Ferrari 250 GTO 3223 GT
Ferrari 250 GTO leads Dan Gurney’s Cobra into the Esses. Dave Friedman photo.

A Good (Car) Guy is Hard to Find – A Girl’s Memoir

A Good (Car) Guy is Hard to Find: A Girl’s Memoir

By Petra Perkins with Louis Galanos

Memory: A blazing fireball was racing into the stands — headed straight at me — so I fled in a panic.

High-pitched engines shriek by, one after another, in endless, killing, head-splitting noise. It’s March 1964, Sebring, Florida and after a long hot day of watching cars in the pits or going round the track I just want to escape, run back to the parking lot, hide out in the station wagon I came in. This is torture; I cannot get excited watching the cars race, so boring to me, a fifteen-year-old girl. Here are scads of race fans, maybe thousands, swigging bottles of beer or Coca-Cola, standing three-deep at fences lining the track.

It is now nighttime and late in the race. The stadium lights are blinding; loud-speaker voices are deafening in the area across from the pits. The announcer is yelling like his pants are on fire, describing who’s in the lead, who’s overtaking, who’s just skidded into the hay bales. Collective groans and alternate cheers. Mostly men, everywhere – in the stands or milling around, in racecar pits, food huts, jumping onto the track, signaling with flags. Drivers fly toward the corners, jamming their brakes, popping their engines, making me cover my ears. How I don’t want to be here; I don’t understand why this is considered “fun”. My Aunt Ruth brought me here because I’m visiting from Colorado and she needs an event to entertain both me and her son, George. She says, “Girl, nothing’s more exciting than a car race!”

Team Ferrari arrives in the pits. Number 22 would finish first, number 23 second overall. Number 24 was a DNF. BARC Boys photo
The legendary driver Jim Clark and co-driver Ray Parsons drove this Ford Cortina Lotus at Sebring in 1964 finishing 21st overall. BARC Boys photo
The Chevy Corvette Grand Sport of Roger Penske and Jim Hall in the pits across from our seats in the bleachers. BARC Boys photo

I’d rather spend the evening in the Sebring library, Aunt Ruth. Loud noise is anathema to me. Cars are okay but … these look and sound like angry neon bees – taxicab yellows, bright reds and blues, ripe lime greens – zooming by us, screeching at the corner, revving up for the straight (that’s what my cousin George says, and, “Don’t you know anything?”)

Racetrack dust spirals in the high-beam glare of headlights. It is now so dark I can’t even see the whole track, as we’re near an end which, I decide, makes it even more boring. I don’t know anything; I just don’t get it. I feel as if I should be a boy to enjoy this.

Perhaps noticing I’m a bit droopy, Aunt Ruth escalates a contrived excitement level by whooping and hollering at her ‘favorite driver’: “GO! GO, A.J.!” as he charges by in a blue car. She’s bought me and George some popcorn and a couple of root beer floats. The treats raise my spirits. I try to get into the spirit of this “endurance race” by doing more than just enduring it. I place my allegiance and winner hopes on one of the cherriest red cars because they’re the neatest. I pick out a number. I watch #82 go around, around, around. 82, 82, 82…

The #82 Ferrari 250 GTO leads Dan Gurney’s Cobra into the Esses. Dave Friedman photo.
Racing at Sebring was always a challenge. Dave Friedman photos
Racing at Sebring was always a challenge. Dave Friedman photos
Larry Perkins going through the Webster Turns in the #82 Ferrari 250 GTO, serial number 3223 GT. photo
Larry Perkins exiting the Ferrari 250 GTO as the crew gets it ready for co-driver Bill Eve. photo

I wince from an especially jarring noise right in front of me, a series of ear-shattering thuds and blasts. I don’t see the source in the dark, but I hear it. It rocks my subconscious but doesn’t register because I’m clueless. I may even be thinking this is supposed to happen, so little do I know about car races.

It’s early spring in Florida but we’re sweating like it’s a July night of fireworks. It takes my hot teenaged exhaust-filled brain several seconds to process the fact of actual fire, coming directly in front of me. Orange flames are leaping from the other side of the track, getting bigger and moving fast and so close to the bleachers you could feel the radiant heat.

