Remembering Graham Hill


ON NOVEMBER 29th 1975, while returning from Circuit Paul Ricard in his Piper Turbo Aztec light aircraft, Graham Hill crashed while attempting to land at Elstree Airfield.

On a dark and foggy night flying on an expired pilot's licence, Hill's aircraft came down near Arkley golf course, killing the 1962 and 1968 F1 world champion along with the principal members of the Embassy Hill racing team.

Also killed was Tony Brise, a 23-year-old who, at the time, was one of the world's most promising Grand Prix drivers. Ray Brimble, the vastly experienced team manager was also killed, along with, Andy Smallman (the designer of Hill's F1 car) and mechanics Terry Richards and Tony Alcock.

Hill was a vast talent, despite not passing his driving test until he was 24. Awarded the OBE in 1969, his finest moment might well have been his victory in the 1966 Indianapolis 500, which he won at his first attempt and which fatefully funded the purchase of his Aztec aircraft.

Hill was hugely popular with the motor racing fraternity, earning affection by having a life outside of racing and also by dint of the fact that his achievemens appeared more the result of hard work and discipline than any surfeit of natural talent. Where the taciturn Jim Clark and acquisitive Jackie Stewart earned respect, Hill's raffish air and good-humoured public face belied a tough negotiator and savvy business acumen.Hill's frequent verbal jousts with Stewart were always entertaining and even when his F1 career was winding down, he was in constant demand as a media personality.

The later years in Hill's life were marred by occasional tragedy. The 1975 Spanish Grand Prix was black flagged when Rolf Stommelen, driving one of Hill's new cars, crashed, killing four spectators.

Stommelen survived, but never raced in F1 again.

Graham Hill was survived by his wife Bette, two daughters, Brigitte and Samantha, and son, Damon, who later became F1 World Champion still the only son of a former world champ to emulate his father. Keep at it, Nico.