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1960 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile

1960 Sebring 12-Hours Grand Prix – Porsche Racks Up Their First Overall Win at Sebring

By Louis Galanos | Photos as credited

From 1954 to 1959 Porsche of Germany had managed to have one or more of it 1.5 or 1.6 liter race cars finish in the top ten at the Sebring 12-Hour Grand Prix of Endurance, which many considered the premier sports car race in North America.

However, during those years as also-rans, the coveted first overall trophy eluded Porsche consistently despite their proven reliability on the track. Larger displacement cars like the 3.4 liter Jaguar D-type, Ferrari 860 Monza, the 4.4 liter Maserati 450S and the 3.0 liter Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa would finish ahead of the German cars.

Many at Sebring in 1960 referred to the Porsche racers derisively as those “pygmy” cars and could hardly imagine them winning the first place trophy despite the fact that they took 3rd, 4th and 5th position in RSK’s in the 1959 race. Unfortunately, they missed the top two spots to a pair of 3-liter Ferrari 250 TRs that year.

Speculation prior to the 1960 Sebring race held that British ace Stirling Moss had the odds-on chance of winning in his Camoradi USA 2.9 liter “Birdcage” Maserati Tipo 61. Wasn’t Moss the best in the world since the retirement of Fangio? Wasn’t Moss’s picture in just about every newspaper? The only thing that could jinx predictions of a potential Moss victory at Sebring in 1960 was Moss himself. He had a reputation for thrashing any car he drove and if the Tipo 61 could survive Moss then it would surely win.

Without doubt there were few Sebring 12-Hour races during this period in motorsports history that didn’t have some controversy attached to them and 1960 was no exception. Two problems arose. First, Sebring founder, race director and promoter Alec Ulmann had entered into an agreement with the American Oil Company (Amoco) that in exchange for sponsorship money Amoco would be the exclusive provider of race fuels at the Sebring race. Entrants would be prohibited from using any other fuels.

This created immediate problems for both Ferrari and Porsche. Ferrari had its own exclusive fuel arrangement with Shell Oil and Porsche had a similar agreement with British Petroleum (BP). Both Porsche and Ferrari notified Alec Ulmann that his agreement with Amoco was not acceptable and unless they could use their own race fuels they would not send a factory race team to Sebring.

Ulmann knew that a boycott by factory teams, especially Ferrari, would seriously damage the status and spectator drawing power of the race. Ulmann traveled to Modena, Italy to talk to Enzo Ferrari but they were not able to come to any kind of agreement. Later Ferrari as well as Porsche issued press releases announcing a factory boycott of the race.

According to an Associated Press (AP) wire story the rhubarb over the gasoline issue and then the announcement of a boycott by Ferrari and Porsche came as a surprise to Sebring promoter Alec Ulmann. He was surprised because Ferrari had raced under the same conditions the previous year (1959) and won the race. What Ferrari had done was sneak into the paddock a truck load of gasoline cans containing Shell gasoline. However each can had an Amoco sticker on the can. After the race when news of this was made public Sebring officials would counter that they had “…seized and impounded” those cans of gasoline and Ferrari was forced to run on the race sponsors product.

No sooner than the boycotts were announced to the automotive press both Ferrari and Porsche began to develop a way to get their cars to Sebring for the race. For Ferrari it was easy. All they had to do was ship their cars to Luigi Chinetti who at one time was the only Ferrari factory agent in the United States. Chinetti created the North American Racing Team (NART) and could function as a private entry in the race. Private entries were not bound by the arrangements between the factory and their fuel suppliers.

Wondering if he had a ride and a paycheck for Sebring in 1960 was two-time Sebring winner Phil Hill. The popular Californian had won the two previous years at Sebring as a Ferrari works driver but Enzo Ferrari notified him, team mate Wolfgang von Tripps of Germany and Englishman Cliff Allison they couldn’t drive at Sebring. Also absent from Sebring were the UK’s Tony Brooks and current world driving champion Jack Brabham of Australia.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Thank you Lou — this is yet another of your wonderful photo compilations integrated with excellent commentary that brings to life a classic race. I was delighted to see my father’s Alfa in two of the photos. As noted, he co-drove it at Sebring with Bill Milliken. That was the last race for both of those great friends. Note the New York State license plate on the Alfa — the car had just been delivered and was driven to the race. My brother, J.C. Argetsinger, drove the Alfa back to Watkins Glen after the race with absolutely no brakes. J.C. is now the president of the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) at Watkins Glen. Thanks again Lou. Michael Argetsinger

  2. Douglas Morton says

    Another excellent article on Sebring by Louis Galanos! I’ve enjoyed reading all your articles on the 12 Hours. The only thing that stood out to me was the Amoco anniversary date…I believe it was the 50th instead of 100th. Thanks again for keeping the memory of Sebring alive!

