1960 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Ten
Of the eight cars brought to Sebring by Camoradi USA only two were still running. At the moment they had the Corvette of Jim Jeffords, Fred Gamble and Bill Wuesthoff still in the race but far back. However, the Porsche of Joe Sheppard and Dick Dungan was running 10th overall and leading in their class. The Sheppard/Dungan car was the last best hope for the Camoradi effort at Sebring and the entire crew of mechanics and support personnel were concentrating on getting that car to the finish line.
The monumental effort by Ed Crawford in digging his Maserati out of the sand bank in the hairpin turn was for naught as the car was withdrawn shortly after 8 pm with a broken pinion gear. With 10 hours of racing gone the standings were Herrmann/Gendebien Porsche first, Holbert/Schechter/Fowler Porsche second and now moving into third was the Ferrari 250 GT of George Reed and Alan Connell. Those standings would change little from now to the end of the race as drivers became reluctant to take any chances in the dark. Many just hoped to finish the toughest sports car race in North America which for some could be the accomplishment of their racing career.
Throwing caution to the winds were Ferrari drivers Pete Lovely and Jack Nethercutt. Driving a Ferrari 250TR/59 they were making a run for the podium and turning 3 min., 32 second laps. During this run they would pass four of the six cars ahead of them to finish in third spot behind the two leading Porsches. Seven Ferraris would finish in the top ten at Sebring in 1960.
While that drama played out on the track there was plenty to see in the pits. The Jim Jeffords, William Wuesthoff Corvette caught fire in the pits as mechanics were working on the car. The fire was quickly extinguished and they were able to finish the race in 26th position. The highest finishing Corvette would be driven by Jim Hall’s brother, Chuck. Co-driving with Bill Fritts the car would come in 16th overall. Following closely across the finish line on the same lap but 17th overall was the Lola Mk. 1 Climax of Charles Vögele and Peter Ashdown. They had an OMG moment in the race when the hood flew off the car but instead of stopping to retrieve it Vögele drove the car back to the pits. There he found out that there was no spare and stewards would not let him continue without it. So, back he went, on foot, to where the hood was lost only to find out that some race fans had appropriated it for a souvenir. Fortunately those folks listened to the pleadings of Vögele and returned the hood.
Late in the race the AC Bristol of Mike Rothschild and Bob Grossman was experiencing a total loss of oil pressure due to a severe leak. Mechanics would add seven quarts of oil to the engine only to see the car back after two laps with no oil in the sump and oil dripping everywhere on the concrete in front of their pit. While the mechanics added more oil to the engine Rothschild slipped on a patch and sprained his ankle. While in some pain he decided to finish the race and reentered the car only to have his oil soaked shoe slip on the clutch pedal when he tried to start the car thus stalling it in the pits. The battery was stone cold dead and if not for the use of a booster battery from another pit the car would have finished the race there. As it was they managed to finish in 21st place and third in class.
With 45 minutes left in the race Gendebien was in for a quick 20-second pit stop just for enough fuel to finish the race. He was preceded by the Camoradi Porsche 356B of Joe Sheppard and Dick Dungan five minutes earlier. Like Gendebien he got just enough fuel to finish. Sheppard also got a swig of water to get him to the checkered flag and ninth overall.
The checkered flag dropped at 10 pm with the Porsche RS60 of Hans Hermann and Oliver Gendebien taking the overall win with 196 laps completed at an average speed of 84.927 mph. They were followed by the Holbert/Schechter/Fowler Porsche with 187 laps completed and the Lovely/ Nethercutt Ferrari third with 186 laps. Five more Ferraris would follow the two leading Porsches, then another Porsche, and another Ferrari to round out the top ten. For their efforts the winning drivers would pocket $3,000 or $23,703.75 in today’s dollars.
In the winner’s circle there was the usual crush of people cheering and flashbulbs going off. Reporters jostled each other for a chance to get a quote from the winning drivers who were holding the huge 100th anniversary gold plated Amoco trophy. Alec Ulmann’s wife, Mary, placed wreaths of kumquats around the necks of the winners. This was not always appreciated because sometimes those kumquats had bugs in them as experienced by Jean Behra in 1957.
The boycott by factory teams, the absence of some name drivers and the lower than expected turn out of race fans resulted in some critical reviews in newspapers following the race. Those poor reviews were repeated several months later when automotive magazines went to press. Many felt that if it hadn’t been for the drawing power of one driver, Stirling Moss, this might have been the last Sebring. Rumors about the “last Sebring” actually got their start in 1960 and continued for years to come.
Some journalists were highly critical of the Sebring promoters as a result of the death of a driver and a press photographer in 1960. A small number questioned the casual approach by Sebring officials toward track and spectator safety and predictions were made that more tragedy was to follow unless safety improvements were made. Follow it did in 1966 when a driver and four spectators were killed. Among the dead were a mother of three and two children.
Despite those poor reviews the race was significant because it was the first win by Porsche in a major international endurance race. It was also the first time a rear-engine car had captured the overall trophy at Sebring and the Stuttgart-based manufacturer would go on to nearly win the 1960 Manufacturers Championship with their little RS 60’s. Porsche wouldn’t win at Sebring again until 1968 but their cars would dominate international endurance racing in decades of ’70s and ’80s.
The 1960 Sebring race would be the last year that Amoco would be the major sponsor of the Sebring race. Due to the turmoil surrounding the boycott of Ferrari and Porsche the FIA ruled that Sebring could no longer mandate the use of Amoco gasoline for all entrants in an international race. When Ulmann protested that the FIA allowed the same exclusivity at the 24-Hours of Le Mans the response from the FIA was essentially, “That’s different!” So, the American Oil Company reluctantly withdrew sponsorship of the race.
For Further Reading:
Bentley, Ruth Sands. “Porsche ‘One-Two’ at Sebring.” Autosport, 1 April 1960.
Breslauer, Ken. Sebring: The Official History of America’s Great Sports Car Race, David Bull Publishing 1995.
The Tampa Tribune, 24-27 March 1960
Ulmann, Alec. The Sebring Story. Chilton, 1969
“A Win Over Mighty Moss” by Alfred Wright, Sports Illustrated Magazine, April 4, 1960
[Source: Louis Galanos]