1966 12 Hours of Sebring

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The 1966 12 Hours of Sebring was an endurance race held at the 5.2 mile (8.3 km) Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida, United States on March 26, 1966. It was the sixteenth running of the endurance classic and the second round of the 1966 World Sportscar Championship season. The race proved to be a disastrous event; one of the darkest in American motorsports history.[1][2][3]

Pre-race[edit]

Ford had just come off a 1-2-3 triumph at the first 24 Hours of Daytona in February, with 2 of their 7-liter engined GT40 Mk.II's being run by Carroll Shelby. They had effectively trounced Ferrari and Porsche, and were looking to do the same thing at Sebring in March.

Ford's assault on Sebring (which has always been a good preparation run for Le Mans) was unprecedented, considering that a mega-corporation like Ford was taking their endurance racing commitment so seriously. There were 11 GT40 Mk.I's, Mk.II's and a special X-1 Roadster (which was a heavily modified GT40 Mk.I with an aluminum chassis, a Mk.II nose, no roof and a 7-liter 427 engine, the same motor in a Mk.II) at Sebring- these cars were entered by at least 5 different teams- all of whom had direct factory support. The two main works teams, however, were the Los Angeles-based Shelby-American, a team with direct connections to Ford and seasoned with lots of road-racing experience in Europe and North America; and the Charlotte-based Holman & Moody team, which was known for its successes in NASCAR. There were also 2 works Ferrari's (originally there were supposed to be 5) and 2 Chaparral 2D's. American Dan Gurney qualified his Shelby-entered Mk.II on pole position with a lap record of 2:54.6, followed by the new Ferrari 330P3 of Bob Bondurant and Mike Parkes, then a Mk.I of Britons Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, then another Mk.II of Americans Mark Donohue and Walt Hansgen, then the X-1 of Briton Ken Miles and American Lloyd Ruby and then a Chaparral 2D of Americans Jim Hall and Hap Sharp.

Race[edit]

Sportscar races in the 1960s usually had Le Mans starts (which had started the late 1920s), where the drivers who started the race stood on one end of the track, waited for the host country's starter flag to drop, ran across the track towards their cars, jumped into the cockpit and drove off. This happened at 10:30 a.m. American Eastern time, and Gurney, who started the race in the pole sitting car, did not get going. In fact, his Ford GT40 Mk.II's 7-liter engine would not start and the car sat on the pit straight motionless while all the other cars passed it. After huge amounts of time were lost, the Shelby mechanics were able to start the engine, and Gurney sped off. The works Ferrari 330P3 led the race until being passed by a GT40 Mk.I being driven by Graham Hill. Hill led the first lap, followed by the 330P3, a North American Racing Team entered 330P2, a Corvette Stingray being driven by local Dick Thompson, the Donohue/Hansgen Mk.II, 2 more Mk.I's, a Porsche and a Chaparral 2D being driven by Hap Sharp.

But Gurney's car was not out of contention. He drove very hard and passed 27 cars on the first lap alone. He continued to push hard and by the 44th lap, about 2 hours into the race- he set a new lap record of 2:54.8 at an average speed of 107.8 mph, and soon after he passed Miles in the GT40 X-1 Roadster to take the lead. Gurney and Miles, both driving Shelby entered cars, started to battle and began passing and re-passing each other for the lead. This did not sit well with Shelby, who signaled to both drivers to slow down because he felt it was way too early in the race to risk breaking the cars. This signal was promptly ignored by both drivers, so Shelby walked over to the pit wall and hammered his fist in the air at both drivers, indicating them to "knock it off." The drivers complied, and they simmered down into the 3-minute range, protecting Gurney who was in the lead.

1 hour and 20 minutes in, one of the Chaparrals driven by American Phil Hill and Swede Jo Bonnier retired with a persistent oil leak that had plagued their car all weekend. Hill admitted that the team could not find the leak in the car; it was eventually found but the car retired from the race. And eight laps later, the other Chaparral of Sharp and Hall retired with suspension problems. The cars had to take on 300 pounds of extra weight in order to comply with the rules, which hurt the car's performance and reliability.

But at 2:40 p.m., tragedy struck. A Comstock Racing entered GT40 Mk.I driven by Canadian Bob McLean was coming out of Big Bend, and while approaching the famous hairpin, the car's gearbox seized, the rear brakes locked up, and the car slid off the narrow service road used for the race. It then crashed into a ditch and started to barrel roll, and it then made very hard contact with a telephone pole. The point of contact was where one of the fuel tanks were, and the car burst into flames. McLean was trapped inside, and the few marshals at Sebring were inadequately equipped to put out the inferno, and McLean perished in the fire. He was 32 years old. When word of McLean's death reached the Comstock Racing camp, they withdrew their other GT40 Mk.I from the race.

