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Richie Ginther

2021-03-10 23:00

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Richie Ginther

Paul Richard Ginther was born on August 5, 1930 in Granada Hills, United States. The young Richie, after completing his studies, like his father is hi

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Paul Richard Ginther was born on August 5, 1930 in Granada Hills, United States. The young Richie, after completing his studies, like his father is hired by the aviation company Douglas Aircraft. In this period Richie meets a friend of Phil Hill's brother, and a great bond is immediately established between the two; in particular when Richie begins to take care of his compatriot's car fleet, who in the meantime is starting his racing career. The friendship with Hill pushes Ginther to try to follow the same path: and so, on May 23, 1951 he disputes his first career race in the SCCA Nation Pebble Beach Cup. In this first appearance Richie is thirty-third, while he is third in the second heat. His dream of becoming a professional pilot is met with a two-year hiatus, as he is called to perform military service during the Korean War. But even in this period Richie cannot stay away from his great passion, dealing with engines and aircraft mechanics.

 

Back home, the young American immediately receives an interesting offer: Hill offers him to become his co-driver and mechanic in the Carrera Panamericana, and Richie accepts. The duo immediately obtained good results fighting for the top positions of the standings, but a mistake by Hill, who lost control of the car, saw them protagonists of a bad accident. The English couple redeem themselves the following year by finishing the Carrera in second place, behind Maglioli's Ferrari. Stimulated by this experience, Ginther returns to be a driver behind the wheel of an Austin-Healey which he himself has prepared, achieving good results.

 

At the SCCA Nation Pebble Beach Cup he is fifth, and a few weeks later he crosses the finish line twelfth at the SCCA National Bakersfield. These performances are noted by John Neumann, who gives him the opportunity in the last two races of the season to run the 6 Hours of Torrey Pines with the Porsche, finishing it in ninth place, and the SCCA National Glendale with Ferrari, finishing seventh. On March 18, 1956 came his first career victory in the Stockholm 4 Hours at the wheel of the Porsche 550, and two months later he repeats himself by finishing second in the Bakersfield race.

 

The months pass, and Ginther wins his second success at SCCA National Eagle Mountain, on June 3, 1956. The season will consecrate him as a professional rider with second place at Buchanan Field on July 1, 1956, and victories at Santa Maria and Paramount Ranch. on July 8 and July 19, 1956. After seventh place in Santa Barbara and fourth in the 4 Hours of Road America, in Sacramento on September 30, 1956 he won second place behind the wheel of the Ferrari 500 Mondial.

 

On November 4, 1956, he closed the SCCA National Palm Springs in third place with a Porsche 550, while in the final of the season he returned to drive a Ferrari in the Government's Trophy finishing sixth, and in the Nassau Trophy closed in 39th position. The American also started the 1957 racing season well: in the first race in Pomona, on January 20, 1957, he immediately took the podium finishing second aboard an Aston Martin, before repeating himself at Paramouth Ranch crossing the finish line in third position.

 

On March 23, 1957 Richie made his debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring, finishing it in tenth place at the wheel of the Ferrari 500 TRC, while on April 7, 1957, he finished third in Palm Springs with an Aston Martin and on May 19 he obtained the same satisfaction in Santa Barbara at on board a Porsche. These performances prompted the Los Amigos team to hire him to participate in one of the most important races in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans: paired with Picard, during the thirteenth hour a problem with the water pump of the Ferrari 500 TRC number 29 forces him to retire.

 

Upon returning to the USA, Richie took little to re-establish the hierarchy and get back on the podium: on July 28, 1957, in Pomona he was third, then he triumphed at the 6 Hours of Cotati and finished second at the finish line at Santa Barbara with Ferrari. The excellent year continues with another success at Riverside on September 22, 1957, and with second positions at Hourglass Field and again in Pomona. Still aboard Ferrari, after finishing sixth at SCCA National Palm Springs and fifth at SCCA National Laguna Seca and SCCA National Riverside, Ginther crosses the finish line in second position at the Nassau Tourist Trophy and in the last race of the year at the Nassau Memorial Trophy.

 

The 1958 season also began in a great way: Richie, aboard a Ferrari 500 TR, triumphs in Pomona on February 9, 1958, and a month later he repeats himself at the SCCA Regional Phoenix. After trying his luck again at the 12 Hours of Sebring aboard a Ferrari 250 TR of the team of John von Neumann without being successful, he conquers another triumph at the SCCA Regional Palm Spring and a third place at the second Annual International Hawaii Speed ​​Week.

