1960 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Two
It was slightly more difficult for Porsche to have their best cars at Sebring in 1960 since they did not have a representative in North America similar to NART. Porsche came up with the idea to “lease” two of their race cars to Joakim “Jo” Bonnier who was from Switzerland and had been contracted to drive for Porsche at Sebring that year. With the boycott he was technically unemployed and with a little help from the factory he could act as a private entrant at Sebring in 1960. Porsche sent him two RS60 Spyders with all the newest modifications. All Bonnier had to do was arrange shipment to Florida.
As Bonnier was making those arrangements Porsche was surreptitiously arranging factory assistance for Bonnier’s efforts. A group of Porsche mechanics were allowed to go on “vacation” in March of 1960 and as luck would have it they chose to go to Florida and ended up “volunteering” to help Bonnier’s team. Another volunteer showing up in Florida was Baron Huschke von Hanstein who became Bonnier’s team manager for the race.
Same went for the factory drivers. Since they were not needed to drive factory cars at Sebring they were technically unemployed. Factory drivers Graham Hill and Hans Herrmann were encouraged to visit sunny Florida for a little R&R. As the story goes they just happened to “bump” into Jo Bonnier on their way to the beach one day and he invited them to drive for him at Sebring. This charade by Porsche was as thin as tissue paper but it passed the smell test and no punitive action was taken by British Petroleum. One last thing had to be arranged. While Bonnier would drive with Hill in one of the Porsches a co-driver had to be arranged for Herrmann’s Porsche. That wasn’t finalized until the last minute and many were surprised to see Oliver Gendebien on the starting grid on race day.
The other controversy facing the race organizers and entrants was last minute rules changes by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) concerning windshields and luggage compartments on the Grand-Touring or GT cars. This would be the first year that GT cars would be included in FIA Championship competition.
The competition committee for FIA had felt for some time that race constructors were modifying their cars by making windshields smaller and more aerodynamic and making luggage compartments smaller. They were getting further and further away from the street versions that appeared on showroom floors at dealerships. To address this issue the FIA ruled that all “open top” cars had to replace the cut down windshields with something close to factory specifications. Same went for luggage compartments.
Closed coupes like the six 4.7 liter Corvettes entered in the race had no problem complying with the new regulations. However, the Osca of Rees Makin needed so much work that when finished the new luggage compartment was so big that mechanics had to cut an opening fore and aft in the new compartment so the driver could see through it and hopefully any cars behind him. In the words of Ruth Sands Bentley, writing for Autosport, “…the car was rather reminiscent of a house trailer!”
The Osca of Denise McCluggage and Marianne Rollo had a problem similar to Rees Makin’s car. However, they had the genius of Alfred Momo on their side and he figured if you cut an opening into the cowl you could create a space large enough to qualify as a luggage compartment he hoped would pass the discerning eye of Sebring’s veteran Chief Scrutineer Monty Thomas, which it did. Momo’s modifications left the Osca looking more like the race car it was than an object of ridicule.
While not eventually a problem, but it could have been a disastrous one, the International Business Machine Company (IBM) wanted to provide the race with one of their new 305 RAMAC computers to do timing and scoring for the race. IBM executives felt that the Sebring race had achieved such national and international stature that it would be a good showcase for their equipment and flew one to Sebring in March following the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, New York where it was used to score the events.
Accompanying the computer to Sebring was a cadre of 50 IBM techs and engineers to assemble and get the machine up and running. After landing at the Sebring airport the unit was transported to a hanger and kept under armed guard while utility crews wired the two pit stalls where it would reside during the race. Once that was done the unit was carefully transported to the track.
This was a great public relations coup for Alec Ulmann and Sebring but the track’s Chief of Timing and Scoring (T&S), Joe Lane, was highly skeptical of this “new fangled” technology. He was able to convince Ulmann to keep using the “human” T&S people as a backup in case of any troubles with the IBM equipment. As events would play out they were fortunate to do so.
You probably have more computing power in your smartphone today than was in the IBM 305 RAMAC in 1960. The one-million-dollar ($8-million today) behemoth weighed more than a ton and needed two pit stalls one of which had to be air-conditioned. The heat was generated by vacuum tubes and the fork lift used to remove the unit from the cargo plane that landed at Sebring had to do so gently lest the tubes were damaged. This behemoth had just 5 MB of storage capacity placed on fifty 24-inch diameter disks.
It took just two hours of racing for all the assurances of the IBM people to be proven false as the big machine failed to provide lap standings when needed. Thanks to Joe Lane and his stalwart T&S people they came to the rescue until the IBM engineers could figure out what the problem was. Seems that the old adage is true, “Garbage in, garbage out.” was the culprit. It took six hours to correct the problem and once done the machine began to produce good results.