1963 12 Hours of Sebring – Race Profile Page Six
Sixty-five cars were scheduled to be wheeled out to the starting grid but the Ben Warren TVR was scratched at the last minute. By 8:30 a.m. the final group of 64 was on the grid and it included eleven Ferraris, seven Corvette Sting Rays, six Cobra roadsters, four E-type Jaguars and the usual assortment of race cars from such makes as Porsche, Triumph, Austin-Healey, MGB, Alfa, Volvo, TVR, Sunbeam, Lotus, Morgan, Sabra and OSCA.
As mentioned earlier, the American challenge in the Prototype Class fell squarely on the shoulders of the guys driving the Chaparrals and the Ferraris were the odds-on cars to beat. That is not to say that there were only Ferrari and Chaparral prototypes entered but cars classified as prototypes also included a Triumph TR3, a Djet Renault and three Austin-Healeys (two AH 3000s and a Sebring Sprite). All three Austin-Healeys were equipped with light-weight aluminum alloy bodies. The AH 3000’s were also equipped with Weber carbs and turned times in practice equal to some of the 5-liter Corvettes.
With an 1100 cc engine the little AH Sebring Sprite of John Colgate and Clive Baker was capable of keeping up with a 1600 cc Porsche Carrera Abarth. Even more amazing was the #68 Austin Mini-Cooper of Gordon Browne and Grant Clark that had a factory prepared 1300 cc engine and hit speeds in Wednesday’s practice approaching 120 mph on the back airport straight. Like the others this little box on wheels was classified as a prototype. Imagine the scenario that if the Ferrari and Chaparral prototypes failed to finish a little Sprite or Mini-Cooper would have ended up taking class honors. That would have been a hoot.
Right behind the cars on the grid were hay bales and they would be positioned, after the start, to delineate the pit road from the racing surface. With 15 minutes to go before the 10 a.m. start several drivers walked across the track from their cars to await the Le Mans style start. Some just wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle surrounding their cars and hopefully clear their minds for the task that awaited them. As more drivers made their way across the track it was obvious that some were nervous and one of the woman drivers actually did a pirouette.
It was at this point that a mechanic made his way through the throng along pit road to one of the TR-4’s. He was carrying a shovel and secured it to the inside the luggage compartment. Protective sandbanks along the race course were known to swallow a car or two each race and the only way a driver could continue racing is if he dug himself or herself out thus the necessity for a shovel. You were on your own if you got stuck and the only help a corner worker could give you was a shout if another race car came too close and was about to run your butt over.
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of any editorial or photographic content from SportsCarDigest.com without express and written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SportsCarDigest.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.