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Norman Graham Hill OBE (15 February 1929 – 29 November 1975) was a British racing driver and team owner from England, who was twice Formula One World Champion. He is the only driver to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport — the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and Formula One World Championship.

Graham Hill and his son Damon are the only father and son pair both to have won the Formula One World Championship. Graham's grandson Josh, Damon's son, is also a racing driver.

Graham Hill died when the aeroplane he was piloting crashed in foggy conditions near Arkley golf course in North London. Hill and five members of his racing team were returning from car testing at Circuit Paul Ricard in France and due to land at Elstree Airfield. All six were killed.

Biography

Professional history

Hill, who was born in Hampstead, London, served in the Royal Navy as an Engine Room Artificer. After leaving the Navy he re-joined Smiths Instruments. Hill did not pass his driving test until he was 24 years old, and he himself described his first car as "A wreck. A budding racing driver should own such a car, as it teaches delicacy, poise and anticipation, mostly the latter I think!". He had been interested in motorcycles but in 1954 he saw an advertisement for the Universal Motor Racing Club at Brands Hatch offering laps for 5 shillings. He made his debut in a Cooper 500 Formula 3 car and was committed to racing thereafter. Hill joined Team Lotus as a mechanic soon after but quickly talked his way into the cockpit. The Lotus presence in Formula One allowed him to make his debut at the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix, retiring with a halfshaft failure.

In 1967, back at Lotus, Hill helped to develop the Lotus 49 with the new Cosworth-V8 engine. After team mates Jim Clark and Mike Spence were killed in early 1968, Hill led the team, and won his second world championship in 1968. The Lotus had a reputation of being very fragile and dangerous at that time, especially with the new aerodynamic aids which caused similar crashes of Hill and Jochen Rindt at the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix. A crash at the 1969 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen broke his legs and interrupted his career.In 1960, Hill joined BRM, and won the world championship with them in 1962. Hill was also part of the so-called 'British invasion' of drivers and cars in the Indianapolis 500 during the mid-1960s, triumphing there in 1966 in a Lola-Ford.

Upon recovery Hill continued to race in F1 for several more years, but never again with the same level of success. Colin Chapman, believing Hill was a spent force, placed him in Rob Walker's team for 1970, sweetening the deal with one of the brand-new Lotus 72 cars. Although Hill scored points in 1970 he started the season far from fully fit and the 72 was not fully developed until late in the season. Hill moved to Brabham for 1971-2; his last win in Formula One was in the non-Championship International Trophy at Silverstonein 1971 with the "lobster claw" Brabham BT34. But the team was in flux after the retirements of Sir Jack Brabham and then Ron Tauranac's sale to Bernie Ecclestone; Hill did not settle there.

Hill was involved with four films between 1966 and 1974, including appearances in Grand Prix and Caravan to Vaccarès, in which he appeared as a helicopter pilot.Hill was known during the latter part of his career for his wit and became a popular personality - he was a regular guest on television and wrote a notably frank and witty autobiography, Life At The Limit, when recovering from his 1969 accident. Hill was also irreverently immortalized on a Monty Python episode ("It's the Arts (or: Intermission)" sketch called "Historical Impersonations"), in which a Gumby appears asking to "see John the Baptist's impersonation of Graham Hill." The head of St. John the Baptist appears on a silver platter, which runs around the floor making putt-putt noises of a race car engine.

Although Hill had concentrated on F1 he also maintained a presence in sports car racingthroughout his career (including two runs in the Rover-BRM gas turbine car at Le Mans). As his F1 career drew to a close he became part of the Matra sports car team, taking a victory in the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans with Henri Pescarolo. This victory completed the so-called Triple Crown of motorsport which is alternatively defined as winning either:

  • the Indianapolis 500 (won by Hill in 1966), the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1972) and the Monaco Grand Prix (1963, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969), or
  • the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Formula One World Championship (1962, 1968).

Using either definition, Hill is still the only person ever to have accomplished this feat.

With works drives becoming hard to find, Hill set up his own team in 1973: Embassy Hill with sponsorship from Imperial Tobacco. The team used chassis from Shadow and Lola before evolving the Lola into its own design in 1975. After failing to qualify for the 1975 Monaco Grand Prix, where he had won five times, Hill retired from driving to concentrate on running the team and supporting his protege Tony Brise.

Hill's record of 176 Grand Prix starts remained in place for over a decade, being equalled by Jacques Laffite.

Family

Hill married Bette in 1955. Because Hill had spent all his money on his racing career, Bette paid for the wedding. They had two daughters, Brigitte and Samantha, and a son, Damon, who later became Formula One World Champion – the only son of a former world champion to do so.

Death

His funeral was at St Albans Abbey, and he is buried at St Botolphs church in Shenley.In November 1975, returning from the Paul Ricard circuit, France, Hill was killed when the PiperPA 23-250 Turbo-Aztec, registration N6645Y, that he was piloting crashed while attempting to land in foggy conditions near Arkley golf course in North London. The crash also resulted in the deaths of team manager Ray Brimble, mechanics Tony Alcock and Terry Richards, up-and-coming driver Tony Brise and designer Andy Smallman; all from the Embassy Hill team.

After his death, Silverstone village, home to the track of the same name, named a road, Graham Hill, after him. Graham Hill Bend at Brands Hatch is also named in his honour. A blue plaque commemorates Hill at 32 Parkside, in Mill Hill, London NW7.