill accomplished his feat it was common for drivers to race in different series all over the world.
Hill began his racing career somewhat late in life since he didn't even drive a passenger car until he was 24. After serving in the navy he was working for an instrument maker and chanced upon a race driving school; 4 laps there changed his life! He traded his mechanics skills for additional time in the cars and soon became an instructor as well as a weekend club racer. At this point he met up with Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus cars, and quickly signed on as road and race car mechanic. He was literally in at the ground floor with Lotus since he drove one of their first F1 entries in 1958.
Results with Lotus were hard to come by since the cars tended to be fragile but his experience and mechanical aptitude led to a driving job with the more established BRM outfit in 1960. Here he was in the right place at the right time as BRM began to win races and Hill took his first F1 championship in 1962 in cars very much like the two pictured here. The Majorette Rail Route car has the "stack pipes" of the earliest models; the Lesney BRM was made in mass quantities and can still be found today.
Hill stayed with BRM through 1966, winning some races and was always a contender for the championship, finishing 2nd in 1963-64-65. He was known to be mechanically sympathetic to his racecourse with an uncanny ability to nurse a dying car to the finish line. During this time plenty of European drivers had been tempted to give the Indy 500 a try, led by Jim Clark and Lotus. Hill found the right deal in 1966 when he joined a team using Lola cars financed by wealthy industrialist John Mecom. Hill's teammate was an up-and-coming Jackie Stewart and the manager was Indy legend George Bignotti. Hill was the first rookie to win since the race began in 1911.
In 1967 Hill was tempted back to Lotus in a super team with Jimmy Clark to drive the all-new package of Lotus 49s powered by Cosworth-Ford V8s. Hill led the team to his second F1 championship in 1968. Pictured here are two versions of the Lotus 49 by Safir Champion; the one with special bodywork on the tail was used at the Monaco GP in 1968. Hill was known as the master of Monte Carlo; he won there five times in his career.
Hill's Lotus package included Indy 500 rides like the Lotus 56 turbine powered car pictured here again by Safir Champion in red and gold. Hot Wheels also made a somewhat less detailed model of this innovative car. The Lotus 56 almost won Indy in 1968 but turbines were banned after that.
After his last championship season, Hill only won one more GP for Lotus in 1969. In 1970, he suffered a critical accident at the USGP and was confined to a wheelchair for months afterwards. He never really regained his top F1 form and eventually gave up driving after 1975. Before this, however, he achieved a goal that no one else has been able do to since- on top of everything else, he was part of the LeMans winning Matra team in 1972. Matra had been trying to win the 24-Hours for several years and went all out, hiring several GP-quality drivers, and they got the results they paid for! Shown here is the Majorette model of the car that Hill and Henri Pescarolo drove to victory.
With his driving career over, Hill looked to become an F1 team owner. He had Lola cars build Cosworth-powered models called, after their sponsor, Embassy-Hills. The Polistil model pictured here is very close to what these cars looked like. Unfortunately Hill and several team members including driver Tony Brise died during their first season in 1975 when the small plane that Hill was piloting crashed on the way back from a test session.
Graham Hill's son Damon won the F1 championship in 1996 in a car much like this Williams FW15 pictured here by Minichamps. Damon came up through the ranks of motorcycle racing and F3000. Obviously his name helped get some rides along the way and at one point he was teammate to the great Alain Prost, also known as the "professor". But Damon's results at the highest levels speak for themselves; perhaps we can apply the old saying, "the nut doesn't fall far from the tree".
Could someone repeat Hill's triple crown? Yes, of course, but with difficulty! Mario Andretti tried for several years near the end of his career to add a LeMans win to his resume without success. Jacques Villeneuve won Indy in 1995 and his F1 championship in 1997 but has languished around the middle of the F1 field since then. He has openly spoken of his desire to try LeMans when his F1 career is over which could come soon based on recent results. 2000 Indy winner Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia is highly regarded in F1 but has only won one GP so far. He might do better if a pesky German in a red car wasn't quite so lucky, quick or both!
G. Hill - 1966 Indy 500
Lotus 56 - Champion
Lotus 56 Turbine - Hot Wheels
Matra 670 (1972) - Majorette
Lola - Polistil
Damon Hill's 1996 Williams - Minichamps