But the race continued on, unabated as McLean's GT40 burned and burned. Safety in motor racing in those days was practically non-existent. One such example was that the Warehouse straight after the hairpin at Sebring ran right past warehouses, planes, towers and other obstructions that were completely unprotected from the race, and some people sometimes stood or even sat 2–3 feet from the track.

Come the half way point, 4:30 p.m., the order was the Gurney/Jerry Grant GT40 Mk.II, the works 330P3 of Parkes/Bondurant, the Miles/Ruby GT40 X-1 and the Pedro Rodriguez/Mario Andretti Ferrari 365P2 entered by NART. Around Lap 172, during the transition from day to night, Bondurant showed up to the Ferrari camp on the back of a spectator's scooter. The 330P3 was parked out near the hairpin with a seized gearbox, and was effectively out. So the order was Ford 1-2 (both Shelby-run) with the NART Ferrari 3rd.

But then, disaster struck again. With less than 2 hours to go, the third placed NART 365P2 went into the pits, with Rodriguez going out and Andretti going in. Andretti took the car out, and on his first lap out, he was caught and passed (not for position) by Don Wester in a Porsche 906 going through the famous hairpin. On the Warehouse straight, Andretti re-passed Wester and pulled away from the Porsche. All of a sudden, while he was changing gears down from 4th to 3rd for the slow Webster turns at 140 mph, a part on the Ferrari's gearbox broke, and the car went from 4th to 1st, the rear wheels locked up and the Ferrari spun wildly out of control. While the hapless Andretti was spinning, Wester saw an opportunity to pass Andretti without incident. But Wester's plan failed appallingly- while underbraking for the Webster turns, the Ferrari was still going very quickly, and it then hit the back of Wester's Porsche. The Porsche spun out of control, went off the track, and it then went plowing into a group of spectators standing in an area where no one from the general public was allowed to be, and finally crashed hard into a warehouse, destroying the car. 4 spectators were killed in this tragedy- 46 year old Willis Edenfield, Sr. and his two sons, 20 year old Willis Jr. and 9-year old Mark were killed instantly, and 38-year old Patricia Heacock died of her injuries hours later. Wester was knocked unconsicious, but he survived with minor injuries; and this horrific incident was not known to the public until the day after.

The Ferrari went into a sand bank, and Andretti was able to get going again, but his front lights were destroyed after his contact with Wester and the sandbank, so he drove back to the pits in almost total darkness. He made it back to the pits, unaware of the horror that had taken place. The car retired after a pit fire when Andretti started the engine, destroying a number of important components, making it unable to continue.

This essentially paved the way forward for Ford to dominate yet again, with both Shelby GT40's leading 1-2. Gurney and Grant were still leading- and on the last lap, while Gurney was driving, the car's engine failed. People at the pits were expecting Gurney to take victory- but Ken Miles crossed the finish line first in the GT40 X-1. Gurney was pushing his GT40 Mk.II on the course, and he made it to the finish line. Although pushing a car- particularly with no lights on or with any reference of visibility- during the race was illegal- and the car was disqualified, and the Holman/Moody entered GT40 Mk.II was awarded 2nd place. 3rd was an Essex Wire entered GT40 Mk.I of Skip Scott and Peter Revson, and then a works Porsche finished 4th.

After the race, chief race organizer Alec Ullmann and the other people involved in the organization of the race were heavily criticized for their lack of safety preparation, particularly for the McLean GT40 Mk.I accident. The facilities and the track at Sebring were also heavily criticized- the track was very narrow and people and buildings were unprotected from the cars, and the cars were unprotected from other roadside obstructions such as telephone poles, trees, and ditches. Because of the poor condition of Sebring's facilities and the difficulty in maintaining security at the track which led to the deaths of 5 people, a ten-year contract was signed to move the 12-hour event to West Palm Beach, Florida. An unusual series of heavy rains at West Palm Beach made it obvious that the track could not be ready in time for the 1967 race. Thus the contract was voided and the 12-hour event was again held at Sebring after efforts were made to improve safety for spectators and drivers, which included the elimination of the Webster turns and the implementation of the Warehouse chicane. This was done to move the track's Warehouse straight further away from the airport's warehouses, towers and other buildings located from where the original Warehouse straight ran through. Sebring has held the 12-hour event every year since. The circuit, located in an airport, never had any safety issues ever again.

