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IN PERSPECTIVE, THE 12 HOURS OF SEBRING
by Tim Considine Editor at Large, The Auto Channel
It is no mean achievement to win the 24-hour Daytona race, but it's something else again to
follow up two weeks later with a victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring. That's exactly what South African
Wayne Taylor did with the awesome Riley-Scott/Aurora on Pirelli tires, helped, of course, by co-drivers
Jim Pace and Eric Van de Poele. Credited with the fastest race lap, Michele Alboreto, Mauro Baldi, and
Andy Evans were second in the beautiful Scandia Ferrari 333, making it a one-two for Pirelli.
Taylor's Riley-Scott/Aurora was the first All-American car to win at Sebring since the Ford
GT40 did it in 1969. Of course, the first car ever to win at Sebring was an American car, a most unlikely
one. Based on a complex efficiency formula called the Index of Performance, a tiny 740 cc Crosley
Hotshot driven by Fritz Koster and Ralph Deshon was declared the winner of the 1950 Sam Collier 6-hour
Memorial at Sebring, America's first endurance race for "sports cars." What's more (eat your heart out
Jaguar fans), that Crosley was the first disc brake-equipped car ever to win a major road race.
Sebring is a strange and wonderful mix of past and present. Modern hightech racers pound
around over a patchwork of bumpy, abrasive postwar runways, beaming telemetry back to computers in
archaic, cramped pit stalls that have witnessed motor racing history for decades. The names Cunningham,
Hill, Donohue, and Bucknum echoed over the P.A. on raceday, serving notice that America's prized
racing bloodlines are still intact.
Of course, one could write a book about the Sebring exploits of 26-year old 2nd-place GT1
finisher Brian Cunningham's grandfather. An octogenarian now, Briggs Cunningham was one of the
pioneers of American sports car racing. His cars won three straight years at Sebring, in 1952, '53, and '54.
Each was in its way historic. In 1952, Phil Walters and John Fitch drove a Chrysler-powered
Cunningham C4R to victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring, which happened to be the very first sports car
World Championship event. In 1953, Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd scored a stunning upset at Sebring
with Cunningham's 1500 cc OSCA, the smallest-engined car to ever win the 12-hour international event.
The following year, Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby were flagged as the winner in a Ferrari, only to have the
victory later given to Hawthorn and Walters in a Cunningham D-Type Jaguar after a scoring review.
That controversy caused a complete change in the scoring system at Sebring thereafter.
Phil Hill was at Sebring this year to watch his son Derek compete in the Barber-Dodge race, an
effort doomed by a gearbox problem. Had not the 1954 victory been taken away from America's first
World Champion, Phil Hill would be the all-time leader in Sebring victories, with four. As it is, Hill won
the grueling 12-hour event in 1958 with Peter Collins, in '59, after taking over Dan Gurney and Chuck
Daigh's Ferrari, with Olivier Gendebien, and in 1961, with Gendebien again.
Another son of a famous American driver raced in the Barber-Dodge event against Derek Hill.
Jeff Bucknum, whose dad, Ronnie, made nine starts at Sebring, was up to fourth and looked to be on the
move until a fuel starvation problem in the last few laps dropped him back. Ironically, Bucknum would
finish fifth, as his father had in the 12-Hour race in 1968.
The fastest qualifier at Sebring in 1969 was Mark Donohue. His son - and the spitting image of
his talented father - David Donohue did nearly as well this year in the GT2 class, qualifying second
fastest, just behind BMW teammate Pete Halsmer's M3. In the race, however, Donohue led through the
first four hours, but mechanical gremlins struck and he ended up as co-driver in Halsmer's 3rd-place
BMW did win overall once at Sebring, in 1975, when the race was revived after a one-year layoff
due to the energy crises. Prototypes didn't run that year and so, driving with Brian Redman, Allan Moffet,
and Sam Posey, Hans Stuck won from the pole in a BMW CSL. He also had overall victories in a Porsche
962 in 1986 and '88, making him, along with Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, and Olivier Gendebien, one of
only four drivers to have won the 12 Hours of Sebring three times. What's more, the affable yodeling
Austrian is still winning. With Bill Adam as co- driver, Stuck finished first in the GT1 class this year and
sixth overall. Truly, a man of the past and present.
Wayne Taylor's victory at Sebring gave him a statistical chance to make history as no one has
before. Should his luck hold and his Riley-Scott/Aurora prevail at Le Mans, Taylor will be the first driver
ever to win the Triple Crown of endurance racing, Daytona, Sebring, and Le Mans, in the same year. You
can bet that fingers will be crossed in Indianapolis (Riley-Scott), Detroit (Oldsmobile Aurora), and Milan