1965 Sebring 12-Hour Grand Prix of Endurance – Race Profile

1965 Sebring 12-Hour Grand Prix of Endurance – Page Three

Dan Gurney in the #23 All American Lotus 19J-Ford then led for several laps until passed by Jim Hall in the Chaparral. When Hall pitted around noon for the first driver change, Gurney regained the lead only to lose it when the chain drive on the car’s oil pump failed on lap 43. Unfortunately his co-driver Jerry Grant never got a chance to drive. There was much speculation in the press about Dan Gurney’s entry at Sebring. Since Gurney was running a Ford powered car and since he and Carroll Shelby had formed All American Racers it was concluded that the Gurney Lotus was a “rabbit” expected to set a blistering pace and force the Chevy powered Chaparrals to keep up. This pace would eventually be too much for the Chaparrals and Ford and the Shelby cars would end up winning the day.

During the early hours of the race emergency workers were kept busier than usual. Two drivers had to be treated for heat prostration but both later returned. Two race fans were slightly injured when the Rainville/Gammino Bizzarrini Iso Grifo A3C lost its brakes and plunged into the crowd hitting a spectator vehicle. A Cobra mechanic was temporarily paralyzed when he managed to make contact with a live electrical wire. It was already turning out to be a long and interesting day.

Rainville-Gammino Iso Grifo A3C at Sebring 1965
The Charlie Rainville - Mike Gammino Bizzarrini Iso Grifo A3C at Sebring 1965. Trouble with the brake fluid boiling led to many frustrations including a off-road excursion that injured a couple of spectators. Later in the race the car would crash heavily during the storm. Neither Iso Grifo finished the race.
Silvio Moser's Iso Grifo A3C crashed out after 16 laps.
Silvio Moser's Iso Grifo A3C never got wet. They crashed out after 16 laps.
#2 Corvette Gran Sport
George Wintersteen, Peter Goetz & Milt Diehl took this #2 Corvette Gran Sport to 14th. The car was equipped with a huge 7-liter engine.
Pedro Rodriguez in Mecom Ferrari 330P
That’s ‘The Little Mexican’ Pedro Rodriguez at the wheel and way down in the seat of the Mecom Ferrari 330P he co-drove with Graham Hill. Pedro stood only 5 foot 5 inches and weighed 120 pounds but could he drive.
Bob Grossman leads Graham Hill, both in a Ferrari 330P.
Bob Grossman leads Graham Hill at the second hour mark, both in a Ferrari 330P.
#4 Chaparral that was driven by Bruce Jennings and Ronnie Hissom
The #4 Chaparral that was driven by Bruce Jennings and Ronnie Hissom and came in 22nd mostly due to several long pit stops for repairs.

The record heat and notoriously rough Sebring track were taking an early toll on the cars. One by one cars pulled into the pits with radiators shooting geysers of steam into the air. Just after 1 p.m. the #4 Jennings/Hissom Chaparral, in third place, had to pit with battery problems probably caused by the extreme heat. This would take 45 minutes to resolve. More problems would ensue later and they would finish the race in 22nd position.

After completing 37 laps the Phil Hill/Richie Ginther #10 Shelby Ford GT40 was sidelined by suspension failure caused by heat of another kind. It seems that a suspension mounting bracket cracked due to heat embrittlement as a result of a chassis fire at the 1964 Le Mans race. Phil Hill would later step into the #16 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe when Lew Spencer collapsed due to the heat.

