1963 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Eight
On the track the Corvettes were in the lead but Hill’s Cobra was showing fantastic acceleration as it weaved in and around them. By the end of the first lap the Cobra crossed the start/finish well in the lead but a new challenger was hot on his heels, that in the form of “The Little Mexican” Pedro Rodriguez in his #18 4-liter NART Ferrari 330 TRI/LM. He would pass Phil Hill for the lead on the second lap. Except for a brief time when a Chaparral took the lead both Rodriguez and co-driver Graham Hill would maintain their first place position until the 9th hour.
Much to everyone’s surprise, especially the Ferrari pits, the Ferrari 250P being driven by John Surtees came down pit road for an unscheduled pit stop. It turned out to be a loose spark plug lead and was soon repaired. Surtees didn’t seem happy with the time lost for repairs. Strangely enough the same ailment occurred with another Ferrari but was also quickly remedied.
The dubious distinction of being the first to retire fell to a young Mark Donohue in his TVR Grantura. With a disappointing number of laps completed he was in the pits with what looked like a blown head gasket. His car and the remaining R.M Imports TVR would be the first to retire with only seven laps to their credit. Not long after the Dick Thompson Corvette would pit with a missing third gear.
At the end of the first hour the Graham Hill – Pedro Rodriguez 4-liter Ferrari 330 TRI/LM was in the lead with the Phil Hill Cobra second, the Penske/Pabst GTO third, Gurney’s Cobra fourth and the Mike Parkes – Lorenzo Bandini Ferrari 330 LM in fifth position. The Shelby Cobras were showing great speed and were the fastest of the GT cars. But, could they last for what many call “The 12-Hour Grind”?
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