  3. Dixon Johnston says

    Thanks, great shots and memories. I had not seen (or long forgotten?) the photo of my father in the Arnolt-Bristol. The year before he raced a 250 TR.

  4. Dan Eastwood says

    Another outstanding article by Mr. Galanos! – I enjoy going to vintage races, but it’s so much seeing original photos like these – set in their own times. What a treasure.

    I especially enjoyed seeing the Arnolt Bristol being raced – another great design by Scaglione that has stood the test of time.

    & the IBM Computer hard drive that looked like a giant stack of pancakes… What a hoot!

  5. Mario says

    When asked, a few months ago, if I had been at Sebring in 1960, I replied “yes, I was there;; but except for remembering a couple of very reliable winning Porsche’s and some wicked sounding unreliable Maserati “Birdcage” race cars, I don’t remember anything”. Thanks Lou, for reminding me, in detail , that there was A LOT MORE to remember! Mario

    • Doug Seeley says

      A great article on historical racing at Sebring, with many fine photographs. Those early Porsches were clean, well engineered machines that always gave the more powerful and exotic cars fits, and in this instance, beat ‘em. Silver has always been my favorite color. Thanks, Lou

  6. Anonymous says

    Thanks Lou, great job. With your help I now remember the race but the behind the scenes conniving by the “big boys” reminds me of the politics of auto racing. Guido

  7. says

    Simply marvelous!!! What a great start to my day (even if I just put myself 1/2 an hour behind schedule).

    In 1960, as a 12 year old newly addicted aficionado , I could only watch the “boys”, including our neighbor John Fitch, driving off from our village of Lime Rock for Sebring with wistful longing.

    Lou, such a fine narrative… and to you old BARC boys??? Every-time I rummage through your archives of images I recall and refresh another part of my ancient memories…

    Many, many thanks.
    dlm

  8. Stephen Swain says

    I remember those races with such fond excitement. My family lived in Sebring from 1954 to 1962, and from 1960 onward, I never missed a race until I went off to Chapel Hill in 1967. Those were great days! I worked, as a 14-year old, as Mr. Ullman’s gofer, for the 1962 race. He was a very focused gentleman, demanding but not harsh. He kept a Benz 300SL roadster in front of the Jaguar tower as his personal vehicle, and when something happened out on the course that concerned him, he just jumped into it, burning rubber down the pit lane. What excitement!

  9. says

    How lucky we are to have Louis Galanos & Dave Nicholas alive to re-live this race (and other races) personally and share the grit and reality with us. Things can get so distorted today. As I read this I felt like I was there. I just can’t say enough. Except for bugs in the kumquats?

  10. says

    Louis on my gosh I have now been to Sebring in 1960. What an excellent commentary and wonderful array of historic photos. We fortunately see these wonderful cars on the lawn at Pebble Beach or on a track in the historic races but to hear about the drama behind the scenes and learn how mechanical failures were so common is very enlightening. We are reaching a new summit of interest in this era and thankfully many of the cars and drivers are still around for the next generation of race fans. Thanks for your excellent work.

    Your Flickr Buddy

    Wayne Craig

  11. Nick Adams says

    Thanks again Lou, for rekindling those dim memories. I examined each one of the pictures closely as 1960 was my second Sebring (only as a spectator-I was a senior in high school), hoping I might be lurking somewhere in the background. Alas, no luck, but I only missed a couple in the next 40 years, many working for the SCCA. Great story!

  12. Charlie Cravens says

    Thank you so much for your well-written and informative article and photos. You mentioned the 860 Monzas at
    Sebring. There were three cars {S/Ns 0602M, 0604M, and 0606M}. These were the only Tipo 860 Monzas.
    S/N 0604 won the race, driven by Fangio/Castellotti. I owned and raced 0604M from 1959-1967. This was an
    experience I will never forget. I was not fast, but no one enjoyed their car more. Back then, I did everything
    myself. I built a trailer {with springs and brakes, unheard of at the time}, converted my truck from manual to automatic transmission for towing, drove the truck, drove the car, loaded/unloaded car, did all pre- and post-
    race chores, all mechanical and paint work, etc etc etc. The car was a joy, and still is.