But the passage of time and I seem to stand still, making a memory. Then, I’m awake, running in a surge of spectators clamoring to get out of the bleachers and to safety. I’m feel I am being chased by a spinning fireball. The underlying buzzing bee noise continues, as cars speed past, swerving around fellow drivers who have crashed. Someone is burning. On top of that is screaming. Everyone scatters; I am lost from Aunt Ruth and cousin George in the frenzy.

Miraculously, we find each other in our parking lot amidst flashing lights, wailing sirens of ambulances and fire trucks that rush into the area. We decide to leave immediately and beat the outgoing traffic. I’m relieved to be out of there and make a mental note that I will never again – never again, as long as I live – go to a car race.

The Dan Gurney – Bob Johnson Cobra racing under the MG Bridge. Bill Stowe photo.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ of Consalvo Sanesi that figured prominently in the crash and fire in the race. Bill Stowe photo.
The Sanesi/Bussinello/Biscaldi Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ going through the Hairpin Turn. Dave Friedman photo
The pit area where the Cobra hit the Alfa late at night. Dave Friedman photo.

Thirty years later. It’s 1994 and I am at a car race. I’m living in Seattle and have been married three years to Larry Perkins. I overhear him talking about an experience he’d had as a race car driver, in his Ferrari 250 GTO. Although he has occasionally told me stories about his racing days in the sixties, they are formless to me and surreal. I don’t connect him with that era, that role, or with race cars at all. I know him as my sailboat mate, my lover, my bicycling partner, a rocket scientist, an exciting raconteur, a visual artist. A man who erupts into frequent fits of laughter. An intense highway driver who tailgates and passes others triumphantly. I don’t know anything about any risk-taking race car driver, or even what a Ferrari is, much less a 250 GTO.

Trying hard to relate, I surprise myself. And him.

Me: I went to a race once, in Florida. When I was about 14 or 15. There was a fire.
He: Where was the race?
Me: Sebring, I think. My aunt took me there.

I describe the fire and how everyone had stampeded.

He: (in astonishment) It was 1964. I ran that race. With Bill Eve, my co-driver.
Me: In a red car? (All I knew, from old photos, was that one of his race cars was red.)
He: Yep … it was real scary.
Me: What number was your car?
He: #82.

Larry gives me background on that spectacular blaze – one that got lots of attention then, and sometimes still does. Near the end of the 12-hour race, on the main straight across the track from Aunt Ruth and me, a big snarling Shelby Cobra ran point-blank into a “delicate little Alfa Romeo.” A roar of engines, a quick brakes-tire-chirp and … WHUMP … right into the Alfa’s gas tank, lighting up the whole night sky.

The Cobra (Dan Gurney’s and Bob Johnson’s) flipped end-over-end up the track, landing on its top and bending the car something awful. Bob, the driver, miraculously walked away with just a broken nose. “He could have died,” Larry says. The Alfa Romeo TZ was a mess, having exploded into flames, starting to burn furiously with the driver inside. Quick action by a rival team member from the nearby pits pulled him out and saved his life.

The Alfa Romeo TZ of Consalvo Sanesi just seconds after he was rescued by Alpine driver Jocko Maggiacomo. Dave Friedman photo
Unlike racing today the wreck and fire did not stop the 12-hour race. Dave Friedman photo
Driver Bob Johnson miraculously escaped the wreck of his Cobra with only a broken nose. Dave Friedman photo.
Despite the accident with the Alfa Romeo, the Dan Gurney, Bob Johnson Shelby Cobra would finish 10th overall. Dave Friedman photo

It was officially a “racing accident,” but Larry thinks it was an avoidable one. The Alfa driver had car trouble and was barely putt-putting along, slowing to (illegally) turn directly into his pit. There was no way Bob, coming up at 140 mph in the dark, could see that Alfa sitting in his path.

My family and I had all been in the dark, too, and hadn’t seen these details. There wasn’t much lighting at the track. The drivers could only see what their headlights picked out. But that fire really lit up the landscape.

