» AN EMBASSY TO WORK FROM «

Graham Hill´s famous Grand Prix Team from 1973 to 1975

As so many other Grand Prix drivers before, here only should be mentioned the names of Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, John Surtees, Emerson Fittipaldi and Alain Prost as typical examples not to forget all others, Graham Hill decided to establish a Formula One team of his own and to become a constructor. The Briton once had been Great Britain´s most popular sportsman all over the country for many, many years since he had entered Grand Prix Racing as a Lotus works driver back in 1958. Hill, son of a London broker, had been more a technical, than a driving talent, and he had never denied that fact.

Hill had became world champion for the first time in a B.R.M. giving the Bourne based team the most successful epoque in their history. After 7 years with them, Hill returned to Team Lotus for 1967, partnered by the famous Scot and twice world champion Jim Clark. Meanwhile Graham Hill had won the 500 Miles of Indianapolis in 1966 with a Lola Ford as the second Non-US-American in history - the first one ever also had been Jim Clark the year before. After Clark´s tragic death in a minor Formula 2 event at the beginning of April 1968, Graham Hill took over the number one position at Team Lotus. After a fierce battle against raising star Jackie Stewart in Ken Tyrrell´s Matra Ford, Hill won his second driver´s title in the last round of the championship, the Mexican Grand Prix. After another year at Team Lotus in 1969 with Austrian Jochen Rindt as his team mate, he joined the private Lotus team of Rob Walker for 1970. In autumn 1969 he had to face a very serious accident at the United States Grand Prix held at Watkins Glen, when he had been thrown out of his cockpit because of a puncture to put very heavy fractures to both his legs. His career seemed to be over, recognizing the fact, that he had to be treated with heroin to kill the immense pains. But Hill won the struggle for a quick recovery and in the first round of the 1970, the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, he scored a fine 6th place to receive a championship point in his comeback race.

For 1971 & 1972 Graham Hill joined the Brabham team as the successor of their founder Sir Jack Brabham, who had retired both from active competition and the leadership of his companies to return to his home country Australia. With the Brabham Ford BT34 Hill won the BRDC International Trophy in 1971 and with a Matra MS670 the 24 Hours Endurance Race at French Le Mans in 1972. Until today Graham Hill is the only driver in the entire history of motor racing, having received the triple crown of the Formula One worldchampioship and both the Indianapolis and Le Mans victory. But meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone had bought Brabham and for 1973 he had decided to rely on his young Latin drivers Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi. But Graham Hill did not want to retire from active competition in spite he was already at the age of 44. So he bought a car of new constructor Shadow from the USA to form a team of hisown around. Being now driver and team principal in personal union, Hill saw himself confronted with a lot of new jobs to be done, he first had to learn step by step, and that made him work up to 20 hours a day. The biggest difficulty ever in motor sport is to find a commercial sponsor paying all the bills, a Grand Prix team is confronted with. "So I approached a number of people and firms and spoke to and lunched with lots of board of directors and that´s how, eventually, I came to be with Embassy. As I had been approached to become the ambassador of motor sport to help promote it internationally, it seemed obvious that I ought to have an embassy to work from," wrote Graham Hill in his brilliant autobiography (see Norman Graham Hill).

To get his new team organized, Graham Hill had to leave out the first 3 rounds of the 1973 worldchampionship to enter the scene first at the Spanish Grand Prix held at Barcelona-Montjuich. The futuristic Hill Shadow in his bright white livery with red stripes was the best looking car of the season and was the real contrast to the cars of the works team, who were coloured in black completely because of their title sponsor UOP, a United States oil company. The Shadow Ford DN1 had been designed by Briton Tony Southgate, who had done an excellent job at B.R.M. before. But in contrast to the works team, who scored 9 worldchampionship points in their maiden Grand Prix season getting two fine 3rd places finishes throughout the year, the Embassy team with Graham Hill as the their sole driver was not able to do so. But the main aim of Graham Hill was it, to bring the team, the sponsors and the infrastructure together for future efforts.

