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Ferraris and Phil Hill
A couple of weeks ago I received an email inviting me to cover a car club’s special event. This was not just any car club, mind you; this was the Ferrari Owners’ Club (insert oohs and aahs here). Better yet, they would have a very special guest speaker – racing legend Phil Hill.
The name of their event was “A Day & Drive with Phil Hill.” It was to feature a “cavalcade” of Ferraris, motoring from Rancho Santa Fe to the back roads of the Temecula area, and then over to the La Costa Resort for lunch and a narrated slide presentation by Phil Hill. This had all the ingredients for being a seriously fun drive. I decided to leave my economical Toyota Prius at home and take the Miata (painted faux-Ferrari red, of course).
I’ve got to tell you, there is something magical about driving into a gated community in Rancho Santa Fe and seeing pristine Ferraris parked everywhere. What a setting: vast expanses of lush landscaping, luxurious homes, beautiful cars and beautiful people – life just doesn’t get much better than that. I should have listened to my dad and taken business in school. Instead, I write and take photographs. Ah well, there is still time – but I digress.
Rather than risk the uncertainty of waiting until later to snap my photographs in unknown locations and conditions, I decided to capture images of the cars while they were still clean and stationary. Wide shots or close-ups, what to do? Ferraris are gorgeous from all angles. You know how you feel when you’ve eaten too many sweets? That’s what I felt like as I photographed one Ferrari after another. I can only imagine what it must be like to actually drive one.
My contact in the FOC had offered me an interview with legendary driver Phil Hill. What an incredible opportunity that promised to be! As the club’s email had reminded me, Phil is the first and only American-born Formula 1 Champion (“for Ferrari, of course”). I rarely get an opportunity to conduct interviews with celebrities and even when I do I usually pass. I feel like I’m interfering with their enjoyment of the event (it must be my Canadian upbringing). Nevertheless, I do love cars and racing, and this was Phil Hill after all. How could I pass?
I wanted to be as ready for the interview as I could be, so I carefully prepared in advance – composing a long list of questions for Phil, and in a logical progression. My stated plan was to do the interview in a place and at a time when neither of us would be rushed, so that it would be comfortable and relaxed for both of us. Right. Who was I kidding? I was a bundle of nerves.
When it came time for the interview, Phil and I were escorted to a study in the home. To make sure that I would have photos of Phil, I made sure to get them out of the way first. Then I started to ask him my questions. Unfortunately I neglected to take into account the wishes of the other members of the Ferrari club – which was very short-sighted of me, since they were the people who he had come to speak with. I had no choice but to abruptly cut my interview short. Here, then, is my very abbreviated interview of Phil Hill:
AM: “Do you want to talk about the Formula One season to date, what’s going on with Ferrari?”
Phil: “Not much to talk about, they’re having a rough – Ferrari’s having a rough time and I don’t know whether they’re going to get out of it. I hear that Schumacher finished up sixth in first qualifying.”
AM: “I know Toyota took the pole. Any thoughts on why Toyota...”
Phil: “It was Truli.”
AM: “Do you know why they’ve come on so strong this year?”
Phil: “You know, if you throw enough money at something ... that’s all it takes.”
AM: “As the only American-born Formula One Champion to date, why do you think it’s so difficult for Americans to really succeed in Formula One?”
Phil: “I don’t know, I think Americans have a tougher time breaking away from the American lifestyle than most people in the rest of the world have difficulty adapting to other – like Andretti had to have his hamburger every day and stuff like that.”
It was soon time to get behind the wheel and do some spirited driving.
Driving in the midst of these beautiful, high performance Ferraris was a truly wonderful experience. I was glad that my camera came with auto everything, because I just about had my hands full with the driving. It was nice to be able to point my camera in the general direction of the shots and simply press the shutter button as I drove. At some point I also turned on my audio recorder, to capture the glorious sounds of a Ferrari that I was following.
The roads were lightly traveled that day. I grinned as we passed a large number of Audis, obviously on a run similar to ours.
One part of our journey took us through a surreal mist. I felt like I was in heaven.
Alas, our drive eventually had to come to an end. After a delicious buffet lunch at the La Costa Resort, the lights were dimmed and we were treated to a show of Phil’s racing slides – narrated by him, of course. Afterwards, he signed Ferrari memorabilia.
All in all it was a great, memorable day.
Copyright © 2005, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #147r1 AutoMatters
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