And fire safety wasn’t that good either. Racers wore cotton suits and Italian drivers often sported nice short-sleeved polo shirts. Everyone involved in the disaster recovered, and the rescuer, a guy named Jocko Maggiacomo who also had burns, was later given a heroism award. The Alfa driver – Consalvo Senesi – opted never to race again, living to the ripe old age of 87.

So where was Larry, in all this? Well, his car – a Ferrari 250 GTO – had paused in the pits with an electrical problem. When the crash came, all hell broke loose with wild-eyed people yelling … jumping over the pit wall … running toward the fire … (unlike us, running away from it). Larry and his crew started shoving people aside and spraying them with a hose. Just a few yards from the fire, there was plenty of flammable stuff scattered around – gasoline, grease, oil, brake fluid, rags, rubber – with the risk of a big flash-over. Larry described the whole thing as a “very hairy scary berzerka.”

The race ended an hour or so later, and everyone packed up to go home. The crash and fire had ruined the day for many, but not for Larry’s team – they had just finished their first “real Sebring” and the result were: Car #82, Ferrari 250 GTO (s/n 3223 GT), L. Perkins/W. Eve, 27th Overall, 3rd in Class. The silver cup from that incredible long-ago event sits proudly on a shelf in his office.

This flashback memory of Sebring in 1964 gave me goose bumps. It turns out, astonishingly, that the first time I saw Larry and his red car, I was a pimply high-school student and he was 31, a hotshot race driver who was pedal-to-the-metal all the way, just like he is now. He had one of the most dominant race cars available in the ‘60s. Today, owing to the unique dynamics of vintage car collecting, it has become a supremely valuable example. There were only 36 250 GTO models built by Ferrari and one recently sold for around $70 million. The one that Larry drove at Sebring in 1964 was the first one built and has a long, long racing history. No doubt it could command a higher price at auction.

Larry Perkins, at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours, standing next to the Ferrari 250 GTO he raced at Sebring in 1964. Eric Lian photo
Larry and his co-driver Bill Eve finished 27th overall and third in the GT 3.0 class. Photo courtesy of Larry Perkins.
Larry drives the Best in Class M-2 Ferrari 250 GTO 50th Anniversary car up to the stage at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Eric Lian photo
Petra and Larry Perkins in 1994. Photo courtesy of Petra Perkins.

Before Larry and me – before I had the remotest notion of “car love” – this man and machine had merged in a synergy I could not begin to fathom. When the jolting memory of 1964 popped up three decades later, I still knew and cared little about racing. I had no concept of The Car, its popularity, its mystique or why it was revered. Why were thousands of photos taken of this thing? How can millions of words be written about a single car?

I knew even less about race car drivers who had their own mystique. They appeared to be the sexiest, most charismatic of competitive high-risk takers, with unflinching boldness and confidence. It would take years to comprehend that I had married one. Minutes upon meeting this rather supernatural man, he’d hypnotized me – just like a shiny red Ferrari hypnotizes and then drives some to distraction.

In 1963 Larry had searched the world for the perfect race car and found it in New York. In ’66, after “driving the living s#!t out of it,” he sold it and – he assumed – dismissed it from his life. But in 1994 it turned up again in Monterey under a new owner. Then it disappeared again for a long stretch, across the Pacific. At last, in 2011, the Ferrari 250 GTO drove into Larry’s radar again; he was able to touch it, like a sort of magic talisman. During that stretch the two of us had been going like mad on one journey after another, racing here and there with abandon, free-wheeling toward no hard destinations.

We sometimes detoured, bolted into barriers, fell by waysides, had breakdowns, ran out of gas, but usually chose to “take the scenic route” – all of which proves my motto: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Surely, Larry’s motto was: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you should at least find a fast car to take you there.”

Just when we’d started to slow down to the speed limit, The Car showed up. Again. On its way to Pebble Beach. And that is when I became a “car girl.”