For 1974 Graham Hill decided to switch to Lola chassis, because these cars were for exclusive use of the Embassy team, who had to share the car production with the rising works team of UOP Shadow, who were interested to get their own profile first of all. The Lola contract, making the Embassy team quasi a semi-works team, gave them also the chance to bring a second driver to the grid. While the first car of the team still was driven by Graham Hill, the second cockpit was entered by Briton Guy Edwards, who was known as the World Champion in Searching for Sponsors, in the first half of the 1974 Grand Prix season. Englishman Peter Gethin drove the second car only in the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. But when Edwards had failed to qualify for two events, that gave the team the reason for replacing him by Rolf Stommelen. The German had had two promising years with Brabham and Surtees in 1970 and 1971, but after that he had made the mistake to join the newly founded team of his personal sponsor Eifelland, a German caravan manufacturer, that had went bankrupt, before the 1972 season had ended. Stommelen was handed over Edward´s cockpit at the Austrian Grand Prix of Zeltweg also to sign him up for the 1975 season.

Meanwhile Graham Hill had scored the Embassy team´s maiden worldchampionship point bringing his Lola Ford T370 home 6th place at the Swedish Grand Prix of Anderstorp. The Embassy team became bigger and bigger and so a designer of their own was signed a contract with. Only 23 years old Andy Smallman entered the Woking based factory for making the very reliable Lola Fords quicker. The daily management job of the team Graham Hill, not only being the most famous representative of his team, but also for the entire world of motorsport, meanwhile had given to the hands of Ray Brimble. In spite of Graham Hill being the oldest driver at the grid, the Embassy team was the youngest in the business and no doubt the most enthusiastic one giving them an extreme popularity. For the 1975 Grand Prix season the Embassy team´s factory moved from Woking to larger facilities at Feltham. Smallman had constructed the Lola Ford T371, that made it´s debut appearance at the South African Grand Prix, the 3rd round of the championship held as ever at Kyalami, with a promising 7th place of Stommelen. In spite of that, this Grand Prix should be the last one for the T371. The Embassy team had done most of the development work of the Lola Fords and that gave them the reason for not wanting to be a customer´s team any longer. So they decided to establish theirselves as constructors of their own rights and they re-named the cars into Embassy Hill Ford GH1s for the Daily Express International Trophy taking place at Silverstone in April 1975. That was shortly before the first round of the championship on European ground that year, the Spanish Grand Prix once again held at Barcelona-Montjuich, that meant the 2nd anniversary of the Embassy team so far.

Back in 1969 Graham Hill had had a very bad accident at the street circuit of Barcelona, when the rear wings both of his and his team mate Jochen Rindt´s Lotus Ford 49s had collapsed at the fastest part of the track, the little hillock in the left bend ahead of the hairpin, making the cars jump. Hill had remained completely unhurt, Rindt had suffered only under minor injuries. At the 1975 Barcelona Grand Prix weekend nearly endless discussions between the drivers, the constructors and the official both of F.I.A. and the Spanish Royal Automobil Club had spun around the circuit´s safety. The drivers had considered it not safe enough because of a lot loose armco barriers around and they went on a strike for a while. But while the reigning world champion Emerson Fittipaldi had drawn his consequences by flying home to Switzerland, the rest of the grid was forced into their cockpits by threats of both the Spanish organizers and the team representatives. Being 9th on the grid Rolf Stommelen was able to take the lead, after both the Ferrari of Niki Lauda and the then leading Parnelli Ford of Mario Andretti had to retire by collision´s consequences. Stommelen was able to control the field, but in lap 25 the same happened the same place, as it once had done to Hill and Rindt 6 years ago. Stommelen´s car jumped over the barrier to hurt and kill several persons standing there not being permitted to. The driver himself sustained a lot of fractures making him stay out of the business for 4 months. The race was stopped in lap 29 and therefore given half the points for the first 6 positions.

