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Sebring 1973 – A Different Era Begins

Sebring in 1973 was the beginning of a new era for the legendary track. The Alec Ulmann era had ended in 1972 because he was not able to do the track upgrades demanded by the FIA and as a result they withdrew their sanctioning of the ’73 race as part of the FIA World Championship.

Saving the Sebring race from the trash heap of history was John Bishop and the newly formed International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).

IMSA and John Bishop brought an informal atmosphere to the Sebring race that year in an attempt to make racing fun again for all participants. One of those participants was a young college student by the name of Phil Currin from Gainesville, Florida who arrived early at Sebring in 1973 with his vintage 1963 Chevrolet Corvette to do some testing prior to the 12 hour race.

As a college student Phil, known to all today as “Fast Phil”, raced on a budget. He did most of the work preparing the car, towed it to the track, slept beside the car in the paddock and depended on friends to crew for him during the race. Amazingly enough this method of budget racing won him the 1972 IMSA GTO championship in his 9-year-old car.

In 1973 Phil had a problem. The dog sitter he usually used when away at the races was not available and he couldn’t afford to leave them at his place or board them in a kennel. So, he took the dogs, Fangio and Moss, to the track with him. He noticed in the entry papers for the event that IMSA didn’t have any prohibition for pets. He also expected his volunteer crew and their girlfriends would look after the pets when he was on the track.

As luck would have it the IMSA officials announced some early track testing prior to practice and qualifying and Phil felt that it was vital to take advantage of it to find out if all the preparations he had done on the car were working. However, his crew had not arrived and he was in a quandary on what to do with the dogs. He couldn’t leave them in the hot tow car.

Since very few track officials were present in the pits and even some of the corners were unmanned that early in the week Phil decided to take the dogs with him for a practice run. They didn’t mind the loud exhaust noise since they stayed by his side when he worked on the car. They were used to it.

On one of his laps he stopped the car on the back airport straight and let out Moss because the mutt wanted to get out and run. Fangio, with his short legs, was not interested. The photo shows Fangio with his head out the window and Moss keeping pace with the Corvette. Those were the early days of IMSA. While the dogs are long gone Phil still has the vintage split-window Corvette and still races. No wonder they call him “Fast Phil.”

[Source: Louis Galanos]