Photo credit: Evo, Ferrari, IMSA, Porsche, Sebring Raceway
It’s a race unlike any other: held since 1950 in the United States, in Florida, it was designed from the outset to attract European manufacturers. The race is held on a notably uneven surface, a stark contrast to the high-speed American tracks, repurposed from an old military airfield – a tactic adopted after the Second World War by the British. Held in February, it sets the stage for the European racing season, echoing the Argentine Temporada of years past. The 12 Hours of Sebring, with a duration half that of Le Mans, serves as an ideal trial for the famous 24-hour race. Historically, the event has always welcomed Sports and Sports Prototype vehicles and now also embraces the WEC - World Endurance Championship - in addition to the American IMSA series.
The aerial view of Sebring Raceway carved out of Hendricks Army Airfield, a training base for B-17 aircraft pilots. The first 12 Hours was held in 1952.
A quick glance at the roll of honour reveals a surprising array of prominent drivers who have competed and won here. The same is true for the cars that have clinched victory: Porsche leads with 17 wins, followed closely by Ferrari with an impressive 15 victories. On the flip side, there have also been unexpected successes, like the small OSCA 1500cc driven to victory by Stirling Moss.
The start of the 1961 12 Hours of Sebring. The race was won by Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien at the wheel of the Ferrari 250 TRI.
The two brands that have dominated the 12 Hours, as we’ve seen, are Porsche and Ferrari, whose outright victories cover almost the entire 70 years of the event. Other brands, with Audi at the forefront, have concentrated their successes into consecutive years: 11 for Audi and fewer for the American and Japanese manufacturers. It’s also fascinating to see the variety of cars that have won, from Cunningham to Frazer Nash, from Chaparral to Ford, and even Maserati and Jaguar with the D-Type.
The battle between the Prancing Horse and Porsche in the 1970 12 Hours valid for the International Championship for Makes. On that occasion, the Ferrari 512 S of Giunti, Vaccarella and Andretti triumphed.
In short, the race is captivating precisely because of its uniqueness. It’s no coincidence that enthusiasts camp inside the track for days on end, immersing themselves in a festival that includes not just the 12-hour race but also qualifying sessions, races for other categories, and even historic car competitions. Without a shadow of a doubt, Sebring is an event that the history of motorsport will never forget.
Sebring Raceway is famous for its bumpiness due to the surface made of concrete with large joints.
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER