American racing legend Phil Hill has died

Motor racing legend and the only American-born Formula One world champion Phil Hill has died tonight in a California hospital due to complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 81 years old

Phil Hill won the world championship driving for Ferrari in 1961, becoming the first American to do so, later to be followed only by Mario Andretti. But Hill remains to date the only native-born American to win the title.

Phil Hill: Made in America (part I)
Phil Hill: Made in America (part II)
Photo gallery: Phil Hill, 1927-2008

"It's a sad day," Carroll Shelby, a close friend of Hill's, told the LA Times. "Phil was an excellent race car driver with a unique feel for the car, and his real expertise was in long-distance racing."

Hill was born in Miami, Florida, on April 20th 1927. His family soon moved to Santa Monica, California, and the state would become his American home for most of his life.

He studied business administration in university, but never finished his degree, getting drawn into the world of motor racing initially as a mechanic.

In 1958, he made his debut with Ferrari in Formula One, also taking his first Le Mans win - also in a Ferrari.

Of his 48 Grand Prix starts in F1, Hill won three. He also had an illustrious career in endurance racing, having won the Le Mans 24 Hours also three times. He retired from active racing in 1967. Hill was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991.

After hanging up his helmet, Hill continued his involvement in the motor racing world through long-running work for Road & Track magazine, and as tour host with Grand Prix Tours. He continued going to Formula One races several times a year and was a regular and much loved face in the paddock.

He was a great story-teller, always a gentleman, and much admired and respected in the motor racing world. He is survived by his wife Alma, son Derek, daughters Vanessa and Jennifer, and four grandchildren.

He will be missed.

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