In the late 1950s and early 1960s the best endurance racing pair were American Phil Hill and Belgian Olivier Gendebien, here just after the finish of the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 25, 1961. They drove a Ferrari 250TRI/61, the same Ferrari model, although a different car, that they would use three months later to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Hill had an early history driving Ferrari sports cars in the U.S. He had graduated to driving sports cars for Scuderia Ferrari beginning at Le Mans in 1955 and had joined their F1 team in 1958 after the deaths of Luigi Musso and Peter Collins. He would continue to drive sports and F1 cars for the Ferrari works team through 1962. His international racing career slowed down after he left Ferrari, following the “palace revolt” at the end of 1962 when he joined Carlo Chiti’s ATS F1 team. However, Hill’s last race was a win at the 6 Hours of Brands Hatch driving a Chaparral 2F with Mike Spence.
Olivier Gendebien got early endurance experience as a rally driver, as well as in the Mille Miglia, often being navigated by his cousin Jacques Wascher. He also got his first Ferrari sports car assignment in 1955 at the Tourist Trophy in Ireland but suffered injuries in a practice accident. He continued to drive for Scuderia Ferrari in sports car races until he retired after winning Le Mans in 1962. He also drove for Ferrari and some other teams in selected F1 races. He was particularly effective at his home circuit of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
The Hill and Gendebien pairing was especially effective at Le Mans where they won the 24 Hour race three times in 1958, 1961 and 1962. Gendebien, driving with his countryman Paul Frère, also won Le Mans in 1960. The Hill/Gendebien team also won the Nurburgring 1000 Km. in 1962 and finished second at Sebring that year. Often they drove separate sports cars for Ferrari in major races, usually placing in the top three at the finish. They were true endurance experts.
Photo by Chuck Rogers ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcol.com