1958 12 Hours of Sebring – Anglo-Americans and the Redhead
1957 and 1958 were interesting years in international sports car racing, when it could be argued that sports cars turned into sports racing cars, in spite of efforts to make them more like what they started out to be! But higher windscreens were unlikely to achieve much!
It was clearly Ferrari vs. Maserati, with 290MMs from Ferrari beating the 300S from Maserati at Sebring, and then the 315S Ferrari took that tragic Mille Miglia. Aston Martin intervened at the Nurburgring and Jaguars swept Le Mans. The Maserati 450S took a win in Sweden, but Peter Collins and Phil Hill in a Ferrari 335S won in Venezuela and that gave the championship to Enzo Ferrari.
New rules appeared in 1958, and Maserati was on the brink of financial crisis, and had failed to develop the 300S for the new three-liter rules. At Buenos Aires in January, two new Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa entries in the hands of Hill/Collins and von Trips, Gendebien and Musso took the win. At Sebring the sleek new ‘redhead’ would do it again, and for the rest of the season, Aston Martin would be the only other team to get to the top of the podium.
Though 1958 would also begin to see the rise in favour of Grand Touring cars, the outright winners were always going to come from the new generation of racing sports cars. Ferrari had six of the Testa Rossas at Sebring, three private cars and three works machines for Hill/Collins, Musso/Gendebien and Mike Hawthorn/von Trips. The opposition would no longer come from Maserati…there were only two there and they were private entries…but from Aston Martin.
Aston Martin sent the DBR1 for Stirling Moss/Tony Brooks and Carroll Shelby/Roy Salvadori, and there was a GT entry of a DB2/4 MkIII for George Constantine and John Dalton. That car now belongs to John Goss and is alive and well and still racing! There were also some quick looking Jaguars though the Coventry firm products were a bit out-classed by now. There were Ecurie Ecosse D-Types for Ron Flockhart and Masten Gregory, and for Ninian Sanderson/Ivor Bueb, with a Cunningham car for Briggs himself and Walt Hansgen. Cunningham also entered two Lister-Jaguars for Ed Crawford and Indy driver Pat O’Connor, and Archie Scott Brown and Hansgen. The Jaguar-powered machines should have stayed home.
The entry list was indeed star-studded, though some of these stars had not quite risen yet. Dan Gurney was sharing a DB-Panhard with Howard Hanna, and he even found time to have some practice laps in the Fiat-Abarth Zagato entered for Denise McCluggage and Ruth Levy. How Dan managed to fit into either of these cars is a mystery! Jo Bonnier was brought in to increase the attractiveness of the Duncan/Hinkle Maserati. The two Americans both out-qualified the Swede who broke the gearbox in the race. Duncan and Hinkle were not impressed. John Fitch was sharing one of the private Ferrari Testa Rossas with Ed Hugus. Bob Holbert and Skip Hudson were in a Porsche 550RS, and veteran Bill Milliken was in an Elva with Millard Ripley and Cameron Argetsinger. There were Indy drivers Jim Rathmann and Pat O’Connor, and the Argentinean Alejandro DeTomaso was sharing an OSCA with his new wife Isabelle Haskell.
The start was something of a shambles, some drivers posed and ready to sprint to their cars, while others were still ambling across the circuit. This prompted one false start so everybody had to line up again.
The Augie Pabst/Jim Jeffords Corvette SR2 was expected to be quick off the line. Pabst was making his international race debut. Jeffords was indeed first off the line but a wheel problem stopped him out on the circuit and he was therefore last across the line at the end of the first lap. The Corvettes had made a big impact the previous year, but were not realising their promise. Juan Fangio had tried one in 1957 and gone much quicker than anyone else, though he was still faster in his Maserati.
The Aston Martins made the early bid for the lead with Stirling Moss going out in front. Mike Hawthorn had the works Ferrari second but Roy Salvadori had the other Aston on his tail and the British cars were looking very impressive. Roy then moved past Hawthorn to make it an Aston 1-2. The Listers were going well in the opening laps but Olivier Gendebien tried to force his way past Archie Scott Brown and managed to climb right up over the back of the Lister. The drivers hopped out and got the Ferrari off and it went back to the pits for repairs but the Lister was out. The second Lister only managed six laps before the engine went and all the Jaguar-powered cars were gone by lap 22.