That switch to ATS also parched Hill's deeper sports car well. Briefly. Having twice staved off the rampant Rodriguez brothers to win Le Mans in 1961 and '62 (the last such victories for front-engined cars) alongside his co-driver of choice, urbane Belgian Olivier Gendebien, Hill's attempt to get three straight lasted just 29 laps. His Aston Martin Project 215 was fast – almost 200mph down the Mulsanne Straight – but lacked Ferrari's stomach for a fight.
Ford, famously jilted at the altar by financially troubled Ferrari, however, was certainly up to the challenge, and Hill was only too happy to help FoMoCo kick Enzo's ass. He was the obvious choice to lead its GT40's initial charge in 1964. Since his victory in the inaugural Pebble Beach Road Race of 1950 at the wheel of a self-modified Jaguar XK120, he had been a formidable sports car force: Enzo, though he had underestimated his adaptability, hadn't been entirely wrong in his summation of Phil's qualities.
Hill's Carrera Panamericana performances 1952-'54 in privateer Ferraris brought his skills to a much wider audience, while providing him with the worst injury of his career: a cut hand as he clambered from his wreck of 1953. The following year, he finished second; fastest through the mountain sections, he was overwhelmed on the endless, dusty straights by Umberto Maglioli's more powerful machine. Hill's "Italian exotica" battles with Texan friend Carroll Shelby also put America's burgeoning SCCA series on the sports car map: he was on his way to becoming the best in this particular business when he became its champion of 1955.
Ten years later, after three victories at Sebring – some lap charts also had him winning in 1955 – and two more in Buenos Aires, plus one at the Nurburgring, all for Ferrari, he set a stunning pole position and fastest lap in Shelby American's untested, unwieldy and unreliable 7-liter Galaxie-engined GT40 MkII. (He had set fastest lap the year before, too, in the 4.7-liter MkI, its wire wheels "singing," before registering another disappointing retirement.) The operatic politics of this scorched earth program – a disenchanted Ford wrested control of it from John Wyer's UK-based Ford Advanced Vehicles at the end of 1964 – had worn Hill down, however. As such, his 1966 move to driver-centric Chaparral, with its ergonomic vehicles, came as a breath of fresh air and he would enjoy a couple of Indian summers alongside his cowboy hat-totin' boss Jim Hall.
Sharing the 327cu.in Chevrolet V8-engined 2D fixed-head coupe (RIGHT) with Bonnier, Hill won the Nurburgring 1000km, restoring his reputation as a wet-weather driver – he had slithered out of the lead of the same race in 1961. At one point, while still on the move, he'd even bench-pressed the gull-wing door and craned from the cockpit to clean a windshield smeared and then ignored by a malfunctioning wiper. He also scored this iconic marque's only Can-Am victory, at Laguna Seca, in the bewinged and beautiful 2E.
For much of the following season the Chaparral 2F's 7-liter proved too powerful for its three-speed transmission. But when this problem was eventually sorted, it kicked Ferrari's ass – Ford's, Porsche's and Lola's, too – in the six-hour BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch, UK. Paired with Mike Spence, the understated Brit busy proving himself to be better than most gave him credit for, the stylish Hill more than held his end up: to the very, very end.
A fitting finale for a classy driver and classy guy.
2006: with Jack Brabham