Friday, 11 February 2011

I'm in the wrong business - Ferrari 860 Monza #0604M

There are photographs and then there are some photographs one could write a book about, today's photograph by Carlyle Blackwell of then future world champion Phil "I'm in the wrong business" Hill driving a Ferrari 860 Monza to 2nd place overall and first in class at Pebble Beach on the 22nd of April 1956 is without question one of the latter. I'll do my best to summarise the story here.

Ferrari 860 Monza, Pebble Beach

Photo Carlyle Blackwell, Publised Courtesy Blackwell Archive, for sales enquiry's please e-mail and your contact details will be forwarded to the Blackwell Archive.

The Ferrari 860 Monza is perhaps the ultimate expression of mid 1950's sports cars before the regulations governing such vehicles changed in the aftermath of the tragedy at Le Mans in 1955. Mercedes and Jaguar had withdrawn their factory supported entries from the World Championship Sports Car races entirely, though Jaguar supported successful private entries of Ecurie Ecosse at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957.

Ferrari were the only serious contenders left for the World Sports Car Championship in 1956 and the 860 was fully poised to sweep the board with a 280 hp 3432 cc / 209 cui Lamperdi straight 4 engine.

With the withdrawal of the Mercedes team from all forms of racing no less a free agent than reigning 3 time world champion Juan " El Maestro " Fangio became the 'must have' free agent of the 1956 season if not all time and Enzo recruited him to replace Ascari who had recently died in an accident.

Ferrari did not take the 860's to Buenos Aries for the first round of the Championship which let Maserati off the hook. For the Sebring 12 Hours chassis #0604 M pictured here was prepared for Fangio and the suave up and coming man Euginio Castellotti and duly took a comfortable 2 lap victory ahead of a sister 860 Monza.

Just one month later the Sebring winning car had changed ownership and now belonged to John von Neuman, himself a competent driver who would take #0604 to victory lane at Santa Maria later in 1956, and entered his new possession for freshly signed works Ferrari driver Phil Hill at Pebble Beach, where we can see him driving to a class victory behind Carol Shelby in an older modified Ferrari 750 Monza.

This turned out to be the last event run at the Pebble Beach venue, Ernie Macafee's fatal accident during the race was enough to persuade organisers to seek a safer facility which led to the opening of the Laguna Seca track in 1957.

Chassis #0604 M continued to be raced until 1962 with future works Ferrari driver Richie Ginther being one of many to drive her and Lew Florence being the last to take her to Victory Lane at Shelton in 1959.

Since then #0604 M has become a sought after collectors item with former head of the Renault F1 team Jean Sage counting among it's owners. In 2006 the vehicle was offered for sale at $3.5 million., it is said to currently reside in Italy.

Ferrari won The World Sports Car Championship in 1956 despite a second defeat at the Nurburgring by Maserati.

For those new to the history of motor racing here is a brief introduction to a hugely popular driver. Phil (no relation to the British two time champion Graham) Hill was born in Miami FL and raised in Santa Barbra, California, dropped out of college to pick up a wrench to work on racing drivers cars before becoming a driver himself.

Phil won his first race a 3 lap even at Carrell Speedway driving an MG TC in July 1949. In 1958 he drove a Maserati 250 F in his first Grand Prix and in the same year sharing a Ferrari with Olivier Gendebien won the Le Mans 24 Hours a feat he repeated with Olivier and Ferrari in 1961 and 1962.

In 1960 Phil won the Italian GP driving a Ferrari becoming the first American to win a Grand Prix in nearly 40 years and the following year he won two Grand Prix on his way to becoming the first US World Grand Prix Drivers Champion. Unfortunately a dispute between Ferrari and Grand Prix racing's governing bodies meant Phil never got to properly celebrate on home turf in fact arguably Phil never got to compete in all the Grand Prix races in a single season.

In 1967 Phil retired after driving a Chaparral to victory in the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch. He continued working in TV for Road & Track and his own vehicle restoration business Hill & Vaughan until he retired in 1995.

Phil aged 81 succumbed to complications from Parkinsons disease in 2008. He is quoted as saying of his presence on the motor racing circuit, "I'm in the wrong business. I don't want to beat anybody, I don't want to be the big hero. I'm a peace-loving man, basically".

Finally I am reliably informed this photograph made the cover of Road & Track Magazine in September 1956, I have not seen it yet if you have a copy and can scan it please get in touch using the e-mail link on my profile page, I'd love to see it.

My thanks to Ed Arnaudin who purchased this slide, to his son Steve who sent it on, to El Wayne and Miltonian at Ferrari Chat who passed on essential information on the identification of the car, its location, date and details of the publication.

Hope you have enjoyed today's "I'm in the wrong business" edition of Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres" and that you'll join me for a look at the Maserati model the Ferrari had to beat to win the 1956 World Sports Car title. Don't forget to come back now !

28 07 12 PS My thanks to Pamela Blackwell who has kindly retrospectively given me permission to post the photo's her father took.