1960 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Four
Welcoming the heat at Sebring in 1960 were three young men who had driven down from the frozen confines of New York state to see their very first Sebring but not their last. For this story I was able to interview Dave Nicholas who along with his young friends were known as the BARC boys.
BARC – the Binghamton Automobile Racing Club was formed in 1958 by four teenagers from Binghamton, New York. Joe Tierno, Dave Zych, Steve Vail and Dave Nicholas all had a burning passion for sports cars and road racing. The BARC boys hooked up with Ed “Spankey” Smith and became his photographers. Sleeping in cars, sleezy hotels or flopping on the ground, they traveled the entire East Coast SCCA scene from Sebring to San Jovite.
The 1960 Sebring would be the BARC boys first visit to Florida and as Mr. Nicholas describes it:
Dave Zych and I drove down with Spankey Smith in his MG Magnette. There were very few 4-lane roads in those days and it was on this trip I saw my very first fatal accident. A Corvette blew by us going very fast around dusk on US 301 in southern Virginia or North Carolina. All of us in the MG were very jealous of the fellow in the Vette.
About 15 minutes later we came upon a police car with all its lights on and a real traffic slowdown. The Corvette that had passed us was in a thousand fiberglass pieces. It hit a dimly lit farm tractor that had pulled out on the road and the fast approaching sports car probably never saw him. The driver of the Corvette was killed instantly.
Yep, will never forget that this was the first Porsche win at Sebring. The sights and sounds of our very first Sebring are still with me today. I remember that Graham Hill was supposed to drive the #42 Porsche and practiced in it, but got switched to #43. You guessed it – Olivier Gendebien (we called him Jellybean, after all, who could pronounce Jahn-dib-ee-en) and Hans Hermann won in #42 and Hill and Jo Bonnier were a DNF. Holbert and Schechter probably would have won but had a tail light go out and had to stop for a bunch of laps to fix it.
We volunteered to crew for Denise McCluggage that year and the next and were able to get much needed passes due to our limited budget. We also raided local fruit groves for oranges and grapefruit which along with candy bars became our diet while we were there. Strangely enough we became extras for a movie being filmed at the track that year but Joe Tierno says I caused at least one retake because of my overacting.
Saw and heard those unbelievably beautiful Ferrari 59/60 Testa Rossa’s. Thick, dual, gray pipes running along the sides and curling back under the rear wheels and 4 great trumpets coming out the back, nothing comes close today. Chuck Daigh and Ginther led and then dropped out. And I was ready to fight Ricardo Rodriguez – same age as me and already racing. Remember in 1960 you had to be 21 in the USA to drive a race car. Not so in other countries and there was Ricardo Rodriguez, already a hero, driving Porsche Spyders, and his older brother Pedro in a factory Ferrari!! After that race we were definitely hooked and would return year after year as well as attending sports car events all along the East Coast.
Of the 65 cars that made the starting grid that day some looked very strange indeed due to the hasty modifications needed to comply with the new FIA regulations. A crowd estimated from a low of 15,000 to a high of 35,000 was smaller than what promoter Alec Ulmann had expected and when you consider that tickets were running at $5 a head it looked like Ulmann was going to see a big hit to his wallet. Later Ulmann would blame the boycott by Ferrari and Porsche for the lower turnout but the problem over fuel exclusivity would be resolved before the next 12-hour race. Regardless, the fans had come prepared to see some great racing, see who would win the gold plated Amoco trophy and see who would share in the $20,000 in prize money. Sebring would not disappoint as the birdcage Maseratis provided a lot of excitement for two-thirds of the race.