February 15th 1929 – November 29th 1975
Indy 500 Winner – 1966
24 Hours of Le Mans Winner – 1972
Formula One World Champion – 1962, 1968
Monaco Grand Prix Winner – 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969
Graham Hill, the most affable driver of arguably the most talented generation of drivers in the history of motorsport did not pass his driver’s test till the remarkable age of 24. After a stint in the Royal Navy and time spent as an engineer, Hill’s racing debut came at the wheel of a Formula three Cooper in 1954. Shortly afterwards he became a mechanic at Team Lotus and by 1958 made his debut for Collin Chapman’s outfit, quite fittingly at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Hill grew as a driver and after two seasons he switched teams to BRM, where he became an F1 front runner en route to his first world championship in 1962. The next year Hill claimed his first of a then record five Monaco Grand Prix victories, which earned him the glamorous nickname; Mr. Monaco. Hill continued with BRM three more seasons, each time finishing second in the world championship, once behind John Surtees and twice behind his good friend Jim Clark.
Mr. Monaco, the quintessential British racer of the swinging 60’s achieved more on the track than any before or since.
Following in Clark’s footsteps, Hill crossed the pond and in 1966 won the Indianapolis 500 in a Lola-Ford. Hill then rejoined Team Lotus alongside Clark. When Clark tragically passed away during a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim in 1968, Hill rallied Team Lotus and lead them to both the World Drivers Championship and World Constructors’ Championship.
After leaving Team Lotus at the end of the 1969 season, Hill’s Formula One fortunes faded, he bounced from the Rob Walker squad to the Motor Racing Developments team before he eventually set up his own albeit unsuccessful outfit; Embassy Racing with Graham Hill.
The last bright spark of a remarkable career came in 1972 in his ninth and final appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sharing a Matra 670 with Henri Pescarolo, Hill took the lead of the race at midnight and never looked back. Their victory completed the last leg of motor racing’s legendary Triple Crown and to this day Hill remains the only driver who has ever won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Grand Prix of Monaco and the Indy 500.
Tragically Hill lost his life on the foggy evening of November 29th, 1975. Piloting a Piper Aztec with members of his team en route to London after a testing session at Paul Ricard, Hill encountered poor conditions and crashed the plane on Arkley golf course just north of the city.
His legacy continued on in the form of his son Damon, who joined the Formula One ranks in 1992 and stepped into the lead driver role at Williams after the tragic death of Ayrton Senna in May 1994. Damon lifted the team and likely would have won the world championship that year were it not for a dirty move by Michael Schumacher in the final race of the season. Damon went on to emulate Graham by taking the 1996 World Driver’s Championship for Williams.
Since then Nico Rosberg has claimed the 2016 F1 Drivers Championship emulating his father Keke who took the 1982 title. The Hill family still has them beat for now though, with three titles to the Rosberg’s two.