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RACING AROUND CALIFORNIA’S Monterey Peninsula began formally in November 1950, with Road and Track, January 1951, reporting on the Pebble Beach Road Races. Here in Part 2, a young fellow named Hill displays his driving talents, with pit-crew encouragements from a pal named Ginther.
Phil Hill’s Commentary. Phil drove an XK-120 Jaguar to victory in the 25-lap/45-mile Pebble Beach Cup Race. What’s more, he shared notes with Road and Track about his Pebble Beach activities.
Phil recounted, “Dick Ginther (who was to manage the pit) and I arrived at Pebble Beach Saturday afternoon.” If the name Ginther sounds familiar, link it to his given moniker Richie. A racing pal, Richie was later to join Phil on Ferrari’s Grand Prix team 1960-1961 and to share second ranking with him in the 1963 Drivers’ World Championship (Jim Clark’s first). Ginther had his sole Grand Prix win in a Honda (the marque’s first) at the Mexican Grand Prix in 1965.
Ginther’s pit signals to Phil at Pebble are part of the tale: Phil got off the line with a push start, running last by 300 feet. But by lap three, Phil noted, “I was in third place. I now decided to go all out and managed to take first position on the next lap. By this time, my brakes were all but gone and the overworked gearbox was forced to do most of the decelerating.”
“As I went by the pits, Rich showed a blackboard with ‘Long Lead’ on it. I misread this to mean that a driver by the name of Long was leading and immediately put on more speed in an effort to close the mythical gap.”
“Next lap,” Phil said, “Rich flashed a blackboard with ‘One’ on it and I thought, thank God, only one lap to go! Actually, this was to show my position and at this time only 18 laps had been run. Each time around I looked for the finish flag, and those last 7 laps seemed like 50. Finally, I received the checkered flag… still not certain as to my finishing position…”
Road and Track’s Prediction. In “The Motor Enthusiasts’ Magazine” editorial, January 1951, Road and Track wrote, “Of all sports car road races in the West, Pebble Beach offers the greatest promise for the future…. The scenic grandeur of Monterey Peninsula, with twisting, climbing roads cutting sunlit canyons in the tall trees, is a perfect setting for such an event…. With improvements, the second annual Pebble Beach race might well be on its way toward becoming a real Grand Prix….
Alas, Pebble Beach Road Races proved a deadly venue and, of course, are no more. Seventeen Mile Drive is still there for scenic and historic motoring at a decidedly less frantic pace. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022
While a student at U.C. Berkeley, I was able to attend the 1954 &1955(in an all-day rain!) Pebble Beach races. I missed the 1956 race because my fiancée(soon-to-be-wife) and I were planning our upcoming wedding. So we compensated for that by getting married the last Saturday of August, honeymooning in Santa Barbara and attending the Labor Day weekend SCCA races at the Goleta airport. And just short of my 90th birthday, I am still a turn Marshall at Sonoma Raceway.
I remember the Goleta airport course, and attended the races there several times in the mid-60s.