Gunnar Racing Plans Salute to Sebring's Aviation History With B-17 Flyover, Car Motif For 50th Sebring 12 Hours SEBRING, Fla. (February 28, 2002) -- With the help of a Flying Fortress, Gunnar Racing will salute the military aviation history of...
Gunnar Racing Plans Salute to Sebring's Aviation History With B-17 Flyover, Car Motif For 50th Sebring 12 Hours
SEBRING, Fla. (February 28, 2002) -- With the help of a Flying Fortress, Gunnar Racing will salute the military aviation history of the grounds of Sebring International Raceway with its entry in the March 16 running of the 50th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, presented by Dodge.
The Palm Beach, Fla., racing team will compete in the American Le Mans Series race with a Panoz LMP-1 Prototype race car that is painted to resemble a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. In addition, a B-17 will fly into the adjacent Sebring Airport on the day before the race and will then do a flyover prior to the start of the race, with the three Gunnar Racing drivers as passengers and one of them at the plane's controls.
The race car motif will be a salute to the thousands of young flight crews who trained at Hendricks Field, a military aviation base whose expansive concrete runways gave birth to Sebring International Raceway. The front straight of the raceway is still in the original concrete of one of the runways.
Gunnar Jeannette, the youngest driver ever to finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will be one of the drivers for Gunnar Racing in the Sebring event. The 19-year-old driver will be on loan to the team from Panoz Motor Sports, which employs him as its test driver.
Jeannette will be in the B-17 when it lands at the Sebring Airport on Friday, March 15, at 3 p.m., and the Panoz race car will be parked on the airport's ramp. The B-17 will taxi into position next to the race car, and Jeannette will exit the plane and drive off in the race car.
On race day, Jeannette will actually pilot the plane from the left seat as it does a flyover prior to the 10:30 a.m. start of the 12-hour event, a tribute to the many 19-year-old pilots who flew in the war. His co-drivers, car owner Wayne Jackson and Chad Block, will be passengers on the flyover. After landing, the three drivers will be taken to the starting grid in a WWII-era military jeep.
The Gunnar Racing crew will wear uniforms resembling those worn by B-17 ground crews. The uniforms will be racing firesuits to comply with the rules of the American Le Mans Series.
The B-17 belongs to the Collings Foundation of Stow, Mass., and is part of the Veterans' "Wings of Freedom Tour" that has been conducted since 1989. The tour has showcased the B-17 and a companion B-24 Liberator at hundreds of stops around North America.
A non-profit Educational Foundation (501-C3), the Collings Foundation was founded in 1979 to support "living history" events including transportation. Originally founded with the focus of automobiles, the foundation moved to aircraft as the need for quality aviation history exhibits grew.
While the B-17 is in Sebring, including while the race is running, the Collings Foundation will offer Flight Experiences in the B-17 during daylight hours. Passengers must make a $350 fully tax-deductible donation to the foundation.