- July 23, 1935
- United States
- Not Active
Jim Hall is an American motorsport legend whose racing career spanned from 1953 to 1970. He recorded eleven Formula One starts between 1960 and 1963, an overall victory at 1965 Sebring 12 hours and many other notable results, but his racing career wasn't so impressive as his contribution to motorsport's history as a team owner and a car builder.
Together with Hap Sharp, Jim Hall was a co-founder of Chaparral Cars, the racing team/manufacturer that brought a revolution into the world of racing. Chaparrals were especially successful in the United States Road Racing Championship and Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am) but also in the CART races, with two Indianapolis 500 wins for Chaparral Racing in 1978 and 1980. The team called Jim Hall Racing was active until 1996 when Hall retired from racing.
Jim Hall started racing career in 1953
Jim Hall made his first racing steps in 1953, entering the SCCA National Sports Car Championship. During the 1950s, he participated in numerous races all over the USA with different cars.
In March 1959, Hap Sharp became his co-driver at Sebring 12 hours, where they were driving Maserati 250S for Carroll Shelby Sports Cars. Next year, they returned to Sebring in Hap Sharp's Cooper Monaco T49, not finishing the race.
Formula One debut at 1960 US Grand Prix
In 1960, Hall mostly competed in SCCA races and in the USAC Road Racing Championship. In November 1960, he debuted in Formula One, participating in the US Grand Prix at Riverside International Raceway. He was driving the #24 Lotus 18-Climax, finishing the race in seventh place, one lap behind winner Stirling Moss.
In 1961, Hall continued with the same program of races. At Sebring 12 hours, he and George Constantine contested in the #22 Ferrari Dino 246 S for North American Racing Team. They finished sixth overall and won the S2.5 class.
In October 1961, Hall recorded his second appearance in the Formula One US Grand Prix. This time, he retired after 76 laps due to a fuel leak on his Lotus.
First experience with Chaparrals in 1961
In 1961, Hall had an opportunity to race with Chevrolet-powered Chaparral 1, the car built by Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes. Hall continued to use that car in 1962 but then he made a decision, together with Hal Sharp, to build his own car under the Chaparral name, which Troutman and Barnes left to them. Following that, all Chaparral cars were marked by number 2 in their names.
1963 - full season in the Formula One, debut at Le Mans
In 1963, Hall focused his career on Formula One, taking part in a full season with British Racing Partnership's Lotus 24-BRM. He participated in nine championship races and several non-championship Formula 1 events.
Following retirements at Monte-Carlo and Spa, Hall managed to finish all other races until the end of the season. In the fifth round, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, he finished sixth to take one championship point. In the next race, the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring Nordschleife, he was again among the point-scorers with a fifth-place finish. With three points on his account, Hall was 12th in the 1963 Formula 1 Championship.
While racing in Formula One, Hall made a debut at 24 hours of Le Mans in June 1963. He and Dan Gurney were sharing the #11 NART Ferrari 330 LMB. They retired after 126 laps.
Chaparral 2A was introduced in 1963
During 1963, Hall and his team were developing Chevrolet-powered Chaparral 2A. It was a mid-engined car with an aerospace inspired semi-monocoque chassis made of fiberglass. The car had a debut in October in the non-championship race at Riverside.
Hall qualified with Chaparral 2A on pole position, setting a new track record. He was in a dominant lead during the first few laps of the race but stopped because of electrical problems.
Championship title and Sebring victory with Chaparral 2A
The Chaparral 2A was a dominant car in the 1964 United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). Jim Hall scored four wins in ten races to win the championship title. Hap Sharp added one more victory for the team.
They started the 1965 season with the same car, scoring the sensational victory at Sebring 12 hours. Hall and Sharp were sharing the #3 Chaparral 2A to win the race ahead of Ford GT40 and Ferrari 250 LM.
In the 1965 USRRC season, Jim Hall continued a dominance with Chaparral, winning eight of nine races. He was the champion in the Sports +2.0 class, the overall USRRC title went to George Follmer who was dominant in the Sports 2.0 class.
Creating new Chaparrals every year
As an engineer, Jim Hall was constantly making changes and improvements on his car. The 2B and 2C models were improved versions of the open-top original car. The Chaparral 2D, which came in 1966, was the first closed-cockpit car.
Revolutionary Chaparral 2E came in 1966
In 1966, Jim Hall focused his career on Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am), driving newly-developed Chaparral 2E. The biggest racing success was the 1-2 finish at Laguna Seca with Phil Hill and Jim Hall driving.
But, with this car, something else was much more important. The Chaparral 2E, with its high-mounted wing, presented Jim Hall’s most advanced aerodynamic theories to the racing world and established some rules for the future of building race cars worldwide.
Two more Can-Am seasons with Chaparral 2F
Using an aerodynamics of 2E, Hall developed closed-cockpit 2F. The car was used in the 1967 FIA World Endurance Championship before the FIA changed its rules and outlawed the car.
The next model 2G was again the open-top car and Hall was using it for two more seasons in the Canadian-American Challenge Cup. He finished fifth in the 1967 season and fourth in the 1968 season.
Heavy crash interrupted Jim Hall's career
Jim Hall crashed heavily in the last race of the 1968 Can-Am season at Las Vegas. After that, he spent months in a wheelchair so he had to find a replacement driver to test and develop his new car – the Chaparral 2H. A replacement driver was John Surtees.
Hall wanted something radically different for 2H and he succeeded to surprise once again with a racing car concept the world had not yet seen. The car featured the first composite full monocoque chassis ever. The Chaparral 2H had its racing debut in the Can-Am series in July 1969 but the results were disappointing mostly because of lots of technical troubles.
The last season in the Trans-Am Series
Jim Hall returned to racing for one more season in 1970, participating in several races of the Trans-Am Series with Chevrolet Camaro. His best result was fourth place in three races, at Lime Rock Park, Bridgehampton and Road America.
It was the last active season for Jim Hall. He continued to run his team and to develop unique cars. The most unusual and the most controversial was the Chaparral 2J, so called 'sucker car', which was introduced in 1970.
Two Indy 500 wins for Jim Hall's team
Later in the 1970s, Chaparral Racing gained some success in the CART championship. The first great victory came in 1978 when Al Unser won the Indianapolis 500 with Chaparral Racing's Lola-Cosworth.
Two years later, Johnny Rutherford won both the championship and Indianapolis 500 with Cosworth-powered Chaparral 2K, which was introduced a year earlier. In total, the Chaparral 2K won six races in 27 starts over three seasons.
Photos: Getty Images,