Despite being exhausted from our long drive we partied with the “other college students” until the wee hours of the morning. We than went to our car and collapsed fast asleep on the bench seats of the Chevy (Can’t do that in my Toyota today). We were dead asleep until about 5 a.m. when a loud roar of a jet aircraft awoke us. It was too dark to see anything so we immediately went back to sleep.
We didn’t get up until 10 a.m. the next day and after getting cleaned up in the primitive track facilities we had breakfast with the other students. The young ladies were amazing, cooking bacon and eggs for all and making coffee. It was a little chilly that morning and the hot coffee was welcome. In order to be good house guests Russell and I volunteered to clean up the area and wash the pots and pans after everyone was done. The young ladies really appreciated this and two of them gave us a peck on the check for our efforts.
After breakfast a few of us went for a stroll over to the paddock and pits. I was anxious to see some of the exotic cars I had always heard about. In the pit area I almost fell over myself trying to get a look at the new Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR that was there. I had to mentally caution myself not to drool all over the car.
Also in the pits was British champion Stirling Moss. He was talking to a fellow by the name of Steve McQueen and his wife Neile. One of the coeds told me that McQueen was a TV star but I didn’t think I had ever seen anything he was in. Both Moss and McQueen would be driving Austin-Healey Sprites in the 3-hour race for small sedans on Friday.
Twice on our walk a large Air Force transport came low overhead and made for the long North – South runway at Sebring. No one seemed to know why they were there until we came across a college student by the name of Dave Nicholas from Binghampton, New York. He had press credentials given to him by the speedway because he was doing a story for his college newspaper. He told us the a B-52 bomber from McCoy Air Force Base in Orlando, Florida had made an emergency landing at the airport and was parked by one of the big hangers. The other planes were bringing in parts and mechanics to repair the bomber. Only the drag parachute on the B-52 saved them from going off a runway not suited for such a big plane. The plane also burned up some of its brakes in trying to stop. How they would be able to take off without running out of runway was anyone’s guess.
Dave went off to talk to someone in the pit tower but soon returned with some interesting news. It seems that the commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), general Curtis LeMay, had flown in on one of the transports to oversee the repairs. I thought this strange for a four-star general to do something like this until I remembered a story in Road & Track magazine about how General LeMay was instrumental in allowing sports car races on Air Force bases in the 1950’s. No doubt, as a lover of sports cars, he wanted to see some of the machines that were entered at Sebring that year. Later Dave would come across LeMay in one of the garages working on a Ferrari. The owner of the car said that LeMay just showed up in a flight suit and volunteered to help prepare the car for the 12-hour race.