In spite of the fact, the accident of Barcelona had nothing to do with the at that time existing safety discussion the organizers at the other street circuit, that one of Monaco, decided to cut down the field down to 18 starters. Graham Hill, who had decided to stay out of the cockpit at Barcelona for the job of a team principal (the second GH1 had been driven there by Frenchman Francois Migault), returned to active competition for that Grand Prix, he had won five times in the past. But it was a bitter experience for him, that he was only able to score the 21st time for the Embassy team´s single entered car in that Grand Prix. But being a team boss, Graham watched the Formula 3 race of the Monaco Grand Prix, as it was done by most of the other chiefs, very carefully. And he saw a very promising fellow countryman winning this most important F3 event of that year: Tony Brise, only 23 years of age, but already being a university graduate in business administration and the greatest British talent in motor sport for years. Graham Hill had been clever enough, to sign a 2 years contract with him before Monaco, so no rival team boss was able to be faster. Tony Brise very quickly became able to integrate himself into the Embassy team and he scored his first championship point very soon at the Swedish Grand Prix on the Scandinavian Raceway of Anderstorp. For the second cockpit Graham Hill signed up with Australian Alan Jones, a contract, that was only valid until Stommelen´s recovery.

What nobody knew at that time, was, that Graham Hill had decided to declare his retirement from active motor racing very soon. He was 46 years of age, married to Bette for many years and a father of 3 teenage children. The Embassy team was growing and growing and the people all over the world still loved him. At Silverstone´s British Grand Prix, with a lap honour in the spare car, he said good bye to the crowds watching his extraordinary Grand Prix career for 18 years of staying in the business. Now his job should be on the other side of the pit wall and in the next round of the championship, the German Grand Prix at the very demanding Nuerburgring Nordschleife, Alan Jones scored the team´s best result so far, bringing his GH1 home a fine 5th place. Things looked very promising for the future, in spite of the fact, that the title sponsor had to cut the teams budget because of the general economic crises down to a single car entry for 1976. That meant, that Jones and Stommelen, who had given his comeback at the Austrian Grand Prix in Zeltweg, had to leave the team. Everything would be concentrated on Tony Brise. Andy Smallman designed a wonderful knew car named GH2, leaving the Lola evolution completely, to create a lot of own ideas. As they had done the years before, all important Grand Prix teams went testing their new cars over the winter at Paul Ricard in Southern France. So they did the last week in November 1975.

In the morning of Sunday, 30th November, Europe awoke with the horrible news, that everything had been over. Graham Hill, Tony Brise, Andy Smallman, Ray Brimble and two mechanics had been killed in the crash of the Embassy´s team air-plane, when returning from the Circuit Paul Ricard to England. The fog had been extreme, when the Piper Aztec, Graham Hill had bought back in 1966 after winning Indinapolis 500, crashed into a golf course near Hill´s home airport of Elstree on Saturday night.

Embassy Racing with Graham Hill disppeared from the Grand Prix tracks, a part of their equipment was sold to Austro-Canadian oil millionaire Walter Wolf, who formed a new, successful Grand Prix team by a merger of Williams, Hesketh and Hill. The GH2 was never raced and Rolf Stommelen later was killed in Riverside/USA, when the rear wing of his Porsche production car had collapsed in April 1983. But two other members of the Hills of the mid-seventies continued the work of Graham. Alan Jones became world champion in 1980 and Graham´s only son, Damon, also did it in 1996. Both were members of the Williams team and no doubt, one of the best ambassadors, Grand Prix Racing could ever have.

J H

 

Embassy Racing with Graham Hill
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1973

Driver: Graham Hill (GB) Car: Shadow Ford DN1 Best Result: 9th, Hill in Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder

 

1974

Drivers: Graham Hill (GB), Rolf Stommelen (D), Guy Edwards (GB), Peter Gethin (GB) Car: Lola Ford T370 Best Result: 6th, Hill in Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp Points: 1

 

1975

Drivers: Graham Hill (GB), Rolf Stommelen (D), Francois Migault (F), Vern Schuppan (AUS), Tony Brise (GB), Alan Jones (AUS) Cars: Lola Ford T370, Lola Ford T371, Hill Ford GH1 Best Result: 5th, Jones in German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring Points: 3

 

 

Rolf Stommelen (D) / Lola Ford T371 (1975)

 

Tony Brise (GB) / Hill Ford GH2 (1975)

 

Rolf Stommelen

 

GALLERIA EMBASSY HILL

NORMAN GRAHAM HILL

IN MEMORIAM GRAHAM HILL

 

 

 

Text: J H

Creator: project * 2000

 

 

© 2001 by researchracing

 

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