1963 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Fifteen
Of the six Shelby Cobras entered only three finished with the Phil Hill, Lew Spencer, Ken Miles roadster finishing 11th and first in the GT+4 class. The two other Cobras ended in 29th and 41st place. Of the seven Corvettes entered three finished, 16th, 17th and 42nd.
In order to get as many Corvettes as possible there for the finish a decision was made by the crew of the ailing Jerry Grant – Don Campbell Sting Ray to fake doing repairs for four hours and fifteen minutes by placing a mechanic under the car for all that time. Officially this prevented the stewards from withdrawing the car.
The car could still run but no one knew for how long so they waited until there was ten minutes left in the race and sent it out to finish in 42nd position (the very last finisher) completing a total of 46 laps (the winner completed 209) with an average speed of 19.9 m.p.h. No doubt the seven independently entered Corvette Sting Rays could have benefitted from the kind of factory support, organization and team work that Ferrari provided its people at Sebring in ’63. If they had, a better showing for GM would have been the result.
When John Surtees drove into the winner’s enclosure he was in bad shape due to exposure to exhaust fumes. Scarfiotti was a little bit better but still unsteady on his pins. There to greet them was the usual crush of reporters, photographers, radio and television people. Surtees and Scarfiotti smiled and exchanged handshakes and hugs from well wishers. When a person from the radio station broadcasting the race stuck a microphone in Surtees face and asked him to comment he said, “It was a very nice race indeed.” He then promptly passed out cold in front of everyone but was quickly revived by medical personnel.
For Ferrari it was as clean a sweep as any race car constructor could hope for. They took the first three places in the Prototype 3000 class as well as the first three places in GT 3000. In addition this was the sixth overall win for Ferrari at Sebring in the last eight years. They also took the Index of Performance and set a new lap record for Sebring. It was a great day for Ferrari but a disappointing one for Ford and Chevrolet.
Back in Dearborn, Michigan Henry Ford II was not a happy man. The results from Daytona and Sebring in 1963 showed that the Cobras were not yet the sports cars he wanted associated with the Ford name.
Under the guise of “If you can’t beat them, buy them”, in May of 1963, at the suggestion of Lee Iacocca, Ford made an offer to buy the financially troubled Ferrari S.p.A. If Enzo Ferrari agreed to the purchase then two companies would be created. A Ford-Ferrari Company dedicated to making the luxury sports and GT passenger cars that Ferrari was best known for and a Ferrari-Ford Company dedicated to sponsoring drivers, entering races and making racing cars. Ford would be the majority stock holder in the first company and Ferrari the majority stock holder in the second. In the event of Enzo Ferrari’s demise Ford insisted they have the option of purchasing the controlling stock he had in the second company.
Ford got permission to audit Ferrari assets for a possible purchase offer and sent over a team to Maranello that included an assets-determination specialist, manufacturing expert plus a cadre of lawyers to determine the value of the company and work out the legal details. The eventual cost of this exercise would run into the millions of dollars for Ford.
Ford eventually offered to buy Ferrari for what some said at the time was the ridiculously low price of $10 million. It was reported at the time that Enzo Ferrari felt this low offer was an insult and there was much indignation in the European press when word of the offer leaked. On top of that the insistence by Ford that Ferrari would not be allowed to race at the Indianapolis 500 turned out to be too much for the Commendatore. As a result Enzo Ferrari abruptly ceased negotiations.
Ferrari’s rejection of Ford’s offer, the termination of negotiations and the vilification of Ford in the European press did not sit well with Henry Ford II. Enraged, he directed his racing division to negotiate with Lotus, Lola and Cooper to build a car capable of beating Ferrari on the world endurance circuit. By 1964 Eric Broadley of Lola began construction on what would be the Ford GT40 and subsequent versions of this model, in the hands of Shelby American and then Ford, would beat Ferrari at Daytona, Sebring and four years in a row at the Holy Grail of endurance racing, The 24-hours of Le Mans. Ford-powered Shelby cars would also win the International Championship for GT Manufacturers in 1965, Ford would win the Sports-Prototypes and Sports Car championship in 1966, repeat the Sports Car Championship in 1967 and the Championship for Makes in 1968.
For many in America in the late ‘60s The Ford – Ferrari War was over and Ford had won. However, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of that war few today would regard Ford as the epitome of exotic sports cars and racing. Ferrari may have lost those early battles in the 1960’s but in the hearts and minds of many sports car fans it never lost the war.
For Further Reading:
Autosport: Britian’s Motor Sporting Weekly, March 29, 1963 pages 424-429 Car and Driver, June 1963 pages 27-34 Ocala Star Banner, March 17, 1963 Palm Beach Daily News, March 1 and April 27, 1963 Road and Track, June 1963, pages 61-66 Sebring: The Official History of America’s Great Sports Car Race, Ken Breslauer, pages 76-79 Sports Car Graphic, June 1963, pages 18-25, 74-75 St. Petersburg Times, January 19, 1963 Today’s Motorsports, June 1963, pages 40-46