Ferrari 275P leads Alfa Romeo TZ
The Umberto Maglioi/Giancarlo Baghetti Ferrari 275P leads the class-winning Alfa Romeo TZ.
George Reed & Dan Gerber failed to finish in this Cobra
George Reed & Dan Gerber failed to finish in this Cobra due to the accident with the #51 Volvo. The driver looks like Ken Miles but it's Gerber at the wheel.
30. Poor #56 had troubles all day but managed to keep going to a nice 2nd in GT 1.6 and 24th OA.
Poor #56 Alfa Romeo Guilia TZ had troubles all day but managed to keep going to a nice 2nd in GT 1.6 and 24th overall.
Ferrari 330P - Pedro Rodriguez and Graham Hill
The #30 Ferrari 330P of Pedro Rodriguez and Graham Hill. Rodriguez is seen driving. The car did not finish.
Mecom Ferrari 330P and Ford GT40
Mecom Ferrari 330P and Ford GT40
George Robertson and Dick Boo took this fairly stock Corvette to 33rd and 1st in GT+5.0.
George Robertson and Dick Boo took this fairly stock Corvette to 33rd and 1st in GT+5.0.
Ford GT40 of Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren
The ‘butt’ photo. Some young lady walks out to the edge of the track to get a photo. The only thing holding back spectators at Sebring in those days was snow fencing. Imagine how course marshals would react today to something like this.
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and Ferrari 275P
Close encounters under the MG Bridge. The #15 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe of Bob Bondurant and Jo Schlesser leads the #32 Ferrari 275P of Ed Hugus/Tom O'Brian/Charlie Hayes and Paul Richards under the MG Bridge. Also in this group is the #48 MG B of Brad Picard and Alan Pease. The Cobra finished 4th but 1st in GT5.0 class. The Ferrari finished 12th and the MG B finished 32nd.
Chaparral 2A of Hissom / Jennings leads the Chaparral 2A of Hall and Sharp
Chaparral 2A of Ronnie Hissom and Bruce Jennings leads the Chaparral 2A of Hall and Sharp under the MG Bridge. Hall and Sharp would win while Hissom and Jennings placed 22nd.
Hall qualified 1st in the #3 Chaparral
Hall qualified 1st in the #3 Chaparral which was 10 seconds faster than Miles in the GT-40. It was no fluke and they won by 4 laps despite the deluge.
Mecom Ferrari 250LM of Walt Hansgen and a young Mark Donohue
Walt Hansgen took a young Mark Donohue to his 1st Sebring in Mecom's Ferrari 250LM and finished 11th OA and 2nd in class.
Ferrari 250LM - David Piper and Tony Maggs
David Piper and Tony Maggs drove this private entry Ferrari 250LM to a third place finish.
#14 Shelby Daytona Coupe.
Bob Johnson and Tom Payne were 2nd in class and 8th OA in this #14 Shelby Daytona Coupe.
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe of Bob Johnson and Tom Payne
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe of Bob Johnson and Tom Payne finished 7th.

1965 Sebring 12-Hour Grand Prix of Endurance – Race Profile Continued

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  1. If anyone gives awards for the best vintage/historic story and photographic telling of a race this piece will be in the running. The best I have seen this year and for years past. Keep this stuff coming. Boy it makes me wish I was there like few stories have. From one old photographer to these two shooters wonderful images. Hard to put into words how good this piece is. Jamie lets get more stories and image collections like this.

    1. I was sitting on my amy bunk at Ft. Belvoir, VA listening to a live radio report of the race. One bunk over my buddy Ron (whom I met last week-end at the Watkins Glen Vintage GP) was routing for Chevy (by way of the Chaparrals). My favorite was Ferrari first, then maybe Shelby. Ron won!

  2. it was indeed a heroic race. One of the most magnificent little engined sportscars in this race was not mentioned, although it did beat most of its more powerful, more expensive cars in the race. I am talking about the Austin-Healey Sprite. This little 1300cc streamlined car came in 15th position. It was raced by Clive Baker and Raano Altonen, 2 rally pilots who could use their rally experience very well during the rain hours. Having narrow Dunlop racing tires helped to avoid aquaplanning. Still amazing that a car with only 1300 cc was clocked at 157 MpH. It won its prototype class and showed once again the genius of Donald Healey and its crew!

    1. You are correct Bruno. Because of their extensive rallying experience coupled with the narrow tires they found the wet pavement to their liking. At one point during the storm they passed one of the leading cars four times.

      1. Dear Lou, I have quite some original pictures of the Sebring Sprite “at Battle”. If you want I can share them with you! Kindest regards, Bruno

    2. As a Sprite owner and long-time fan of Sprite racers of all kinds, I too was looking for pics or a mention of the little alloy GT Sprites.

    3. Actually, I looked again and the Sprites were mentioned. The other car was driven by Paddy Hopkirk and Timo Makinen (sp?). That car finished 18th. Great Stuff.

  3. I went to most of the Sebring races in the ’60’s , but not in 1965.
    After reading and viewing the photos, I can say that I attended the 1965 Sebring 12 Hrs.
    Fantastic job, Lou.

  4. Great story and photos! I was there, but was more interested in a girl I was dating at the time. Now I know what happened during the race. Loved the pictures of the Don Yenko ’63 Vette. Thanks Lou!

  5. Lou,

    What a wonderful recounting of Sebring 1965 in word and image. It is good to know these memories will be preserved for future enthusiasts and of course some of us “old guys” who loved the era, the cars and the competition.


  6. I was there and spent the rain storm under the drive over bridge to the pits. No one came to run us off and it made for a great viewing area of the “pit river”. Watching drivers open their doors on the main straight to let water run out was an interesting sight.

