It’s Been Said, Never Meet Your Heroes.
But that has not been the case for me when it came to meeting two of my motor sports heroes: Phil Hill and Steve Walker. I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Hill in 2001 when he was the celebrity guest host on a vacation I scheduled through Grand Prix Tours to Italy. The trip was a combination of two parts. The first was a guided tour of the Alfa, Lamborghini and Ferrari factories along with tours of private collections in the area. The second part included tickets to the Formula 1 race at Monza with accommodations at the Villa De Este.
(My favorite photo of Phil after he won the Italian Grand Prix on September 10th, 1960)
The unfortunate thing about the trip is that it was during 9/11. It was surreal to see my home country under attack and lives lost while watching TV from my hotel room. However, it was amazing to see so many flags flying when I returned home.
Looking back at the trip that took place almost 20 years ago, the most memorable time for me was spending time with Phil at the Ferrari factory. After the scheduled group lunch, Phil and I went to the Ferrari gift shop where I bought posters, books and a model of a blue #24 1962 Ferrari GTO. Phil said he raced the actual car back in the day. I asked Phil, “If I buy it, will you sign the hood?” After Phil autographed it, the store manager decided not to sell it to me! When I told Phil, he quickly went behind the counter, grabbed the model from the manager, and handed it to me. It must be nice to be king.
(Phil Hill at Sebring in the real Ferrari GTO #24 finishing 2nd on 3.24.1962: Photo by Dave Nicholas, Maranello-Literature & Graham L. Smith)
(My well-fought, prized possession. The autographed Carlo Brianza 1/14 Ferrari 250GTO)
We later returned to the hotel bar area where Phil and I flipped through Alexander and Klemantaski photographs. Phil went into detail about smoking in pit lane and no seat belts, that is until Monza’s high banks pulled drivers out of their seats. The thinking at the time was that it was better to be thrown than burned alive. No argument there. I still enjoy reading the books and smiling where Phil wrote his comments. And the GTO model, well it is placed on the mantle in my home office.
(Phil writes in one of the books I bought from the Ferrari gift/bookstore: “This is the straight towards Eau Rouge”)
As mentioned earlier, the other hero of mine is Steve Walker. I first met Steve and his wife Mary in the paddock at COTA in 2018. Steve is a well-respected racer and collector of the finest vintage BMW race cars on the planet. Mary is equally talented behind the lens of her cameras. You can find her shooting film at his races and their videos can be found on YouTube at NeueKlasseGuy. There you will find professionally edited videos with just the right amount of upbeat music matched to the sounds of high revving engines.
When I said Steve is a well-respected racer and collector, I was not just paying lip service. Steve owns the 1976 BMW CSL Luigi Chassis 001 that was campaigned by Hans Stuck, along with the following cars:
(1976 BMW CSL Luigi Chassis 001)
(The Hyde Park #34 BMW 2002 with Trans-Am history)
(The GS Tuning BMW 2002)
(and until recently, this BMW 1800 Ti racecar.)
(Other notable current and former race cars of Steve’s include a BMW 315 Willis Special Chassis, the 700 Sport seen below exiting the corkscrew at Laguna Seca)
(and the 1986 Asahi Kiko E30 M3 to the far right.)
As I mentioned, Steve is a well-respected race car driver because he is consistently on the podium at the end of a weekend of racing. For me, in addition to his collection, it is his soft-spoken personality and humbleness combined with a wealth of knowledge for vintage BMW race cars that makes him one of my heroes. The race car we are featuring in this YouTube video is the GS Tuning BMW 2002. The vintage racecar is beautiful, and the history is amazing.
(Great photo of Steve and Mary in pit lane at Laguna Seca Raceway)