Racing Legend Phil Hill Dies

September 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Racing legend Phil Hill recently passed away at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula at 81 years of age due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. The celebrated octogenarian was the first and only US born racing driver to ever win the Formula One international auto-racing championships.

Philip Toll Hill was a memorable racing legend who was born on April 20, 1927, in Miami. He was raised in Santa Monica and started to develop his passion for cars from an early age. At just 12 years of age, he started to drive a Model T Ford that his aunt bought him on the private roads in Santa Monica Canyon. Cars were clearly a life-long obsession for him – one that stood him in good stead in future years. Hill started out his automobile career as a mechanic, but by the mid-1950s he found himself behind the steering wheel in Santa Ana. From there he went on to race in Pebble Beach, Mexico and even Europe. After his long but brilliant journey to the top, he eventually managed to join the Ferrari team and tackle a Ferrari Formula One car. The year was 1958 and it marked the start of the most spectacular leg of an already spectacular career – one which culminated with his earning the Formula One world title for himself.

During his years as a Formula One driver, Hill witnessed many tragic events. Perhaps the most memorable of these was the 1961 Grand Prix in Italy at Monza when German Wolfgang von Trips was killed in a tragic three-car collision that also took the lives of eleven spectators. It must have been a tragic race for Hill since Von Trips was his Ferrari teammate. Nevertheless, Phil Hill managed to enjoy a very successful career without ever suffering a serious injury. He not only won the F1 Championship in 1961, but became a three-time winner of both Le Mans and Sebring. After he retired from competitive racing, he never left his passion and focused on his love of classic cars, pianos and other antique musical instruments. His life as a driver was commemorated in 1991 when he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Hill is survived by his wife, children, step child and grandchildren. He lived a very full life of passion and excitement and will no doubt be remembered fondly by loved ones and fans around the world.

USAC/CRA Sprint Car Debut Race at Calistoga

June 20, 2008 by  
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The Calistoga Speedway at the Napa County Fairgrounds in California will be buzzing with the excitement of auto racing fans and the reverberation of high-powered engines when the USAC/CRA Sprint Cars take to the track on 30-31 August 2008. This will be the first time that USAC/CRA (United States Auto Club/Champion Racing Association) Sprint Cars will be competing on the historic half-mile Calistoga Speedway in a race that is sure to uphold the track’s seventy-one year record for hosting spectacular racing.

The two highly competitive thirty-lap races will pay tribute to the late Louie Vermeil, who died in 1987. This well respected Californian racing legend served as a driving force for the establishment of motor sport in the Napa Valley, being instrumental in the founding of the Northern Auto Racing Club. Vermeil was an expert auto mechanic whose local Owl Garage was an institution in the area for around fifty years. Vermeil built and owned a number of racing cars, as well as playing a significant role in organizing races at the Napa County Fairgrounds. Calistoga’s first race in 1937 had one of Louie Vermeil’s cars in the line-up and he was the American Racing Association’s car owner champion in 1950.

In addition to the USAC/CRA Sprint Car races, the two nights of racing will include the USAC Western Midgets. Although this is the first USAC/CRA Sprint Car race to be held at Calistoga, USAC racing first made its appearance on the track in 1993, with Billy Boat winning a Midget race and going on to notch up four Calistoga triumphs in the following years. Other Midget race winners at Calistoga include Wally Pankratz, Johnny Cofer, Jim Keene and Tony Stewart.

Steve Howard of So-Cal Performance in Downey, California, put forward the idea for the upcoming racing event to serve as a tribute to Louie Vermeil whose sons Stan and Dick Vermeil are contributing tow money for traveling teams, as well as lap prize money.

Calistoga is referred to as “The Hot Springs of the West” and sights to see include an impressive erupting geothermal well, affectionately known as “Old Faithful”, a petrified forest, the superb architecture of the Calistoga City Hall and the fascinating Calistoga Water Truck Sculpture. Auto racing enthusiasts traveling to Napa County for this exciting USAC/CRA Sprint Car event, will have much to see and do when they are not enjoying the excitement at the Calistoga Speedway.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

June 16, 2008 by  
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The Goodwood Festival of Speed, set to take place 11-13 July 2008 in the grounds of Goodwood House, West Sussex, England, is considered by many to be the world’s largest and most diverse tribute to the history of car culture and motor sport, attracting participants and spectators from around the world. Visitors can expect to see everything from 19th century steam carriages through to current Formula One cars.

Racing motorbikes, classic rally cars and dragsters will feature at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Visitors can look out for a number of motor sport legends, including Emerson Fittipaldi, John Surtees, Stirling Moss and Mario Andretti, who will be mingling with the top drivers of today, such as Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Petter Solberg and Fernando Alonso.

