Died: 16.4. 93
Started racing: 1960
1979 – F3 European Champion
1980 – F3 European Champion; F3 World Champion
1981 – F3 World Champion
1982 – Winner Bristol Grand Prix (Formula Grand prix, ON); 2nd overall in Fonda 2 litre World Series
1983 – Overall winner Paris six-
1984 – Formula Grand Prix World Champion
1985 – Formula Grand Prix World Champion; joint winner of Harmsworth Trophy
1990 – F1 World Champion
1993 – John died during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix -
Above: John Hill, circa 1965, driving one of the early Bristol hulls with a 35hp Mercury at Fairford.
Obituary: John Hill
DAVID PARKINSON – The Independent
Wednesday, 28 April 1993
John Peter Hill, powerboat driver and sign-
John Hill was one of the world's greatest powerboat drivers and certainly one of the most experienced, in a career that spanned more than three decades. He was unique in having won world championships in the three main categories: Formula Three, Formula Grand Prix and Formula One. He died in an accident while racing in the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix.
At the age of 59 Hill was the fittest and most astute man any of us in the sport had seen. Hill enjoyed consistently demonstrating his supreme ability to beat leading drivers half his age. As recently as last year he came joint second in the World Formula One Championship which he had won the previous year. He achieved this against more than 50 drivers from 11 countries racing in three continents. The Formula One boats virtually fly over the water at speeds of over 130mph. In this sport it is experience in controlling these high-
Hill was a skilled sign-
His immense talent linked to this professionalism soon took him from monohull racing to international Formula Three racing and in 1979-
When Formula Grand Prix became Formula One, the battle around the world continued, and Hill won his Formula One World title at the final round in Singapore in 1990.
Hill was a dignified ambassador for his sport. He competed as far afield as the United States, Thailand, South Africa and Russia. And wherever he raced he was the man to beat.
Below: John, the 1965 British Champion with his trophies.
The following is taken from articles in Powerboat 85 and Powerboat 86 Yearbooks.
‘Powerboat racing was a much more physical sport when I started. We’d think nothing of slamming into each other all round the course!’ John Hill, Formula Grand Prix World Champion, was talking about his early racing days, twenty five years ago; the days of home-
That scenario bore little resemblance to the keyed-
Hill has been racing for longer than he cares to think about. ‘I can remember everybody starting, people like Molinari – he was a slim lad in those days!’ But asking Hill about his first experiences in racing takes him even further back than that. ‘I used to race in the days when we were two in a boat, and then we raced in flat bottom single seaters and had to lean over the side when we turning to keep the balance. One of my first boats was a Bristol,’ explained Hill, ‘called Sheeza-
Charlie Sheppard gave John his first ‘works drive’. ‘And that was before Charlie had a beard,’ pointed out Hill, ‘that’s how long ago it was!’ Sheppard gave the young driver a hull and Hill put a deck on it. He also drove for Bill Shakespeare and Norman Fletcher, both founders of large commercial boat building enterprises.
Already armed with a formidable winning reputation, the Englishman switched to catamarans the same year they began to invade the racing scene, in 1965. ‘My first one was a brand new Schultz from America, without powertrim or anything like that! Then I started racing for Norman Fletcher,’ Hill continued, ‘and he adapted powertrim for race boats. I had one of the first ones on an OI class boat he built and I took it to Holland to race. Everyone looked at the two buttons mounted on the deck and said it would never work! I had to put my hand over the side and press one of the two buttons marked ‘In’ and ‘Out’. I didn’t know how to work the damn things but I won the race and everyone wanted powertrim! ?
Other than the occasional supply of boats from manufacturers, Hill supported his racing from his own pocket. ‘Even later on when I joined OE (Formula 3) and got some sponsorship, it was never enough and I certainly never made any money out of it. I’ve had to work a lot of hours to go boat racing.’ John Hill is best known for his stint of over ten years in Formula 3. ‘When the first boats came out for OE (850 cc sports class), I knew we had a boat that was capable of going 100 mph, but a lot of people didn’t think so. I felt it was the class for me, and I think I’ve had some of my best racing in Formula 3. And it is still the best class for any driver who is serious about racing, to get some good groundwork. It takes skill to ‘propride’ an OE and keep it balanced.’
Not even having time to practice before his first race, Hill took delivery of a Mercury two litre for his Burgess catamaran, bolted it on and drove to Milan, to come second behind Michael Werner. ‘It felt like old times!’ joked the driver, ‘Werner and I had been scrapping for many years in Formula 3, and he had moved on to ON the year before I did – now here we are fighting the same old battles!’ indeed, although he is quick to point out that there are many talented competitors in the class, Hill feels the only persistent competition in the past couple of years in Formula Grand Prix has been from Werner. ‘He and I have discovered that it is possible to ‘hang’ a Formula Grand Prix boat as loose as a Formula 3, to trim as high and still maintain control,’ suggested Hill, ‘and that is keeping us out in front.’
If, after ten years he had done it all in Formula 3, has John Hill not achieved all he set out to do in Formula Grand Prix in just three years? ‘I still thoroughly enjoy the racing,’ insisted Hill, ‘but there is obviously one other thing I would like to do, and that’s have a crack at Molinari and van der Velden. I’ve raced against them many times in the past in OE and ON, but it is tempting to get into Formula 1. And,’ John pointed out, ‘if a driver is not thinking that way he shouldn’t be racing. It is the obvious ultimate goal in a racing career.’
There is one fundamental problem to Hill’s ambition – money. ‘I’m not sure I’d be able to do Formula Grand Prix in 1985,’ he admitted, ‘if sponsorship doesn’t pick up.’ But this he felt was another reason to move on to Formula 1. ‘Prize money is considerably better, and if the only way I can go racing is by winning the money to plough back into the team, then Formula 1 has to be the way to go.’
Hill continued to race in Formula Grand Prix during the 1985 season. He won four Grands Prix and successfully defended his claim on the Formula Grand Prix world Championship. But the fifty-
Despite the shortage of funds, there is no doubt that the Gloucestershire signwriter throws his body and soul into his chosen sport. ‘I live to race. I work in order to be able to go racing, and all spare hours are used for testing and setting-
Does he ever worry about the safety aspect? ‘It’s always at the back of my mind,’ admitted Hill. ‘I’ve seen the sport claim the lives of a lot of friends over the years. And I learned my lesson earlier on this season, when I was testing in Chasewater, going flat-
Above: Four photos of John racing in the early days. (locations, year and photo credit needed).
Above. Year and location needed.
Opposite. Year and location needed (possibly Bristol). Is it John's son, Steve, kneeling on sponson?
Below. Lignano, Italy, 1984. John, pushing ahead of Jonathan Jones (27) and Bertil Wik (3). (photo credit needed).
Above: Date and location needed.
Below left: Chalon, France 1992. (Photo credit needed)
Below right: John using his trade skill to add a sponsor's name to the boat. Johannesburg, 1985. (Photo credit needed)
Above: 1984. Photo by Norman Lomax. (Location needed)
Below: London Victoria Docks, 1985. (Photo credit needed)
Below: Milan, 1990. Off the start. Jonathan Jones (1), Fabrizio Bocca (57), John Hill (52), Thomas Erikkson (6) and Tadaaki Ishikawa (16). Run on the Idroscalo, Milan, this was one of the most incident packed races of the 1990 season. (Photo credit needed)
Above: Singapore, 1990 and John with the Waterford Crystal UIM F1 Trophy.