  7. I was a sophomore in high school in 1965, and a big ChaparraL fan, and sitting on my desk right now is a model of the 2D, that won at the Nurburgring in 1966. I was not at the race, but I listened to it on the radio, and it was a very memorable day. Thanks for the great article and photos, bringing back some great memories.

  8. Louis
    Another great article. And another great race. These articles bring back so many on-rushing memories. I was there and the rains and wind were just tremendous. The travel trailer we were huddled in lifted up off the ground!
    Thanks for another great trip down the corridors of my mind.
    All the best

  9. I’m in complete agreement with all of my fellow ‘posters’ – amazing work and I very much look forward to more from Lou.
    Many thanks, Chris

  10. I almost attended this event. Myself and a friend hitchhiked across country from California and made it as far as Sarasota, Florida. There we were “detained” by local law enforcement and assigned to the County work gang.

    As an innocent 17 year old I had no problems from older, tougher inmates because I became pals with ex-boxing champion Tony DeMarco, in jail for an alcohol related offense.

    I did manage to listen to the race, along with other incarcerated race fans, on the radio. I don’t recall any static interference.

    After serving a short sentence for “vagrancy” I hitchhiked back to Monterey, CA. I missed Sebring but had one hell of an adventure.

  11. Really, really great pictures. Fantastic.

    One minor point. That picture of Carroll Shelby’s hands and a sheet of paper. I think he is checking tire temperatures and not pressures.

  12. Wow, Maybe one of the best fields of race cars and drivers ever assembled? Some months later I saw the Peter Clarke, Ferrari GTO for sale in Kensington, Maryland for 5K. Terrific article.

  13. I was a senior in high school and drove over with my buddies in a beetle. We watched the race from the straight before the hairpin. When the heavy rains came, the crowd lifted my VW up onto one of the old concrete foundations left from WWII. We stayed dry during the monsoon but everyone was intent on leaving after the race and we had no one to help get the car back on the ground. I backed it off using two 2x 4’s for a ramp. The crowd at the hairpin was wild – sitting up in the metal scaffolding during the lightning storm, cheering the little dayglo orange Sprite as it passed the GT 40s and Chaparral. I also have the Chaparral model on my desk -what a race and what memories. Thanks for the great article.

  14. Hi Lou:
    What a great in depth article and photos and comments on the cars and drivers!!!
    While I never attended any events at Sebring I remember articles and pictures appearing in Sports Car magazines at the time.
    A couple recollections of Sebring,I believe,was someone cutting a fairly large hole with tin snips in the top of a Daytona Coupe to vent the heat from the cockpit.
    The other was Sterling Moss interviewing Ken Miles after Ken had a shunt with his Cobra.Apparently Ken had warned the Cobra drivers about damaging their cars during practice.Sterling’s comment to ken was since he crashed first were the other drivers “Exonerated”if they crashed?Somehow that gave a new meaning to the word for me.
    Again superb article and pictures!!!!!!

  15. En ese entonces Tenia 11 años de edad y con mi primo eramos emfermos de fanaticos de los sport-prototipos Teniamos una pista de carreras donde sacabamos la escala 1/32 a nuestros amados autos y los corriamos 2 hrs!¡sabiamos de autos por las revistas americanas “cars racing”y Sport’s Ilustrade”ademas de L’omovile …Toda esta muestra de las 12 hrs sebring me llevo a ese entonces de mi juventud ¡Gracias Lou ! Por esta gran muestra con fotos y acontecimientos de esa epoca ,donde yo era fanatico de los Chaparral.Tambien Gracias a tu equipo y demas personas que laboran contigo !

    1. Muchas gracias Julian. Me alegra que la historia trajo cariño a la memoria del pasado. Al igual que usted creo que este fue un período maravilloso e histórico en el deporte de carreras de coches de la historia.

  16. Great story and pics louis , i can’t believe it could rain that much in 1 race. Good to hear from you again keep in touch.

  17. This story as portrayed by you Lou, captures the feeling of being there. Couple the story with the photos creates an experience that should be shared with every fledgling motorsport enthusiast. This will light the fire that will continue to burn the rest of their life.
    Well Done!

  18. Fantastically narrated, detailed story Lou! The photos are top-notch and really convey what the event was like. I can’t believe all that water!

  19. Hi Lou,
    I’ve lost track of how many times I have read your story now. Every time I do I remember something else of that week. Even the smell of Castrol R and orange blossoms comes through. There was a lighter side to things though; like when Bizzarrini removed his shoes when it began to rain and placed them at the back of the pit box near the drainage ditch. I’ll never forget how much time we spent, in vain, looking for his shoes. I can only imaging the look on people’s faces when he boarded the plane Sunday in his stocking feet. Great work Lou!

