History of Sebring

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The oldest road race in the United States, the historic 12 Hours of Sebring is the opening round of the 2000 Le Mans Series. The following is a time-line history of the airfield circuit in Florida which has previously staged the U.S. Grand ...

The oldest road race in the United States, the historic 12 Hours of Sebring is the opening round of the 2000 Le Mans Series.

The following is a time-line history of the airfield circuit in Florida which has previously staged the U.S. Grand Prix.

Previous winners of the famous event include Juan Manuel Fangio, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Stirling Moss and Australia's own Geoff Brabham. Film star Steve McQueen never won, but finished second to Andretti in 1970.

1941 Hendricks Field built near Sebring as a military training base.

1950 Alec Ulmann suggests Sebring Airport as a site for a sports car road race. Sam Collier 6 Hour Memorial race held on December 31 is first racing event ever held at Sebring and the first sports car endurance held in the U.S.

1952 First 12 Hours of Sebring race held on March 15.

1953 The 12 Hours of Sebring is the first event of the new FIA sports car world championship.

1954 Stunning upset as an OSCA co-driven by Stirling Moss wins.

1955 Confusing finish: Hill/Shelby Ferrari is flagged winner, then Hawthorn/Walters Jaguar declared winner.

1956 The legendary Fangio drives a Ferrari to victory. Amoco becomes official sponsor and begins long relationship with Sebring race. Automobile Racing Club of Florida (ARCF) formed to replace AAA, which announced it will no longer sanction racing.

1957 Fangio wins his second consecutive Sebring race. First live national radio broadcast.

1959 Sebring hosts first ever Formula One race in the U.S. in December. Poorly attended, that race moves to Riverside the following year.

1960 Major factory teams don't show due to exclusive gas/oil controversy. Ulmann adds "support races" to weekend schedule for the first time.

1961 Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill win their third 12 Hours of Sebring race.

1963 Rear-engine Ferrari wins. Perhaps greatest field of drivers ever assembled for an American sports car race.

1964 Ferrari wins fourth consecutive Sebring race despite strong challenge from Ford Cobras.

1965 First American car to win Sebring in over a decade as Chevrolet Chaparral wins with Hap Sharp and Jim Hall driving.

1966 First Trans-Am race ever held at Sebring. Tragedy strikes as driver Bob McLean is killed. Later in the race, four spectators are killed when Mario Andretti collides with Don Wester. Dan Gurney's car, leading with four minutes left, stops on course. As he tries to push the car across the finish line, the Miles/Ruby Ford passes him in the final minute.

1967 Promoter Alec Ulmann announces the race will be moved to the new Palm Beach International Raceway (now called Moroso Motorsports Park) in West Palm Beach. Two months later he changes his mind. First major change made to the circuit as the Webster Turn is replaced with the Chicane.

1968 Trans-Am race included within the 12-hour race.

1969 Last "Le Mans Start" in which drivers run to their cars to start race.

1970 Considered greatest Sebring race ever. Closest finish ever as Andretti gives Ferrari a 22-second victory over actor Steve McQueen and Peter Revson.

1972 Mario Andretti wins his third 12 Hours of Sebring. Ulmann announces this will be last Sebring race as the FIA has withdrawn its sanction and the race will no longer be on the international calendar.

1973 Sebring revived under IMSA sanction. Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood drive Porsche to victory in a race of production cars and no prototypes.

1974 Race cancelled due to "energy crisis." Several hundred fans show up anyway to party.

1975 Race revived with John Greenwood as promoter. Factory BMW wins.

1976 Porsche wins the first of 13 consecutive Sebring races.

1978 Charles Mendez takes over promotion of race. Coca-Cola announces name sponsorship. FIA sanction restored.

1983 Sebring Airport Authority takes over promotion of race. First major circuit change in 20 years takes place as a new section bypasses airport runway. In biggest upset in endurance racing history, a GTO Porsche records the overall win.

1984 Another big upset as an aging Porsche 935 wins. Paddock moved out, increasing course length to 4.86 miles.

1985 A.J. Foyt wins his first Sebring race, the last win of his career.

1986 First live national TV broadcast on TBS.

1987 Million-dollar enhancement program results in new 4.11 mile course which bypasses old runways.

1989 Nissan's dominating win ends 13-year Porsche win streak.

1990 Nissan wins second straight Sebring race. Top three cars all finish on the same lap ‹ first time in Sebring history. Sebring Airport Authority leases facility to Mike Cone; major improvements begin immediately.

1991 Despite heavy rains, a record crowd watches Nissan take its third straight victory on the newly renovated 3.7-mile circuit.

1992 Sebring celebrates its 40th anniversary. Toyota wins first endurance race with Juan Fangio II and Andy Wallace driving.

1993 Toyota wins again despite heavy rains which caused the first red-flag in Sebring history.

1994 World Sports Car era begins, GT Nissan wins overall.

1995 Ferrari records historic win, first in 23 years at Sebring. Chicane is relocated and renamed the Fangio Chicane.

1996 Oldsmobile scores first victory for an American manufacturer at Sebring in 27 years.

1997 Sebring acquired by International Motorsports Speedway Group; Ulmann Straight is resurfaced. FIA GT race held in October. IMSG sells Sebring Lease to Panoz Motor Sports.

1998 A record 24 lead changes as the Momo Ferrari wins Sebring in a thrilling battle with the Panoz Team. A major improvement program begins following the race, including the reconfiguration of the hairpin and resurfacing of several sections of the circuit.

-PAUL RYAN-

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