1963 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Four
Out there in the spectator viewing areas the supporting races, except for the BMC clown show, elicited little response other than some cheering at the start. Some of the veteran Sebring race fans who had arrived early seemed more concerned with setting up their favorite viewing spots and building their viewing platforms. They paid scant attention to the supporting races.
The scaffolding used to construct the viewing platforms was becoming more and more elaborate each year and some constructors made a little money on the side by allowing professional photographers a chance to take photos from the second or third level. Of course, attractive young ladies were permitted on the scaffolding for free.
In the eleven years since the first 12-hour race was run in 1952 the name Sebring had become a household name among sports car fans and many felt they had to make the pilgrimage to the historic Sebring raceway at least once in their lifetime. For them this was the premier sports car race in all of North America.
The race in 1963 would get nationwide recognition with a live radio broadcast direct from the track and the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) planned to broadcast race highlights and driver interviews on their national TV network.
One thing that the television audience would not see in 1963, although it would have improved ratings, was the party-like atmosphere now a tradition in the spectator area that some in later years would call “The Zoo.” The wild goings on, the colorfully dressed spectators and scantily clad young women, much of it attributed to college students on spring break, would get national attention after the tragic 1966 Sebring race. This would cause no end of embarrassment for Sebring town residents and city fathers alike but nothing would change because local businesspeople made a lot of money each year during race week.
While the Sebring 12 Hour Grand Prix might have been a “must-attend” event for many sports car fans it was also a “must-enter” event for many drivers both nationally and internationally. This event was still the only one in North America that awarded points toward the coveted Challenge Mondial Speed and Endurance Trophy for Manufacturers and as such attracted many of the top race constructors from the U.S. and Europe plus many of their well-known drivers.
The caliber and diversity of driving talent attracted to Sebring in 1963 was extraordinary with Don Yenko and A.J. Foyt driving Corvettes, Jim Hall and Hap Sharp and their Chaparrals, Ken Miles, Fireball Roberts and 1961 Formula One World Champion Phil Hill in Shelby A.C. Cobra roadsters, Pedro Rodriguez, 1962 World Champ Graham Hill, Lorenzo Bandini, Roger Penske, Augie Pabst, Richie Ginther, Innes Ireland, Jo Bonnier, David Piper, John Surtees, Ludovico Scarfiotti and Nino Vaccarella driving Ferraris. Driving XKE Jaguars were Briggs Cunningham, John Fitch, William Kimberly, Bruce McLaren and Walt Hansgen.
Some of the other drivers at Sebring that year who were either known or not so well known included a young Mark Donohue driving a team TVR Grantura, Jerry Titus and Dave Jordan in a Sunbeam Alpine, Denise McCluggage in an MGB, Bob Grossman and Hans Herrmann driving Abarths, Bob Tullius in a Triumph TR4 plus Don Wester and Bob Holbert in factory Porsches.
While not a household name, American driver George Waltman deserves a mention here because for the second time in a row he would drive the entire twelve hours in his Triumph TR4 without a relief driver. He would finish 37th, 55 laps behind the winner. This is a far cry from today’s endurance races where a team of four or five share driving duties.
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