[Source: Petra Perkins with Louis Galanos; photos: As Credited]

Show Comments (62)

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    1. Great story. I met Larry at Pebble Beach in 2011 along with the GTO, but I well remember him from the 1964 Sebring 12 Hours. My wife and I were there, across from the pits that evening, probably only a few feet away from Petra, but we didn’t know each other then. I remember the crash and resultant fire. Very scary.

  1. I too, remember 64′. I also remember the screaming, banshees from Marenello. I also remember the long, enduring, stupor of constant noise that shrieking engines provide in this wonderland of the sportscar experience. To me (like many guys) it’s an addiction. Other than LeMans, Sebring is, and was, the ultimate example of this cornucopia of the sound and fury of sportscar endurance racing.

  2. I ran my street ’62 studebaker gt hawk in the 2-hour race, mufflers and all. after that Friday race, Jesse Coleman, longtime sebring chief starter, asked me if I’d like to run the 12-hour. the car had 50,000 miles on it, some as a tow car for my lotus 7a, and I needed it to drive back to oklahoma, so I declined. in retrospect, of course, one wonders…

  3. I would not say that I am a fan of race cars or racing but this story is so well written that I could imagine being at the race track that day! The photos added another whole level of excitement and understanding. I particularly appreciated the love story with a twist!

  4. Excellent article, with several photos I had not seen before. My foster father, Jack Slottag, was the last person to drive this Ferrari “in anger”, stacking it in the sandbank at Sebring in 1966. I was 11 at the time and hadn’t met him yet.

    1. I knew Jack Slottag well when we both raced in the Florida Region of S.C.C.A..Jack was a really nice guy,and I always feel sad when I recall that awful crash at Palm Beach.Jack was my instructor when I had to renew my Competition License. May he thrive on Gods racetrack.

  5. A remarkable story told vividly. Enjoyed reading and seeing the photos, too. Lots of full circles in this piece.

  6. The writer certainly brought out/brings out the whole feeling of Sebring, the race, the crowd, the sensations. My first Sebring came in 1968, I’ll never forget it.
    Well done Petra

  7. What a great article! I know Larry Perkins, and Petra describes him to a “T!” I’ve had a few lunches with him and can vouch that he’s a great story teller with a lot of interesting experiences. Thanks Petra for catching the spirit of Sebring and most of all the spirit of Larry Perkins.

  8. Loved the article! I learned a lot of things I didn’t know. It helped me understand the evolution of the sport and the courage of the drivers!!

  9. I am no fan of car racing, the noise, smell of fuel and burning rubber, all of it is more than I can deal with, but your informative and funny story of the intertwined kismet of this man, girl and race car made me a fan of yours, Petra. Great story, pics and captions!

  10. I know nothing about the world of racing and race cars, but I love Petra and Larry. It’s so great to see this remarkable story in print and the pictures add some vivid detail, although the writing is vivid on its own.

  11. I am a friend of Larry and Petra, and have served with Larry on various art committees – he is a man of many talents. Petra has done a remarkable job of telling this wonderful story. Great article!

  12. Honestly I believe Sebring truly does not get the recognition it deserves. Every one talks so highly about Indianapolis or Daytona and LeMans, but Sebring is mostly overlooked when discussing famous race tracks. At its high point, everyone who was involved with sports car racing, and I mean in the whole darned world could not wait to get to Sebring each year. Not even the complete lack of amenities would stop them from coming, not even the floods, heat stroke temperatures or below freezing conditions would they mind.

    1. You are so right, John. All the teams knew, and the spectators (perhaps I should say “aficionados”) sensed that the thing – the 12 Hours – was damned hard to do. Sometimes it just seemed impossible, and just to finish was a triumph! And they were privileged to see some of the best, most-determined drivers and crews in the business do their thing, using tools (the cars) that defied belief. I mean, how do you make a machine that can take that punishment, at those speeds, in that climate, for that long, and not disintegrate! But you have to want to go to Sebring; it IS a bit hard to reach. And you hafta know – and enjoy – what you’re watching, and maybe the numbers of fans that do is dwindling? Anyhow, when Alec (Ullman) dreamed the thing up, we Southeast SCCA guys were glad to see another airport circuit pop up, even with sand and a few bumps and cracks, and nowhere to get N3 spark plugs. But no one EVER imagined we’d be writing about it in glowing terms today! Go Sebring International Raceway! All the best, Larry Perkins