 

He also achieved the same result in Santa Barbara, while at the SCCA Regional Laguna Seca and Riverside, at the wheel of the Ferrari 250, he won two consecutive victories. Ginther is again protagonist at the SCCA Regional Minden and at the tenth edition of the Santa Barbara Road Races, closed respectively in third and second place, and then concludes the season with a fifth place at Usac Riverside, and a second and third place at the SCCA Regional Laguna Seca and Pomona. The 1959 season also starts in a great way for Ginther, given that on February 1st the American driver wins in Ponoma with a Ferrari 335 Sport, and on March 21st he arrives ninth in the 12 Hours of Sebring - paired with Hively - aboard a Ferrari 250 GT California of the official team.

 

Richie returns to victory at Lago de Guadalupe, Hourglass Field and Usac Riverside, but in the final of the season will face a decline in performance. Ginther seems to be able to cancel this final bad season at the beginning of 1960 with second place in the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires, held on January 31st aboard the Ferrari TR 59 of the factory team, but on March 26th he runs into further dissatisfaction with regard to the 12 Hours of Sebring is forced to retire with the NART team. The US driver has no better luck at the Targa Florio, the 1000 Kilometers Nurburgring, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite all of these being raced with the official Scuderia Ferrari cars.

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However, Enzo Ferrari grants him the opportunity to race the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, which takes place on May 29, 1960: at the wheel of the 246 F1 Richie is ninth in qualifying, but gets an excellent sixth place in the race, and the first point in the drivers' classification. Given the encouraging result, Ferrari reconfirms him for the Dutch Grand Prix. on June 7, 1960, after still preceding his friend Phil Hill in qualifying, he was sixth again in the race behind the Ferrari of Von Trips' teammate. After these two experiences aboard Ferrari, Richie races the French Grand Prix with the Scarab, but will not be able to repeat the performances obtained with the Prancing Horse car: in qualifying he is only twentieth and will not participate in the race due to a problem to the engine.

 

On September 4, 1960, the American returned to drive for Ferrari, with much more satisfactions: in fact, Ginther completed the front row alongside Hill and Mairesse, and in the race he won the first podium in Formula 1 thanks to second place. A result that allows him to close the world championship in ninth place in the drivers' standings with eight points. After his commitments in the circus, Richie returns to the United States to compete in some races with Sports cars, but the season will close with a retirement at the 200 Miglia di Riverside and at the Usac Laguna Seca.

 

Ginther will make a comeback at the beginning of 1961, dispelling the taboo with the 12 Hours of Sebring: in the edition held on March 25, 1961, he finally reaches the finish line aboard a Ferrari 250 TRI of the official team, finishing second together with Baghetti, Mairesse and Von Trips. And once back in Europe, at the Monaco Grand Prix, Richie immediately finds the feeling with the 156 F1 and marks the second time in practice, two tenths from poleman Moss. In the race he is the only one to keep up with the Lotus driver, but crosses the line more than three seconds behind the Englishman.

 

In Holland, on the complex circuit of Zandvoort, Ginther qualifies in third place, but in the race he does not go beyond fifth position. Having to redeem also the unfortunate result obtained at the Targa Florio, on May 28, 1961, the American took an encouraging third place at the 1000 kilometers of the Nurburgring, where he drove the Dino 246 SP. He will get the same result at the Belgian Grand Prix, on June 18, 1961, at the Spa circuit, once again redeeming an unfortunate result collected during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bad luck also hit him at the French Grand Prix, where on Sunday 2 July 1961 he started from the front row but an oil pressure problem forced him to retire. At Silverstone in qualifying Ghinter records the same time as Phil Hill, who, however, having scored it first, wins pole, but the two friends will be mocked by von Trips in the race; for the American, however, there is the satisfaction of being able to take third place in the final.

