Bill Kimberly

Bill Kimberly

19/3/1933

Bill Kimberly (of Kimberyl-Clark fame)is either confused with his uncle Jim Kimberly or his family name is misspelled. Rarely raced as a professionally, though Kimberly drove a wonderful range of Maseratis for Briggs Cunningham. He also drove for the works Aston Martin team under John Wyer in 1963, during the last of their early efforts in international long distance racing. Bill started racing in 1955. He was very good friends with Augie Pabst with whom he went to college. His first full season came the following year in a Triumph TR3 and in 1957 he also raced an Austin Healy 100s and an AC Bristol. In May of 1958 he drove for the works Triumph TR3 at the Sebring 12 hour race. He finished 20th overall, 2nd in class, and the first of the Triumph team cars home. In August he bought a 2-liter Ferrari Testa Rossa off Lucky Casner for $4,250. He called it TTL - Tired Two Liter. It usually carried the Number 5 a nod to his uncle Jim who also ran under the same number. He raced at Le Mans for the first time in 1959 with E.D. Martin in Martin's 3-liter Testa Rossa. They went out with gearbox trouble after 8 hours while lying 8th. In the Autumn he went to work for Kimberly-Clark. At Sebring the following year he raced a Ferrari 250GT with George Arents, who founded N.A.R.T.. With about an hour to go, they were first in the GT class and 4th overall when they ran out of brakes. The stop to change pads dropped them back to 7th overall at the finish. In 1960 he was back at Le Mans, this time co-driving with Briggs Cunningham in one of his Corvettes. Cunningham drove the first stint, then on Bill's first lap on dry tires, as he passed the top of the hill after Arnage, there was a wall of rain. As he lifted the Corvette spun and rolled. The Corvettes had 50 gallon fuel tanks which had just been filled so Bill left the office very smartly. Bill recounts how as he was walking in a field halfway down from White House to the pits he was stopped by two Frenchmen. They asked him which car he had been driving. They then they took their programs out from under their raincoats, only to put a heavy black line through the Corvette. With no hard feelings Briggs invited Bill to drive his Baby Birdcage in the Bridgehampton Divisional race. Finishing 3rd behind Walt Hansgen in the experimental E-Type and Bob Grossman in Briggs' Lister/Jaguar. He nearly won the Road America 500 in Cunningham's Tipo 60 with John Fitch, and then finished 5th overall and 3rd in class behind two Porsches at the Watkins Glen National race. At Sebring in 1961 he teamed up with Briggs again in the Baby Birdcage finishing 18th due to exhaust manifold problems. At le Mans that year driving the long-tailed Tipo 60 with Briggs they finished 8th and 3rd in the under 2-liter class. Remarkably the car was reported to have spent only 12 minutes in the pits during the 24 hours period. At Courtland, Alabama in July he drove Frank Harrison's 5.7 liter 450S Maserati but only went 20 yard before the differential broke. In an earlier race that day he had driven Harrison's Cooper Formula Junior to 3rd from last on the grid in what was his first and last race in an open wheeled car. This was followed by a trip to the Road America 500 with Dick Thompson and the V12 engined rear-engined Tipo 63. They finished 9th with carburetion problms, while Walt Hansgen and Augie Pabst won the event in the sister car. Then in November his work took him to London. Bill was friends with the actress Louise King who was married to Peter Collins. Bill caled her up and she rented their Mews house near Sloane Square to him. A year later they needed the house back and Bill moved in with Richie Ginther. Phil Hill used to stay there as well when he was in town. In 1962 he only raced twice, at Le Mans in June, he was originally down to drive Cunningham's Jag E-type but ending up racing the Tipo 151. The Tipo 151 was surprisingly stable at the speeds developed on the Mulsanne straight. They achieved 281 Kph in the race although in practice they hit 304 Kph! Unfortunately Dick Thompson spun in the Esses. Nothing too serious but he clipped the wall with the Maser's tail which contained the oil coolers. They broke and the oil leaked out. But as the regulations did not allow oil refills that early on, they were out. His second race was at the Road America 500 with Briggs Cunningham's Maserati-engined Cooper Monaco driving with Roger Penske. They retired early as the transmission drain plug had fallen of and they unsurprisingly suffered ring-and-pinion failure. In 1963 season he was back at Sebring sharing a Cunningham Jaguar E-type with Paul Richards. They finished a lowly 19th due to the fact that a wheel broke. Richards was two-thirds of teh way 'round when it happened. He got out of the car, got the spare wheel, but had to run to the pits to get a jack! He changed the wheel but they lost about 50 minutes, dropping them substantially in the standings. Bill then joined up with the works Aston Martin team. On Richie Ginther's recomendation he got the call from John Wyer to do Le Mans and some other races. At Le Mans he shared a DB4GT with Jo Schlesser. they were 3rd overall and leading the GT class when with Jo at the wheel a piston broke. Next up was the International Guards Trophy at Brands. Practice was has work as he had to qualify all three cars, including Bruce McLaren's and Innes Ireland's as they were still at the German Grand Prix that weekend. At the start of the race his brake pedal went right to the floor. He raced in the middle of the pack but something was definitely wrong with the brakes. By the 20th lap he had no brakes at all and he stuffed the car into the bank at Dingle Dell. He didn't race in 1964 and in 65 made his final appearance in an Elva Mk 7/Porsche which he bought from Ed Weschler. He asked Denise McCluggage to be his co-driver as he had met her in London once or twice when she was doing some work with Ken Purdy. They finished 8th overall, 2nd in the under 2-liter class behind George Follmer in his Lotus 23/Porsche. He married Elena in 1965 and hung up his helmet. When asked if he had any regrets he said that he would not have crashed Briggs' Cunningham's Corvette if he had a second chance and he should never have sold his 2-liter Testa Rossa. Today it would be worth a lot more than the $4,250 he paid Casner.

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