  13. bout it isn’t real ‘sebring’ any more, and hasn’t been for a long time. for whatever reasons the circuit has been carved into a sad image of the original, and the cars are ‘machines’ now, not real cars like the gto. of course there still are the hundred variations of porsche 911 models everywhere. I have a map from the late ’60s showing the housing development out past harder hall. streets had names like aston Martin drive, ferrari avenue, triumph, Austin-healey, etc. streets. about a dozen years ago I got another local map. the car names had been replaced by flower names. bobby jones said long ago that money would ruin sport and boy was he right!

    1. The place has changed for sure, Toly… Especially sad is the decline and fall of Harder Hall itself. I’m flooded with memories of omelets in the bright dining room before heading out to the track, and drinks at the dark bar after returning…and I’m not a golfer! Larry

  14. Really well written article. Love the descriptions of racing and the climate in 1964. The story you tell about Larry Perkins and you is a really interesting read. Thanks!

  15. We really enjoyed the story and loved how well written it is. Having Petra and Larry as neighbors and friends in their post-racing years makes more vivid the oral history gifted in driveway chats and back patio reminiscence. Excellent job!

  16. Coincidence? I think not! You two were just meant to be together even though you had to unknowingly wait a few decades to actually meet. What a great story about your relationship and about the world of car racing. Thank you for creating such a vivid sensory experience at the race.

  17. I could almost smell the tyre smoke as I read the description of the racing and looked at those evocative photographs of a golden age of sports car racing. The personal side of the tale was very movingly written.

  18. Having been to Sebring race ‘way back when, I testify that Petra captures the deafening roar, the smoke-and-dust-filled air, the intense color and the poised expectation of car racing. But her first-person focus on A CAR and A DRIVER is heady stuff indeed. Bravo, Petra!

  19. I remember Sebring 64. I grew up in Central Florida, Lakeland. Sebring was just a short drive through the orange groves with the sweet smell of orange blossoms. My father drove me down to the first USGP in 59, I didn’t appreciate it’s importance at the time. Me and my sports car buddies would drive down after school on Thursday, camp and skip school on Friday. There were only a few people around, so we were able to hang around in the pits and garages with all the cars and drivers. The mid 60’s was a great time to be a teenage sportscar fan in Florida. In 64, I was parked in the paddock next to the fence, at the foot of the pedestrian bridge. The Alfa-Cobra accident was just in front of us. In 66, one of my buddies was killed in the Webster Straight accident..

    1. It was a great time to be in Central Florida back then, with the Sebring race and the “Daytona Continental” 3-hour race which morphed into the Rolex 24.

  20. I worked timing and scoring at this race and have so many great memories of it, like Roger Penske, who got away from the LeMans start poorly, but stormed past the leading Ferrari 250P in his #4 Corvette Grand Sport on the back straight and led for the first lap. There was such a roar from the crowd as he crossed the start/finish at the end of that first lap. That Corvette was such a brute – pure, raw horsepower in a very lightweight car. The car lasted about two or three hours, I think, and life got back to normal with Ferrari’s in the lead. My brother’s friend, Bill Eve from Cocoa Beach was driving the #82 Ferrari GTO in your opening photo. Since this race was always held during Spring Break, I would get to the track on Wednesday, the day the track opened, and start working in the timing stand, helping get ready for Thursday’s first official practice. I worked that race for 21 years. Good times.

  21. Two friends, Denny and Kenny, and I were walking just to the rear of the pits when we heard this huge “BOOM” with a flare of orange lighting up the sky toward the end of the pits. What a shocker; complete amazement at what might be happening in the dark. The pit area didn’t seem to have much lighting, so no one could figure out what was going on. Our first guess was that a re-fueling rig had tipped over and exploded because there was a lot of racing fuel had been splashing about all day long. I don’t remember being able to hear a track announcer at all in the middle of all the cars roaring by, so it took awhile to understand an Alfa had been involved. Good story summarizing the incident. Thanks.