    Times are different now. I paid $5000 for the car and sold it for $3600; I think the last valuation I saw on it
    was $6M+. At the time, my salary was about $10,000/year; my financing is a story all by itself. I was very
    lucky to have lived at the time when an ordinary guy could do the things I did. Tempus fugit, doesn’t it?

    Thanks again for what you do.

    Charlie Cravens

    • Louis Galanos says

      Wonderful having you comment about my story and sharing your remembrances of past racing days when a car owner/driver could do it all.

  13. says

    Dear Lou,
    When I awoke this morning I was reminiscing about matters that are important in life and my favorite memories of all times. I concluded that without a doubt my favorite memories are of Watkins Glen in 1952 and Sebring during the golden years of 1959-1962. Then two hours later I read your fabulous article. The irony is overwhelming.
    It was as if someone pushed the replay button in my brain as I continued to read. The photos provided by Dave Nicholas and his fabulous website, http://www.barcboys.com are stunning but so very familiar.
    In 1958 Nicholas, Dave Zych, Steve Vail and I started the Binghamton Automobile Racing Club (BARC). We were fortunate to grow up in a time and place that made all of these memories possible. For decades after our many trips to Sebring, we saw many of these images over and over again. Thankfully, Spankey Smith, Dave Zych, Steve Vail, John Kelley and Nicholas were good stewards of these images. We should all be grateful that they can now easily be shared with others. I know that Nicholas has had many other contributors to his website and their efforts cannot be underestimated.
    My personal favorites however will always be images we saw hanging in the homes of BARC members, collected in scrapbooks or shown as slide shows. I remember one occasion where Sebring slides were shown on a screen while Peter Ustinov’s Grand Prix of Gibraltar played in the background. Those were great days.
    One memory that popped into my head is the “Amoco Porsche” sign indicating who was assigned to that pit box. The pit box signs were sturdy but nonetheless temporary. It was customary that those signs were removed by race fans but such action was not considered to be vandalism, at least it wasn’t in 1960. The BARC boys were a little timid at first but we did acquire a sign. The last I knew it was in Nicholas’ home in Binghamton.
    Lou, in closing I would like to say your research is phenomenal. Every little tidbit adds to the story and helps us enjoy that lost period of racing even more.
    Thank you very much.
    Joe Tierno

  14. Jim Sipos says

    Great to read about classic races. I was a teenager in Englewood, Ohio and was able to listen to the race on a big console radio. What fun? One slight correction – Mr. Gendebien’s first name was Olivier not Oliver. Thanks for the story.
    Jim S.

  15. Bob Deull says

    Great article! Brought back many memories. I was at the race with Art Smith. We drove from Buffalo in a Karmann Giha in 30 hours. Our Ecurie Pip! wound up owning 5 of the cars from that race, Three MG twin cams and two Austin Healeys . I had the Practice Twin Cam, raced it for a year and sold it to Bob Moran. It later sunk on a boat and is at the bottom of the Carribean near Cuba. Many years later I bought the Practice Austin Healey from Dick Ecklund. I ran the Healey in vintage racing from 1992 to 2006. It is now back in the UK. Cheers, Bob Deull

  16. Peter Bornhauser says

    Charles Voegele, owner and driver of the Lola Mk1 he shared with Peter Ashdown, was well known to my dad, through racing and because he (Voegele) bought all the stationery and computer forms for his new mail-order business in Switzerland from him. Charles Voegele was first in bringing a Lotus Elite, in wjhich I had a ride as an 18 year old, to the continent, much to the chagrin of the Giulietta SV drivers. The Lola came after that, and Voegele helped finance Eric Broadley’s fledgling company for some time. Spark made a nice model of that Lola and it sits on my bookshelf. Both his sons are in historic racing, Carlo, amongst other cars, owns the unique 330 GTO which he ran some years ago at Laguna Seca.

    • Louis Galanos says

      Many thanks to you and all the others for your kind comments. As a retired history teacher these vintage racing stories have been a labor of love for me. Fortunately for me the kind folks at Sports Car Digest have been nice enough to publish my work and for that I am grateful.

  17. B Greenwood says

    Another terrific account that makes history felt in a way few writers accomplish. The inevitable connections to the former driver’s that we had the privilege of knowing in the years to come, only increases the respect for them as well as the history of Sebring itself. Your writing Louis reminds me a lot of what I respected about Walter Cronkite. Concise, accurate and entertaining mind attendance of a race I wasn’t even at. Thanks again to you and the BARC boys

    Burt

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