Jaguar XJR-5, Sebring

Celebration of the 12 Hours of Sebring – Photo Gallery

By Bob Harmeyer

Sebring International Raceway, located on a former Army Air Force base situated among the orange groves of south-central Florida, is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the legendary 12 hour endurance classic in 2012.

Sebring has always been one of my three favorite races to photograph, along with the 24 hour races at Daytona and Le Mans. At all three, the lengths of the races provide a wide range of lighting conditions that change and evolve throughout the races.

But Sebring has a distinctive character trait that’s lacking at the other two. More than Daytona or Le Mans, the relentless pounding of Sebring’s singularly brutal track surface has yielded images of wounded cars staggering toward the finish. Sebring’s finishing order is more often the result of true endurance, with outright speed frequently relegated to long stops for repairs, or outright retirements.

The circuit has been reconfigured several times, with the lap distance now pegged at 3.7 miles. That’s less than half the distance around Le Mans and, although it’s a shorter track and just a 12 hour race, many believe that the 12 hour mugging of Sebring is actually tougher than 24 hours around Circuit de la Sarthe.

Among Sebring’s ironies: the 1985 event yielded the final victory in the career of IndyCar legend AJ Foyt.

And among Sebring’s enthusiastic fans: Bobby Rahal, who has described his 1987 victory as one of the emotional highlights of his career.

Porsche has more Sebring victories than any other marque, and Porsches dominate the following photo selection. But Porsche has won just once since 1988, with recent events being dominated by the classic duels between Audi and Peugeot. Unfortunately, Peugeot’s unexpected closure of their racing program sets the table for another Audi romp to the podium this year.

Always run during March, Sebring is perfectly scheduled as a “spring break” for both students and adults who’ve grown weary of several months of northern winters, and the infield party atmosphere has a long history and richly deserved reputation. Coupled with the track’s classic endurance racing action, the 12 Hours of Sebring is a multi-sensory experience that should be sampled at least once by every serious racing enthusiast.

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Celebration of the 12 Hours of Sebring – Photo Gallery

Greenwood Corvette, 1975 12 Hours of Sebring, Spirit of Sebring Corvette
Track owner John Greenwood qualified his Chevrolet Corvette third for the 1975 12 Hours of Sebring, but was leading the field toward the first turn when the green flag fell. The car completed just 42 laps, though, and was classified 56th at the finish.
Sebring raceway sunset photo, 1977 12 Hours
The 1977 example of Sebring's signature "sunset" photograph -- perhaps one of the more iconic images in endurance sports car racing.
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, 1977 12 Hours of Sebring
The Porsche Carrera RSR 911 of George Dyer and Brad Frisselle won the 1977 12 Hours of Sebring.
Porsche 911 Carrera, 1977 Sebring 12 Hours
The Porsche Carrera of Hans Berner and Willy Goebbels completed just 148 laps in 1977 and was classified 31st at the finish.
Brumos Porsche 911 RSR, 1977 Sebring 12 Hours
Brumos Racing drivers Peter Gregg and Jim Busby started on the pole in 1977 and finished 3rd at the end of the 12 Hours. This portion of the Sebring circuit has been reconfigured and no longer exists.
Ted Field, 1977 Sebring 12 Hours
Ted Field was an active participant in sports car and IndyCar racing before moving on to the film and recording industries. Along with co-drivers Danny Ongais and Hurley Haywood, he finished 5th in the 1977 race.
Danny Ongais, 1977 Sebring 12 Hours
Danny Ongais was one of the best during the 1970s and 1980s, always driving Ted Field's Interscope entries. In the 1977 12 Hours of Sebring, the team of Ongais, Field and Hurley Haywood finished 5th in a Porsche 934.
1977 Sebring 12 Hours paddock, pit lane
The Sebring pit lane in 1977, dominated by the Camel signage of series sponsor RJ Reynolds.
1977 Sebring 12 Hours party
Sebring's infield party atmosphere is well-known and well-documented, evidenced by this pair of participants in 1977.
Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, 1977 Sebring 12 Hours
The Porsche 911 Carrera RSR of Maurico DeNarvaez and Albert Naon leads a group of cars during the 1977 race. This portion of the track no longer exists.
Porsche 934, 1977 Sebring 12 Hours
Gary Belcher and John Gunn drove this Porsche 934 to 4th place in 1977.
Lotus Elan, 1977 Sebring 12 Hours
The Lotus Elan of Tato Ferrer, Manuel Godinez and Bonky Fernandez runs through the sweeping corner between the old Turns 1 and 2 , a section of the circuit that has been redesigned. The Lotus finished 58th in the 1977 race.

Celebration of the 12 Hours of Sebring – Photo Gallery Continued

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Show Comments (7)

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  1. I’ll second Louis’ comments: some great shots there, especially with the airplanes in the background, as a reminder of the origins of the Sebring track. Great piece, thank you very much.

  2. As a UK resident I have been lucky enough to visit the US often in springtime and as a result have been able to attend the Daytona 500, Daytona Bike Week and the Sebring 12 Hours.
    All three have a very friendly and special atmosphere. Unfortunately due to family circumstances and now Covid I’ve missed out for last three years but I’m eagerly looking forward getting back there.

  3. Beautiful photos. I really enjoy the shape of the cars from those days. However, I went to a WEC event in Austin and there is no romance for spectating an endurance race when it is 100 degrees. Thanks!