  22. Sports Car Digest and Ms. Perkins: Thanks for sharing this well-written and entertaining story. I can see this as a book and/or movie! Great photos!

  23. Great story! I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Perkins in the summer of 2011. Mr. Perkins came to the shop where we were restoring SN 3223 for Pebble Beach. I knew Larry was a special guy immediately. Such a warm soul, and full of life. It was a real honor to be part of the team that restored 3223. Beyond that, I’ll never forget Larry and his stories. At the time I was driving a Volvo P1800. I had heard of Larry racing a Volvo P1800, that’s another good story. Larry raced the P1800 on one set of tires for the entire 24 hours of Daytona! Thanks again! Keep the memories alive.

  24. The name Larry Perkins also belongs to a well known Australian race driver, a multi Bathurst 1000 winner in Australian V8 touring cars, who also drove in F1, rallies, sports cars, partnering the Aussie Peter Brock (not the US one) at Le Mans in a Porsche 965. He was also a brilliant engineer, building cars that were successful in many hands. “Our” Larry is now retired but not standing still.

    1. Ken Price drove a Gold Lotus 20B at Bathurst Easter meeting,(can`t remember the year) had a nasty accident on top of the “Mountain”,Wore a Bell helmet with a bubble visor,
      Ts this you?

  25. So well written, Diana brought in fiery action, romance and strong imagery. I never knew about the fire after the flip-over, she relayed the event as though it were happening just yesterday. What a brilliant way to bring life into the moment. I look forward to more.

  26. Bravo!!! AGAIN to Lou Galanos. Lou composed another excellent article regarding the spirit and love of auto racing. Thank you Lou for being a ‘top shelf’ professional!

  27. Lou:
    When I first read the title I had no idea that it would be one of your great stories with fantastic photos typical of all of your Sports Car Digest contributions..Congratulations (again)

    1. Mario, I’m happy you like my article! I’m so grateful for Lou’s interest, edits, addition to photos, captions, and awesome compilation. – Petra

  28. This was a wonderful and truly classic story, just amazing Petra.To imagine as a kid I got to ride to the racetrack in that GTO with Larry. Thankful for all the influences those respected members of the Brevard Auto Racing Fraternity had on me, and for all those worn out race cars I got to sit in and enjoy watching growing up.

  29. Sebring was even more of a beast then, about 5.2 miles worth. I loved the story and photos, and relived my own memories of Sebring in 1967. I was 18 and intoxicated with racing. I watched Mario Andretti’s new, yellow Ford GT Mark IV in a thrilling wheel to wheel duel with Phil Hill’s Chaparral from the esses before sundown. The lead changed every lap until a plume of blue smoke signaled the demise of the Chaparral’s transmission. Mario went on to take the win. The 50’s and 60’s were truly a golden age for us and all those lucky enough to survive.

  30. As an engineer from the IBM laboratory in Poughkeepsie NY, I was sent down to Cape Canaveral to fix a problem on the IBM 7090 impact predictor, a machine that tracked missle launches for safety purposes. After the fix I was asked to remain over the weekend to hold a class for the customer engineers at the sight for the maintenance of the 7090 memory component, and it just so happened that the 1964 Sebring Endurance Race was being held that weekend. Being a member of the New York Region, SCCA flag and communication team that works these races I knew that the New York team would man the hair pin turn, roughly a 270 degree right hander after a long straight and I had a chance to join them. Having indicated to the office secretary that I wanted to spend the weekend at Sebring she said that one of the system engineers was going to race there and she introduced me to Larry Perkins. After some racing talk Larry asked if I could help move a car and so, of course, we ended up at Larry’s house where a beautiful red GTO Ferrari was sitting in his driveway. Larry explained that his tow vehicle had problems and would it be possible to tow the Ferrari down to Sebring with my rental car. Of course! With that he opened the garage door and there was a BMC Formula Junior sitting on a small flat bed trailer just big enough for the Ferrari to fit on. After a quick trip to a hardware store to buy a bumper hitch we unloaded the Junior and loaded the GTO on to the trailer that was attached to my rental car with the bumper hitch and left for Sebring about a 2 hour drive. The GTO was safely delivered to its Sebring paddock and I met up with my Flagger friends but I had to borrow Larry’s trailer again to pick up one of our members, Ron Kambourian, who had talked himself into a dealer lent Lotus Elan (new at the time) that had a problem about 60 miles north of the track. With some of the Flag Mob we drove north, picked up Ron and his car and headed back to Sebring and returned the trailer to Larry’s paddock area. The road terrain in Florida was so flat you could see on coming headlights almost 20 miles away and they look like a smashed lighting bug on your winshield util they become two headlights and flash by you.

