Richie Ginther (1930-1989) was an American racing cars driver who has competed in the Formula 1 World Championship between 1960 and 1967, recording 52 starts. He recorded fourteen podiums, including one victory. His only win was in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix.
Mechanic who became a racer
Paul Richard ’Richie’ Ginther was born in August 1930 in Los Angeles and after finishing school 18 years later, Richie followed the footsteps of his father and began to work for Douglas Aircraft as a mechanic. In his spare time, Ginther also worked on old cars and hot-rods. He soon became a friend of another guy from Southern California and future Formula 1 champion Phil Hill.
Phil Hill and Richie Ginther
After serving in the army during the Korean War, Ginther returned home and debuted in the world of Racing, driving a Ferrari alongside Hill in the notorious 1953 Carrera Panamericana. They also had an accident and failed to finish the race. However, it was a good preparation for the following year when the two Californians finished 2nd.
Richie in the short time became one of the leading drivers in the US. He raced mostly in Porsche and Ferrari cars in various national and regional championships. Very soon he was offered a role of Ferrari test pilot. The Italian manufacturer appreciated not only Richie’s racing skills but even more his mechanical knowledge. Ginther is credited by many with introducing the rear spoiler to racing by convincing Ferrari to add it to his sports cars.
Ginther debuted in the Formula 1 with Ferrari
Finally, in 1960 Ginther got an opportunity to race with Ferrari in the Formula 1 World Championship. Maybe a bit surprisingly, he did very well. Richie finished 6th on his debut at Monaco Grand Prix. The same result he scored at Zandvoort while in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ginther finished as a runner-up to his teammate and close friend Phil Hill.
Ginther in Ferrari 156, 1961 French Grand Prix
After such a good performances, Ferrari decided to give Richie a full-time drive in the 1961 season. That year and probably the whole Ginther’s career was marked by the 2nd place in the Monaco Grand Prix where he battled vigorously with Stirling Moss. The same year he finished 3rd at Spa and at Aintree Circuit before taking the 5th place in the Drivers’ Championship.
Move to BRM
British Racing Motors offered better conditions to Ginther so he decided to leave Ferrari in 1962. Unfortunately, just like it was in Ferrari, he again was considered as a backup to the star driver. In this case that was Graham Hill. In his first season with the new team the American driver scored the 3rd place in the French Grand Prix and the 2nd place in the Italian Grand Prix before finishing 8th in the final standings.
In the terms of results, the season of 1963 was the in Ginther’s Formula 1 career. The start of the campaign was perfect for BRM after Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix while Richie finished 2nd. Ginther later in the season also finished 2nd in Italy and in the US while in Germany and Mexico he was 3rd. He picked the same number of points like Hill but finished 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship, behind his teammate and champion Jim Clark.
Ginther behind the wheel of 1963 BRM P61
The season of 1964 again was pretty good. Ginther for the third time in his career finished 2nd at Monaco Grand Prix, and again losing to Graham Hill. The second podium finish that year was in the Austrian Grand Prix at Zeltweg where he lost to Lorenzo Bandini, the Italian driver who scored his only F1 victory in that race. Richie dropped to the 5th place in the Championship and at the end of the year he left BRM team.
The only F1 win Richie scored with Honda
His reputation as a solid team player and excellent test and development driver earned him an invitation to join the works Honda team for 1965, his last full-time season in the series. The results weren’t impressive but Ginther picked some points occasionally. In the final race of the season in Mexico, Ginther scored his first and only victory after resisting attacks of his compatriot and Brabham driver Dan Gurney. At the same time, it was the first-ever victory for Honda in the F1. Finally, at the end of the season, the American was 7th what was a solid result considering that he missed two rounds.
Ginther celebrates his only F1 victory, Mexico, 1965
The American racer stayed in Formula 1 for a while, driving for Cooper, Honda, and Anglo American Racers team. He decided to retire from F1 in 1967 after failing to qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix. He went back home and was planned to race in the Indy 500 but on the qualifying day he decided to retire from racing.
Retirement and death
In the following years Richie made a couple of appearances in various events but never had an intention to race full-time again. Later he would sell his business and move to Baja, Mexico. In 1989 he was reunited with many of his former rivals at Donington Park for the 40th anniversary of BRM.
Richie Ginther, 1967 Monaco Grand Prix
Not long after that meeting, Ginther died from a heart attack while on vacation with his family in France on 20th of September 1989.