1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix – Race Profile Page Two
American interest in automotive racing began to recover over the winter of ’55-’56 and some were looking for a return to normalcy. Stimulating that interest was the fact that both General Motors Chevrolet division and Ford were developing and building two-seat sports cars. Chevrolet got a head start by introducing their Corvette in 1953. Ford countered this with the Thunderbird in 1955 and a private entry T-Bird was raced at Sebring that year finishing 37th.
Adding to the build-up to the ’56 Sebring race was the announcement that for the very first time in Sebring history five European factory teams were planning an assault on Sebring. Those teams included Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, Jaguar and Maserati.
Ulmann and U.S. racing fans were overjoyed that Scuderia Ferrari was making its first factory team appearance at Sebring. Ferrari was determined to recapture the manufacturer’s championship they lost to Mercedes-Benz in 1955. The fact that Mercedes-Benz had withdrawn from the series following the tragedy at Le Mans just might make it easier for Ferrari to accomplish that goal.
Accompanying those teams from Europe were some of the best drivers in the world. They included three-time and reigning world champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, also Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Musso, Harry Schell, Alfonso de Portago and Oliver Gendebien all driving for factory Ferrari.
England’s Mike Hawthorn won Sebring in 1955 and he would return driving a new factory D-type Jaguar along with Desmond Titterington, Duncan Hamilton, Ivor Bueb, Bill Spear, Briggs Cunningham and Indy 500 winner Bob Sweikert who was making his first appearance at Sebring. A total of nine D-Jaguars would start the race with the newer ones equipped with an experimental fuel injection that emitted a much clearer sound as compared to the normally aspirated older Jags.