A highlight of the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the Hillclimb Competition, with participation by invitation only. This takes place throughout the three-day festival in the grounds of Goodwood House. The start of the almost two kilometer course is in the south of the park near the gate lodge. Participants race along a beautiful tree-lined avenue before turning to pass in front of historical Goodwood House. The trail then climbs a steep and narrow estate road past dense woodland groves, as competitors head toward Goodwood’s horse racing track situated on top of the South Downs. The Hillclimb Competition starts on Friday with free practice sessions with Saturday being the official practice day. Sunday is the timed competition with about 200 vehicles competing. The cars are grouped according to various categories, including Early Cars, Single Seaters, Sports-Racing Cars, Saloon-Based Cars and Motorcycles. With the oldest cars starting first, competitors can participate either in a timed category, or purely as a demonstration run. Competitors complete two runs on Saturday and again on Sunday with each competitor’s fastest time determining the final competition result. When they are not competing, the cars will be parked in four paddocks near Goodwood House for festival-goers to view.

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is also a celebration of the role that the United Kingdom has played in providing a competitive and high-profile environment for world-class manufacturers and riders to honor the British Superbike Championship. One of the largest collections of machinery and riders, past and present stars of the British Superbike Championship, will be showcased at the Festival of Speed.

Rally drivers will put their skills, and their cars, to the test on a 2.5 kilometer loose-surfaced track which has been cut into the wooded area near the Hillclimb finish line. Spectators will have unrestricted access to observe these talented drivers demonstrate some daring rally driving techniques, including sideways driving.

Away from the roar of engines, the Cartier Style et Luxe displays some of the most beautiful and innovative automotive designs to come out of this coveted car design competition. The competition consists of about 50 cars divided into 10 classes, representing motoring history. The judges for the competition are not car experts, but noteworthy personalities from the arts. Judging is done on the basis of the beauty and practicality of the vehicle, taking into account proportion, detail, texture and finish. Judging will take place on Saturday and Sunday with a live jazz band adding to the festive atmosphere.

Certainly, all motor sport enthusiasts would not want to miss the exciting Goodwood Festival of Speed. Tickets will not be available at the gate, so book your tickets now!

Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races Celebrates 35th Anniversary

May 5, 2008 by  
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The Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races will be celebrating its 35th anniversary later this year when it is held at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The event will be presented by Toyota and will be highlighting some of the more memorable events to take place during the course of the race’s history.

Apart from a weekend of highly competitive races, this noteworthy event will be commemorated by saluting a variety of featured marques from the last 34 races. Included in the list will be the Alfa Romeo 8C-2900B Mille Miglia, which was the first marquee to be featured at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Race in 1975. A genuinely impressive antique car, the automobile will be paired up with legendary driver Mario Andretti, who will be the official guest of honor for the weekend. Many see Andretti as a living legend. He won the World Championships in 1978 and went on to become one of the most accomplished drivers in the history of motor sports. He remains the only driver to ever win the Indianapolis, Daytona 500 and F1 World Championship even today. Andretti will not just serve as a historic presence at the races – he will be getting behind the wheel at a number of events during the course of the weekend. This is something that fans can surely look forward to seeing.

According to Steve Earle, the president of General Racing Ltd, who founded and organized the event, the anniversary celebrations will showcase cars such as the 1908 Grand Prix Mercedes and a variety of historic Trans-Am cars. Other features of the event to look forward to include the presentation of past Monterey Cup winners, the Ferrari Historic Challenge and the Toyota “Race of Legends”. Autograph sessions and an improved consumer expo round up the event and ensure that racing fans are able to make the most of their time spent here.

The 35th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Race will take place on 15 to17 August 2008. Why not get your ticket now to make sure that you don’t miss out? The event is sure to be legendary!

Automotive Executive of the Year Award goes to Carroll Shelby

April 21, 2008 by  
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One of the most notable awards in the automotive industry is the Automotive Executive of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award. The award publicly recognizes excellence in automotive leadership from OEM executives and this year Carroll Shelby joined a long list of notable past winners.

Carroll Shelby, a design innovator and racing legend, was presented with the much esteemed award at the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC) on 16 April 2008. Shelby was very pleased to receive the award and he highlighted his partnership with Ford Motor Co. during the course of his acceptance speech. It was Shelby’s collaboration with Ford Motor Co. in recent years that brought about the resurrection of the Ford Shelby GT500KR. The award is sponsored by the AIAG and DNV Certification.

From replies Shelby made to the many questions he received, it is easy to see that he looks to the future of automotive design rather than the past. His passion for his job was clearly evident and he seemed to indicate that Ford and Shelby Automobiles had a number of plans to bring back some of the legendary cars of the past. He also called hybrid technology a ‘stop-gap’ and told the audience that Shelby would never have a hybrid car. He also commented on his belief that America would go on to enjoy a successful future in the automotive industry.

However cars are not the only thing that Shelby is passionate about. Shortly after having a heart transplant almost fifty years ago, Shelby started the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundationâ„¢. The foundation has since provided much needed coronary and renal assistance to disadvantaged children.

Shelby goes on to join a list of excellent Automotive Executive of the Year Award winners. The award was instated in 1964 and has been won by Rick Wagoner, Jim Press, Bill Ford, Roger Smith, Harold E. Poling, Jr., Dieter Zetsche, Lee Iacocca, John DeLorean, Henry Ford II and Robert Eaton. The award ceremony was attended by more than 200 leaders in the automotive industry. Meanwhile, Shelby will not rest on his laurels but instead looks forward to an exciting future in the field.

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