 

In Germany, on the other hand, he is the protagonist of a negative weekend, since in qualifying he is only fourteenth and in the race, despite recovering six positions, he is only eighth. A disappointment that is also reflected at the end of the last seasonal Grand Prix held by Ferrari, on the Italian circuit of Monza. Richie, who started from third position, had to stop on lap 23 due to the engine failure of his 156. Although Ginther closed the world championship with a race to spare, and with the sixteen points collected he secured the fifth place overall in the standings, at the end of the season he accepts the offer from the British team British Racing Motors. But the choice will prove happy on and off. The 1962 vintage did not start in the best way: in the Netherlands he was seventh at the end of qualifying, while in the race, during the seventy-first lap, he was involved in an accident.

 

Even in Monaco he is unable to repeat the performance of the previous year, as he closes qualifying fourteenth, and in the race a problem with the accelerator immediately forces him to retire. His first placement arrives in Belgium on June 17, 1962, as the car does not show serious reliability problems and allows him to reach the finish line only in thirteenth position. A new disappointment comes during participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will compete with Aston Martin paired with friend Graham Hill: during the ninth hour, the two are forced to abandon the race. Then, on July 8, 1962, finally the turning point: despite having started tenth, in France Richie managed to recover and conquer third place and the first podium of the season.

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And after having collected a thirteenth place in Great Britain and an eighth place in Germany, the American once again managed to take away the satisfaction of the podium on the very fast Monza circuit. In qualifying Richie is third, while in the race he completes the B.R.M. double by finishing second, behind his teammate Graham Hill. Ginther seems to be able to repeat himself in the home race, in the United States, but the failure of the engine will force him to retire during the thirty-fifth lap, while in South Africa he will not be able to be the protagonist and will close the race in seventh place. The BRM driver closes the championship in eighth place, with ten points in the drivers' classification. The good championship finale convinces Richard to continue his experience with the British team also for the 1963 season.

 

However, before the new championship begins, the American runs the 12 Hours of Sebring with the Rosebud Racing Team, and on board a Ferrari 250 GTO he finishes the test in sixth place. On May 26, 1963, Richie started off on the right foot: starting from fourth position, the American gave life to a great duel with Graham Hill and crossed the finish line in second place, repeating the result obtained in 1961.

 

At Spa Richie seems forced to repeat the alternating performances of 1962; however, despite having obtained the ninth time in qualifying, in the race he manages to recover ground and finish in fourth place. The championship continued with a fifth place in the Netherlands, while in France a radiator failure forced him to park the P57 along the track during the fourth lap. In Great Britain, Ginther seems destined to have another difficult weekend, but thanks to a good comeback he closes fourth behind his teammate Graham Hill.

 

Richie returns to the podium in Germany, reaching the finish line in third place, and a few weeks later he repeats himself in the Italian Grand Prix, where in qualifying he marks the fourth time, and in the race he is the only one not to be lapped by Clark. closing second. Then, on the Watkins Glen circuit he starts fourth again and completes the B.R.M. double passing under the checkered flag second, preceded by his teammate Graham Hill by thirty-four seconds. The excellent moment continues in Mexico, where Ginther wins the fourth consecutive podium finishing third while in the last race of the season, held in South Africa, he sees the possibility of graduating as vice World Champion fade due to a transmission problem that during the fortieth lap forces him to retire. Richard closes the 1963 season in third position.

 

Pending the start of the new Formula 1 Championship, like the previous year, Ginther returns to the USA and participates in the 12 Hours of Sebring. But if in this circumstance he does not go beyond the 36th position, at the wheel of a Porsche 504 he is fifth in the 1000 kilometers of the Nurburgring. In Monaco, on May 10, 1964, the American once again confirmed that he was one of the best interpreters of the Principality's streets: despite the Monegasque circuit being one of the most difficult in the world to overcome, he recovered six positions from the start and conquered the first podium of the season. finishing second to the finish.

 

The rest of the season, however, will give the B.R.M. driver few emotions: eleventh in the Netherlands, fourth in Belgium, fifth in France, eighth in Great Britain, seventh in Germany. The ransom arrives in Austria. After finishing the official tests in fifth place, on Sunday August 23, 1964, he crossed the finish line behind Bandini, finishing second as in Monte Carlo and postponing an appointment with the victory in Formula 1 that seems to never want to finish.

