Catch­ing Up With …

Automobile - - Contents - By Rory Jur­necka

Son of F1 le­gend Phil Hill, Derek Hill is a racer, an en­tre­pre­neur, and the Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies for the Peb­ble Beach Con­cours d’El­e­gance.

Last decade, you raced in For­mula 3000 in Europe. What was your ex­pe­ri­ence climb­ing the rac­ing lad­der abroad?

DH: Rac­ing in Europe was as ex­cit­ing and chal­leng­ing as it gets. The mag­nif­i­cent cir­cuits like Spa, Monza, Sil­ver­stone, and Monaco, just to name a few, were sen­sa­tional to drive on. The high­light was rac­ing my first full sea­son of For­mula 3000 with a French team, [paired with] Sébastien Bour­dais, who was in his sec­ond sea­son. If there was ever the ul­ti­mate rac­ing school, I was im­mersed in it. It was so ex­tremely chal­leng­ing and de­manded such a high level of men­tal fo­cus, phys­i­cal fit­ness, and a level of grit I can’t imag­ine I’d have got­ten any­where else.

Your fa­ther was the first Amer­i­can F1 champion. Was that help­ful or bur­den­some to you as an as­pir­ing racer?

DH: Be­ing the son of a world champion opened doors, got con­ver­sa­tions started, and helped me raise the fi­nances I needed to keep climb­ing the ranks. Be­ing the “son of” was the big­gest rea­son I ever be­came a racer, any­way, hav­ing been ex­posed to that world and seeking the thrill and the chal­lenge of it like my fa­ther had done. How­ever, I soon re­al­ized that it’s a far greater ad­van­tage to come from deep fam­ily wealth or cor­po­rate con­nec­tions than be­ing a son of a fa­mous driver. I have zero re­grets how things turned out. I’m just very grate­ful I got to race as much as I did and got to con­tinue on in his­toric rac­ing in a very mean­ing­ful way.

In­sid­eTrack, the book fea­tur­ing Phil’s photography from his rac­ing days, is out now. What does it mean to see that project com­pleted?

DH: In­side Track is truly a beau­ti­ful three-vol­ume work of art. My fa­ther was an ex­cep­tional per­son, and the fact he pur­sued a hobby of photography dur­ing his ca­reer was such a gift, it turns out. We had more than 1,000 images on 35mm color Ko­dachrome to sort through. Thank­fully, the book project started years be­fore he passed away, so he was able to go through each im­age and of­fer up so much de­tail for ev­ery im­age.

That must have re­quired some com­mit­ment …

DH: It took us years to com­pile all the in­ter­views and sort through the fam­ily archive to get all the ac­com­pa­ny­ing let­ters, doc­u­ments, pho­tos, etc., to make it a very thor­ough and com­plete homage to his in­cred­i­ble life as a rac­ing driver. It was a mas­sive team ef­fort [with Doug Nye and Steve Daw­son], and I still can’t be­lieve it’s done.

You’ve been Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies at the Peb­ble Beach Con­cours d’El­e­gance for sev­eral years now; what’s your fa­vorite part of the role?

DH: Peb­ble Beach has been a story weav­ing through my whole life, start­ing as young as I can re­mem­ber. I never even imag­ined be­ing the Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies, but as I con­tin­ued to stay in­volved over the years, it was a po­si­tion that nat­u­rally opened up for me. My fa­vorite part is get­ting to have one of the best seats in the house right in front of the ramp.

It is no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult for a post­war car to win Best of Show at Peb­ble. Do you see that chang­ing over the next decade?

DH: Well, we saw it a cou­ple of years ago, and I don’t doubt we’ll see it again soon. There is just some­thing about the pre­war era that oozes el­e­gance. What we are go­ing through is a tran­si­tion to how we in­ter­pret the word el­e­gance, which is all about peo­ple’s per­cep­tion. As gen­er­a­tions change in the Con­cours world, so do our tastes.

You’re the rare en­thu­si­ast who re­ally embraces both clas­sic and con­tem­po­rary cars. What can de­sign­ers of fu­ture cars learn from vin­tage cars?

DH: The cars of the past are such sen­sory ve­hi­cles—the way they look, drive, feel, and the way they sound. Just like any art form, stylis­tic de­sign in many of the clas­sics was just off the charts. In a world where cars are be­ing built around fuel ef­fi­ciency tar­gets and with all the safety reg­u­la­tions, de­sign­ers only have to look back to the past to find in­spi­ra­tion for the sub­tle styling cues that keep a brand unique and on point. It’s fun to see these sub­tleties in mod­ern cars, like the Bu­gatti Ch­i­ron.

What cars are in your garage?

DH: My fa­ther was a col­lec­tor of early Amer­i­can clas­sics, and we ended up keep­ing a few of them. In fact, two of them, a 1918 Packard Town Car and a 1931 Pierce-Ar­row, have been in our fam­ily since new. I have a di­verse and grow­ing list I’d like to own, in­clud­ing a ’50s Maserati A6GCS, a ’73 Porsche 911 RS, a ’74 BMW 3.0CS, a Se­ries II or III Land Rover, an Alfa Romeo 1750 Ber­lina … this list can go on for an­other page. For now, I’m driv­ing an Alfa Romeo Stelvio, which, for a fam­ily man, fits the bill on many lev­els.

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