  20. Fabulous writing and truly great photos! I’ve seen your Flickr album and know you have a great number of special photos, but your writing here is another level. Thank you for your work on this, a treasure!
    LD71 😀

  21. Louis, I just got around to reading your published story yesterday. What a fascinating visit back to the good old days. When I look back on my life and things that I wanted to do and did not do. Attending a Sebring race is at the top of that list. Over the years I have looked back and regretted not having attending it when I could have. I still have a fascination with race cars from that era, especially the Shelby Cobra, (the replicas now). Thank you for putting me there through you’re in depth and captivating story.

  22. Absolutely amazing writing backed by equally stunning photos. I am too young to remember those days but this is a very insightful story, Thanks so much for sharing this Louis.

  23. My Dad and I drove from NC to Sebring in a brand new Camero RS. I had just gotten my learners permit. Will never forget the sound of the Ferrari engines and fell in love with one called the GTO. At the time, I had no idea of what I was attending, but my love for that GTO, now owned by Rick Mason and probably valued at 10’s of millions of $$$ still lives on.

    1. That had to be a special car, since Chevrolet didn’t start selling them until the 1967 model year.


  25. Great read. My wife was at that race.(her last one) I had classes and couldn’t get away. My Father-in-law built the MG bridge pictured, and a couple more things at the old course. I sneaked onto the course many times to wring out my Volvo on visits to Sebring. Brings back great memories.

  26. I was at this race! It was my first big race and I didn’t know what to expect. The story is quite accurate and captures the feeling of the day, especially the storm. We spent most of the day at the hairpin and had a great view of the incoming and outgoing cars. Highlight of the day was an Austin-Healy Sprite passing the Chaparral leaving the hairpin. The water was so deep the Chaparral had to tip toe away while the smaller Sprite just gave it the usual floorboard!

  27. We had gone down for the entire race week. Bike races then too. Night before the race crowd when crazy, we had camped on the outside of the big curve before the start finish straight. People driving through the snow fences, doing donuts with tents all around, seriously scary. Who could forget the topless bimbos dancing on car roofs. Heat and sun were so bad, that 2 days before we had wandered into Webster’s garage to get out of the sun. They told us we could watch the race from there. Wise choice, When the rains came the crowd broke the fences and ran across the track for the warehouse. Team managers ordered all the doors locked. We had people beating on the doors. It was Like that scene from Key Largo with the indians wanting to get out of the hurricane.! Stayed dry though. When we got back to our tent, it had been flattened and looted.

  28. Fantastic race and a great article of the event. Keep up the good work. When I was fifteen I went to Bridgehampton and saw jim Hall’s Number 65 and 66 race and blow off the entire fleet. I still have some brownie camera images that I took in the pits.

    Now is the author going to cover the 1952 Sebring race. My uncle had a buddy that came in second place overall in a Cunningham? I met him at my Uncles wedding His name is Harry Price.

  29. My first read since my new subscribed, and I have already forwarded it to a friend.  Very good read, “thanks” for all your hard work and background into the articles.

  30. I grew up near the track and love the grand old track that keeps on challenging the best cars money can build. Lou is an extraordinary gentleman. Had the pleasure of meeting him in Sebring at the Kenilworth to pick up DVD’s I purchased. Great racing historian and love you writing sir. All the best! Go Gators!

  31. Your articles are always a great read and the pictures are wonderful. This is the second time I’ve read this one and I found something I’m not sure is accurate: “The last time an American car with an American driver won a major international sports car race was at the 1921 French Grand Prix when Duesenberg came in first.”

    A great win by a great American driver Jimmy Murphy. Though the French weren’t very happy about it.

    However, Phil Walters and John Fitch won Sebring in 1953 in a Cunningham C4R Chrysler and Sebring was one of the FIA championship races that year. I’m not old enough to remember that one but I did see the car a couple years ago at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia.

  32. I was there having hitch hiked down from U of F in Gainsville. You could stand along the highway with a sign “Sebring” and get a ride to the track (180 miles) in 10-20 minutes tops. I remember wandering the pits and makeshift team shops the night before the race and finding the Chaparral in a quonset hut and other teams variously housed. It was truly the golden era of sports car racing and a unique blend of international flavor in sleepy small town.

  33. There was also a motorcycle race at Sebring in 1965, but not at the same date as the 12-hr race. There were several categories depending on piston displacement, from 500 cc to to 125 cc, maybe more. I was there and took pictures, but I do not know the date, organizer, or any other data. Can anyone provide data?