1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix – Race Profile Page Eight
The drivers were beginning to make their appearances in the pits and the more famous and flamboyant among them attracted fans and photographers alike. The most famous of all, Juan Fangio, almost went unnoticed in the crowd due to his quiet demeanor.
Driving for Aston Martin was 26-year-old Stirling Moss. He won at Sebring in 1954 and this would be his first race in the new 3-liter car having practiced with it only in England. Co-driving with Moss would be Peter Collins. Collins was very vocal about his disdain for the use of 55-gallon oil drums used to outline the Sebring course. He thought they were very dangerous especially when they were used in the curves.
When team Aston Martin arrived in Florida they had brought along one crew member with the title of practical physicist. Supposedly he could, using a slide rule, calculate within a two-lap margin when a racing tire might blow. No idea if he was successful in doing so.
Moss was considered one of the best drivers in the world at the start of the 1956 racing season. This was a direct result of having a very successful 1955 season, winning the British Grand Prix, Mille Miglia, Targa Florio and Ulster Tourist Trophy.
While Moss was considered one of the greats in motorsports in 1956 he was second only to three time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio who at the advanced age (for endurance racers) of 44 years would be Ferrari’s hope at Sebring in 1956. He would drive a 3.4 liter 4-cylinder 860 Monza with co-driver Eugenio Castellotti. Fangio was recruited personally by Enzo Ferrari to be part of the factory’s effort to reclaim the manufacturer’s title.
Much to Enzo Ferrari’s consternation Juan Fangio almost didn’t arrive at Sebring that year. Under the Presidency of Juan Peron of Argentina Juan Fangio was allowed, as a national hero of Argentina, to import European racing cars duty-free. When Peron left office in September of 1955 the incoming government insisted that Fangio pay back all import duties for those years he was exempted by Peron. The Argentine government confiscated Fangio’s passport until that bill was paid. Arrangements were eventually made and Fangio was able to fly to Florida for the race.
Considered America’s greatest sports car driver, 28-year-old Phil Hill would pilot a 3.5-liter Ferrari but the car was already giving him headaches having swallowed two valves during practice and his mechanics had to burn some midnight oil in order to get the car ready for the start. According to Hill the top speed for his car on the back airport straight was 155 mph.
Other drivers of note included “Playboy” Purfirio Rubirosa of the Dominican Republic driving a Ferrari and Juan Fangio’s good friend, Carlos Menditeguy, of Argentina who would be driving a Maserati 300S. Interestingly enough Menditeguy would be wearing woven straw sandals during the race. No doubt a big price difference from the hand-made leather loafers that Jim Kimberly was wearing.