Sebring: Racing's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"

Sebring, FL -- For over five decades, Sebring has been the ultimate test of international sports car racing. Its tough 3.7-mile, 17-turn, circuit, portions of which evolved from a World War II B-17 training known as Hendricks Field, has broken...

Sebring, FL -- For over five decades, Sebring has been the ultimate test of international sports car racing. Its tough 3.7-mile, 17-turn, circuit, portions of which evolved from a World War II B-17 training known as Hendricks Field, has broken many cars.

The 52nd edition of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will write another chapter in the event's remarkable history, one that has produced more than its share of heart-breaking finishes. The race starts at 10:30 am on Saturday, kicking-off the 2004 American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

Based on past races, less than half of the starting cars are likely to finish the once-around--the-clock classic. And the car leading at the start of the final hour has failed to win the race nine times, proving nothing is certain at Sebring.

In recent years, the outcome at Sebring has been in doubt until the very end. The past seven Sebring 12-hour classics have been decided by one lap or less, and three of the past five margins of victory were 13 seconds or less.

Perhaps the most famous finish was in 1966, when Dan Gurney seemingly had the race won, holding a solid lead he and co-driver Jerry Grant had built in their Ford GT40. In the final ten minutes, Gurney's engine failed and the car stopped 300 yards from the finish line. He desperately tried to push the car across the finish line but was passed in the final minute by another Ford driven by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby

In 1983, five different cars led in the final 90 minutes, with the eventual winning Porsche 934 driven by Wayne Baker, Jim Mullen and Kees Nierop coming back from a record 11-lap deficit to win.

Sometimes it is a simple part failure that can mean defeat. In 1992, Nissan appeared to be headed for its fourth straight Sebring win, when the leading car driven by Geoff Brabham was forced to pit at sunset because its headlights would not work. This enabled the Toyota driven by Juan Manuel Fangio III and Andy Wallace to take the lead.

The Sebring circuit, second longest in North America, includes left and right turns on both concrete and asphalt surfaces. The front straight is an old runway poured in 1941 when the airfield was built. In addition, Sebring's combination of day and night driving in variable weather conditions makes it a true test of endurance for the worlds top road racing cars and drivers.

And being the fastest at Sebring certainly does not guarantee victory. The car that set the fastest race lap has won only six times in 51 races, indicating endurance and strategy is far more effective than outright speed.

Former winners include Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Stirling Moss, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Al Holbert, and Bobby Rahal. Porsche is the leading manufacturer at Sebring with 17 wins, followed by Ferrari with 12.

Gates open for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at 7 am on Wednesday, March 17, and remain open 24 hours a day through Saturday. Sebring's four days of racing includes six supporting events plus vintage racing and an assortment of off-track attractions.

Sebring International Raceway offers a wide variety of viewing, camping and parking options. For more information, visit sebringraceway.com or call 800-626-7223.

-sir-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Bobby Rahal , Phil Hill , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Ken Miles , Juan Manuel Fangio , Al Holbert , Stirling Moss , Lloyd Ruby , Wayne Baker , Geoff Brabham , A.J. Foyt