 

The championship ends with a fourth place in Monza, behind Bandini again, and in Watkins Glen, while in Mexico he will close the world championship by arriving eighth at the finish. In the following months Ginther decides to leave B.R.M. to marry the Honda project, which in 1965 entrusted him with the task of developing the RA272. The season begins immediately on the right foot and at the 2000 km of Daytona he climbs on the lowest step of the podium, while at the 12 Hours of Sebring he does not reach the finish line. Having skipped the first race in South Africa, Richie made his debut with Honda in one of his favorite tracks, in Monte Carlo, on May 30, 1965. Here, however, at first he did not go beyond the last position in qualifying, and then he retires during the seventeenth lap due to the broken axle shaft.

 

But the American proves, on the occasion of the Belgian Grand Prix, that he just needed to get familiar with the car. Thus, in qualifying he marks the fourth fastest time in qualifying, and in the race - despite losing two positions - he passes the finish line sixth, behind his former teammate Graham Hill, gaining the first point in the drivers' standings. In France and England, the reliability problems of the Japanese car will affect the performance of Richie, who at the Clermont-Ferrand and Silverstone circuit will be betrayed by faults in the ignition and injection systems.

 

At Zandvoort, on July 18th, the US driver collects his second place of the year: in official tests he is again third as at Silverstone, and the following day he is sixth again. Ginther and Honda decide to skip the German Grand Prix, but in Monza a new problem with the ignition system forces him to get out of the car during the seventeenth lap. The American seems to be able to erase the disappointment for the poor results obtained so far at the United States Grand Prix, raced at Watkins Glen. But after scoring an encouraging third time in qualifying, just fifteen thousandths from Graham Hill, he finished in seventh place in the race, one lap behind his teammate.

 

Richie redeems himself in the last race of the world championship in Mexico, where he will finally get the best result of his career in Formula 1. On the Mexican circuit, Ginther is again third in qualifying, but in the race he will finally be able to fight for the top positions until from the start, and taking advantage of the accident between Bandini and Pedro Rodriguez he climbed the top step of the podium for the first time, winning the first victory for Honda. With that result Ginther will close the championship in seventh place in the drivers' standings, with eleven points.

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The joy for this success will not last long, as Honda will decide to play only a few races in Japan at the moment, preferring not to take part in the first races of the Formula 1 World Championship. Given the exceptional results, Ginther didn't take long to find another team to race with in the 1966 championship, and accepted Cooper's offer to race the first two races of the World Championship. The season, however, did not start in the best way: on the streets of Monte Carlo, a transmission problem forced him to retire. It didn't take long for Richie to forget his unhappy debut with the Cooper, as he finished third at the 1000km Nurburgring at the wheel of the Ferrari Dino 206 S.

 

On June 12, 1966, in Spa, Richie redeems himself from the unhappy race in Monte Carlo, finishing fifth at the finish line, winning the first two points of the season in the drivers' standings. Once these commitments are over, Richie will have to wait for the return of Honda to be able to compete in the last three Grands Prix with the RA273. At Monza, at the beginning of the race, the American driver manages to stay in the top positions, until during the seventeenth lap he loses control of the car and is the protagonist of a very bad accident, which at first leads to fear of the worst. Although the broken collarbone suggests a long stop, Ginther recovers in time and goes to the United States Grand Prix, where he is the protagonist of another good qualifying, but is forced to retire again.

 

The American redeems himself exactly where the previous year he had obtained his first victory with Honda. In Mexico, in fact, Richie starts from the third place on the grid, and reaches the finish line fourth, finishing the world championship in eleventh place in the drivers' standings with five points. At the end of the season, once again the relationship with Honda is interrupted. Richie returns, as usual, to the United States, and on February 5th he disputes the 24 Hours of Daytona. As on other occasions, the American will be forced to retire. Back in Europe, on May 7th he participates in the Monaco Grand Prix as a customer with an Eagle, but will not be able to qualify and therefore to line up on the starting grid. This becomes his last appearance in the circus.

 

The American driver will return to the world of motors by organizing his own team for the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans, making a Porsche 911 S available to Johnson and Forbes-Robinson, which, however, will not reach the finish line. This episode also represents his last appearance in the world of motors. On September 20, 1989, Richie Ginther dies due to a heart attack. Even today the American driver is remembered for his ability to have been an excellent co-driver for his friend Phil Hill, but it must be emphasized that thanks to the excellent performance provided on the US circuits, Richie was able to take away the satisfaction of making his debut in Formula 1 with the most important team in the world, Ferrari.

 

Massimiliano Amato

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