1963 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Three
Then there was the infamous FIA suitcase. At some races it brought fear and loathing to the competitors because all sports cars had to have a luggage compartment of certain minimum dimensions. If the mock up suitcase, sometimes a box made of plywood and about the size of suitcase, didn’t fit in your car’s luggage compartment your car was rejected.
A three-car TVR team had to remove all or part of their roll bars because either the roll bar or supporting members extended into the luggage compartment and the suitcase wouldn’t fit. It might have been better if the entire team had just packed up their cars and gone home because all three cars retired within the first 45 minutes of the start of the race.
Everything a competitor could do, legal and otherwise, was done to get through tech inspection. Some had skinny tires on their cars during inspection to avoid being forced to fabricate fender flares for the wider tires they would later mount for the race.
Ground clearance was an issue for some cars and mechanics could be seen wedging the car’s springs in order to get the right height for approval.
Like most race events of this nature it was common to provide several supporting races to keep the early arriving spectators happy and entertained. Plus it made money for the Sebring promoters since they charged two dollars for the Formula Junior race on Thursday and three dollars for the two sedan races on Friday. However, in all three cases the supporting races were from “dullsville” due to the very slim number of entries in all three events.
The Formula Junior race on Thursday could have benefitted from a shortened track. With a ridiculously slim entry list of only five cars running on the long 5.2 mile road course a spectator, once the last car passed his position, could wash and wax his car (only kidding) before the race cars made a complete circuit.
On Friday there were two sedan races scheduled with eight cars in the morning “Touring Class Two-Hour Race” and ten entrants in the afternoon “Three-Hour Race For 1,000 cc GT cars.”
The two-hour morning race was an easy victory for Charlie Rainville in his B-18 Volvo 122-S averaging 72.70 m.p.h. with a Morris-Cooper coming in second and a BMW 700 third. From the start of the three-hour afternoon race the cars began dropping like flies with two never making it off the starting grid. Graham Hill driving a MG Midget and the Austin-Healey Sprite of Pedro Rodriguez lost their drive trains just minutes after the green flag fell. This was a major embarrassment for the British Motor Corporation (BMC) because they made much to do in the press about 1962 World Formula One Champion Hill driving their car in the race. At the end of the race there were only five cars still running to take the checkered flag with Hans Herrmann and Mauro Bianchi coming in first and second in Fiat Abarths with the winning car completing 47 laps at an average speed of 80.42 m.p.h.
This is not to say that Friday’s events were totally dull because, according to the June 1963 issue of Today’s Motor Sports:
“The only excitement of the otherwise dull day was a three-lap demonstration race put on by the BMC people, using five of their small sedans. The cars were lined up abreast on the line with drivers Graham Hill, Pedro Rodriguez, Christabel Carlisle, Innes Ireland, and Denise McCluggage behind the wheels. As the flag dropped, Hill, Carlisle, and Rodriguez shot forward fishtailing the little cars and going for all they were worth. Ireland and McCluggage shot backwards in reverse about 100 feet going equally fast. The three leaders staged their own race going quite rapidly in a manner not necessarily subscribed to by drivers for serious competition, and the second two were now moving forward with haste. At the end of the first lap Ireland and McCluggage came by next to each other, with Innes beating on Denise’s car with his fist. On the end of the second lap the pair pulled their cars to a halt, jumped out, and began walloping each other, and then made up with hugs and kisses. Ireland then spun going into the esses, but made up for lost time by cutting across the infield and rejoining the others where he had left off. At the finish Carlisle pulled her midget out a radiator badge in front of Hill and Rodriguez, and Innes and Denise crossed the line holding hands. It was the best show of the entire week.”
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