1963 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Seven
With five minutes to go the stewards had finally cleared most of the spectators from the grid and all the drivers were in position to make the dash to their cars. With 30 seconds left chief timer and scorer, Joe Lane, was handed the mike and he began his countdown.
On the count of “two” a couple of the drivers broke for the cars and the rest followed on “one.” Chief starter, Jesse Coleman, got Mr. Baumgartner to wave the starting flag and then pulled him to safety behind the pit wall. For many race car fans the Le Mans style start was one of the most exciting parts of racing.
Some drivers felt that this method of starting a race was unnecessary and downright dangerous because several of the drivers, who were first away that day accomplished this by not buckling their seat belts first only to do it when the opportunity presented itself several laps later. Until then they held onto the steering wheel tightly or got bounced out of their seat every time they hit a rough spot on the notoriously rough Sebring track. Historically it was not always the first car away at Sebring that eventually won overall or their class but the photo of your car in that lead group certainly looked good in the newspapers and magazines following the race.
First under the Mercedes Benz Bridge was the #7 Corvette of Jerry Grant followed by the #2 Corvette of Ed Lowther then the #12 Cobra of Phil Hill who left a long set of black marks on the pavement as he burned rubber in his attempt to catch the Vettes.
Last to get away from the grid was a Morgan +4 and a Jaguar E-Type. In what would give safety officials and insurance carriers a heart attack today, track security permitted a mob of dozens of spectators to cross the track into the paddock once the last two cars passed. It seems that the Mercedes-Benz footbridge was closed to spectators so the working press could take pictures of the start and a huge crowd built up at the base of the bridge waiting to cross.
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