    I missed the crash that involved the Alfa Romeo because a doctor at our corner gave me a pill for a bad headache caused by the fumes that settled at the hairpin turn and I fell asleep in my car. When I awoke my first impression was the cherry red glowing of the break discs as the cars rounded the hairpin and the full effect of the pill made me feel like I was bouncing 10 feet high with every step, headache gone. I later learned that Jocko Maggiacomo had pulled Sanesi from the car. Jocko was sharing the Alpine ride with H. Paul Richards who had driven for Cunningham at Le Mans and driven Fiat Abarths for Team Roosevelt. Jocko had driven most everything and was from the Poughkeepsie, NY area where he was in business with Fred Spross who raced Austin Healys. They ran Continental Motors where I used to get my car serviced so I knew them. Both Jocko and Paul were invited to the Alfa Romeo works in Italy for Jocko’s heroic efforts to save Sanesi from the burning car.

    I often think about Larry Perkins and the crazy race car weekend at Sebring ’64 but we have never met up again. Glad to hear he is still kicking. I’m 84 and he’s got me by a couple of years. Be like Fitch, keep driving!

    1. Dave, you’re right…I’m still kicking. You shook a million memories into focus with your comment. Your DPD Poughkeepsie team of experts, theCape IP facility, that Sebring weekend (and many more afterward), your course worker adventures, and on and on. We should talk some, don’t you think? Contact info: 303-868-6670, [email protected]

  31. Amazing story. Loved every word. I was only left wondering how in the hell did they meet? A woman who was not a car girl met and married the man, 16 years her senior, who drove in the one and only “car race” she attended? Providence for sure.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! We met in Denver at an aerospace company where we both worked. Larry was my boss. Now I’m his boss! We didn’t realize we’d been at the same place in 1964 until three years after we were married.

  32. To steal part of a great line: “there’re 8 million stories in the naked pits”. and that’s sure one of them. Petra proved bench racing is alive and well.
    Ours are midwestern based and come to mind often, even as the characters are gone. Keep ’em coming.

  33. I attended Sebring for the day of the race in 1964 and Petra’s story brings back many good memories. In 1965 during my college spring break, I drove my Austin Healey 3000 from Boston to Sebring on the Monday before the race so that I could experience the full impact of this historic event. Little did I know that 1965 would be one of the most memorable Sebring races with the unique rain squall and close finish with the Cobras in full force. I ended up volunteering to crew for the Delmo Johnson Corvette Grande Sport team right next to the Briggs Cunningham Jaguar team. Near the finish of the race, I witnessed one of the Ferraris on fire in the pits and the spectators so thick that the crew almost could not extinguish the fire. I have returned to Sebring in recent years, but it is nowhere near the wonderful experience we shared in the 1960s. which Petra so clearly described.

  34. Wonderful story! …and I am glad to see that the missing piece to the story was added above (how you and Larry came to meet and marry). Thank you for sharing.

  35. I just picked up some photographs and posters from an estate sale here in Florida. The number 82 car shows up in some Polaroids as well as the person from the estate which had a car number 104 a similar Ferrari. Thank you for the story was nice to read about the car and the drivers

    1. Thank you so much for that comment! I sure would like to have a copy of those polaroids. Please let me know how I could contact the owner. – Petra