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Insiders’ views on Graham Hill

JOHN YOUNG on the Monte Carlo Rally with Graham Hill

John Young

I did a Monte with Coombs and Salvadori and they didn’t take it very seriously, but Graham did take it seriously. We were supposed to do this rally with John Coombs as well but at the last moment, he pulled out. It was my car, it was a works-prepared 1.5 Riley, which I had picked up from Marcus Chambers [Rootes Team Manager]. It sounded like a little Grand Prix Maserati. When John Coombs backed out, he sent one of his salesmen. All the way up to Scotland, this chap kept telling us how many cars he’d rolled, etc. Graham said to me, ‘Christ John, we are not going to let him drive, are we?’ So, poor sod, we never did let him drive!

On one occasion I woke up and I said, ‘Graham, what are all these marks on the screen?’ The glass had got scratched.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘you were asleep. We went through one of those French level crossings and there were metal bits all hanging down, and we did kind of collect it slightly.’ The pole was down, or coming down, and we must have gone under it!

I remember when we got down to Monte Carlo, we went to the Casino. I think we were both a bit skint, we hadn’t got a lot of money. ‘Oh, let’s blow the lot, John. We’ll put it all on the red.’ We lost and so we were poorer still!

FRANK WILLIAMS on a Graham Hill connection

Unfortunately, I did not know Graham very well.  When I arrived in motorsport he was very senior and not the sort of person to whom one dared speak!

What you may not know is that when my own racing career started in 1961 I purchased from a third party his Austin A35 UYX 930 which I believe he raced whilst a director of Speedwell Performance Conversions in North London.

TONY MARSH -A Privateer’s View on Graham Hill

I thought he was a forceful driver without being as bad as Mr. Schumacher. Very good driver. I rated him highly. He was always going to give a very good performance, car permitting.

Like a lot of other people, he was not fussed what sort of car he got into. Providing there were enough wheels on the car, he would drive it.

SIR JOHN WHITMORE on the Clark and Hill contrast

I thought it was interesting when Graham and Jimmy were driving together. Jimmy was a very close friend of mine, and they were absolute opposites. Graham got there by dint of extremely hard work and complete dedication and commitment, and probably wasn’t as talented as Jimmy. Jimmy was extremely talented and didn’t appear to work at it - actually I think Jimmy did really, but they looked very different. Yet they were both massively successful.

TONY MAGGS on the View from the Opposite Ditch

I was about two or three seconds behind Graham [at the Nürburgring]. About three-quarters of the way down the ‘Foxhole’, the camera fell off the car. There was a marshal there but he never noticed it. Graham came round and the camera punctured the dry sump oil tank on his car, which covered the whole road full of oil, plus his back tyres.

He shot off the road at high speed through the hedges and trees and stuff on the left hand side into a ditch. I came down, and the marshal still hadn’t noticed anything, I hit the same oil and shot off on the right hand side of the road into the opposite ditch!

After a lot of tree crashing and everything, there was suddenly a great hush that you get after an accident. And then a very English voice came from the trees on the other side of the track. ‘I say old chap, are you alright?’

TONY ROLT on Graham Hill

I admired Graham very much indeed. I used to think he was one of the greatest and is underestimated very much today. He drove so many different types of car. When people list the great drivers today, they often leave him out completely, which I think is wrong.

He had fantastic application and great determination. He was a great chap.

SALLY SWART Jim Clark's girlfriend on great rivals, great friends

Graham and Jimmy were great friends. The rivalry only began when they got in the cars. I never heard them say an unkind word to each other or about each other. Jimmy was a great fan of Graham’s. He really respected Graham’s enormous talent. There was a very healthy respect and admiration for each other.

Jimmy had the natural talent and Graham had to work hard at it. That’s why I respected Graham even more. He worked very hard but he did obviously have an enormous talent as well.

Graham was a great sportsman. He would give of his best at every moment, to give Jimmy a run for his money, and Jimmy knew that! Nobody knew that better than him! They were very friendly rivals.

CHRIS AMON recalls his 21st birthday party

I clearly remember him [Graham Hill] at my 21st birthday dinner standing on a chair in the middle of the restaurant leading the singing of some bawdy songs. 

My 21st was very much in the days of the Ditton Road, Surbiton flat which was shared with Mike Hailwood and Pete Revson along with Bruce Harre who was a McLaren team mechanic at the time and later became a Firestone tyre engineer. Bruce was unfortunate enough to have signed the rental agreement for the flat as I was under 21 at the time. As the official tenant, he had to cope with the not inconsiderable amounts of flak that was generated due to the various goings on that occurred.

The flat figured in the 21st party aftermath. I seem to remember the majority of the guests from the restaurant came back to the flat and I remember Graham and Jo Bonnier sitting on the hearth in front of the fireplace. Jo was normally a pretty reserved sort of person but I do recall that night that he nodded off with his head partly up the chimney.  Somebody reminded me quite recently that one of the problems with the Ditton Road parties was that they tended to last several days.

BETTE HILL on Graham’s public life

Bette Hill

We were in a restaurant on holiday once with some friends. There was a chap at the next table who just wouldn’t let him go. He kept talking to him about ‘this great race’ and ‘that great race’. We were getting cross.

Graham just couldn’t say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m with my friends,’ which would have been the most natural thing to say. But he didn’t want to hurt him.

He used to say, ‘Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am’.

PETER PROCTOR on the private side of Graham Hill

He [Graham Hill] once opened a nurses’ home at a hospital over the British GP weekend. He flew up and back between practice and the race. That was the side that nobody knew about.

[Peter Proctor was recovering from a dreadful accident he had had at Goodwood in April when he rolled his Ford Anglia and very nearly died from his horrific burns.] Graham sent me a telegram in hospital, half an hour after Indy practice. He then sent me another an hour after winning.

CHRIS AMON recalls Graham Hill’s style

Another great recollection I have is of the trip to Japan for an Indy race at the Fuji circuit; there were all the regular American USAC drivers plus Jimmy Clark, Graham, Jackie Stewart and myself. I think we were referred to as the Limey lot or something similar. This epic trip started on a charter flight from Indianapolis to Tokyo via Alaska.

On arrival we were booked into a hotel and then were scheduled to take charter buses to Fuji the next day. In the morning Graham said, ‘Bugger the bus, stick with me, I’ve made other arrangements’. It turned out he knew the Rolls-Royce agent in Tokyo and had arranged a chauffeur-driven car for the weekend for the so-called Limey group. I can still remember to this day the gestures and the abuse that came from the American buses every time we passed them going to and from the circuit!

Click on the following link for more information on the Graham Hill Scrapbook.

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