Official results[edit]

Sebring in 1966
Pos Class No Team Drivers Chassis Engine Laps
1 P
+5.0
1 United States Shelby-American Inc. United Kingdom Ken Miles
United States Lloyd Ruby
Ford GT40 X-1 Roadster Ford 7.0L V8 228
2 P
+5.0
3 United States Holman & Moody United States Mark Donohue
United States Walt Hansgen
Ford GT40 Mk.II Ford 7.0L V8 216
3 S
5.0
19 United States Essex Wire Corporation United States Skip Scott
United States Peter Revson
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 213
4 P
2.0
52 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Hans Herrmann
United States Joe Buzzetta
Germany Gerhard Mitter
Porsche 906 Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 209
5 P
2.0
46 Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC Italy Ludovico Scarfiotti
Italy Lorenzo Bandini
Ferrari 206 S Ferrari 2.0L V6 206
6 P
2.0
49 Switzerland Charles Vögele Switzerland Jo Siffert
Switzerland Charles Vögele
Porsche 906 Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 206
7 S
2.0
46 Germany Porsche Germany United States George Follmer
United States Peter Gregg
Porsche 904 GTS Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 205
8 P
2.0
50 United States Ed Hugus United States Lake Underwood
United States Ed Hugus
Porsche 906 Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 204
9 GT
+5.0
9 United States Roger Penske United States George Wintersteen
United States Ben Moore
Chevrolet Corvette StingRay Chevrolet 7.0L V8 201
10 S
+5.0
6 United States Scuderia Bear United States Bob Grossman
United States Ed Lowther
Shelby Cobra Ford 7.0L V8 197
11 GT
+5.0
8 United States Harold C. Whims United States Don Yenko
United States Dave Morgan
United States Harold Whims
Chevrolet Corvette StingRay Chevrolet 7.0L V8 197
12 P
+5.0
4 United States Holman & Moody United States A.J. Foyt
United States Ronnie Bucknum
Ford GT40 Mk.II Ford 7.0L V8 192
13 S
5.0
23 United States Scuderia Bear United States Bruce Jennings
United States Richard Holquist
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 189
14 S
1.6
63 Italy Autodelta SpA Italy Giacomo Russo
Switzerland Gaston Andrey
Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ2 Alfa Romeo 1.6L I4 189
15 S
5.0
80 United States Tom Payne United States Bob Said
United States Ray Cuomo
United States John Addison
Shelby Cobra Ford 5.0L V8 191
16 S
2.0
56 Canada Jacques Duval Canada Jacques Duval
Canada Horst Kroll
Porsche 904 GTS Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 188
17 GT
2.0
59 United Kingdom British Motor Co. United Kingdom Roger Mac
Australia Peter Manton
MG B BMC 1.8L I4 178
18 P
2.0
67 United Kingdom Donald Healey Motor Co. Australia Paul Hawkins
Finland Timo Mäkinen
Austin-Healey Sprite BMC 1.3L I4 175
19 GT
2.5
41 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Motor Co. United States Steve Froines
United States Bill Pendleton
Triumph TR4A Triumph 2.2L I4 172
20 GT
2.5
51 United States RBM Motors United States Jack Ryan
United States E. Linley Coleman
Porsche 911 Porsche 2.2L Flat-6 168
21 S
1.3
65 United States Fred J. Baker United States Fred Baker
United States Bill Kurtley
Alpine M65 Renault 1.3L I4 168
22 S
+5.0
7 United States Space Science Service United States John Bentley
United States Arthur M. Latta
United States Herb Byrne
Shelby Cobra Ford 7.0L V8 166
23 GT
2.5
40 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Motor Co. United States Dick Gilmartin
United States Mike Rothschild
Triumph TR4A Triumph 2.2L I4 162
24 S
1.3
69 United States Capt. Kenneth Sellers United States Kenneth Sellers
United States Robert Shaw
Alpine M65 Renault 1.1L I4 162
NC S
2.0
58 United States Carl Haas Automobiles United States William McKemie
United States Fred Opert
Elva Courier Mk IV Ford 1.8L I4 153
NC GT
2.5
42 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Motor Co. Canada Ludwig Heimrath
Canada R. Craig Hill
Triumph TR4A Triumph 2.2L I4 151
NC GT
2.5
92 United States John Kingham United States Milo Vega
United States Bob Kingham
United States Herb Byrne
Triumph TR4A Triumph 2.2L I4 131
NC P
2.0
66 United Kingdom Donald Healey Motor Co. Finland Rauno Aaltonen
United Kingdom Clive Baker
Austin-Healey Sprite BMC 1.3L I4 121
NC GT
5.0
32 United States Richard B. Robson United States Rajah Rodgers
United States Bill Buchman
United States Richard Robson
Jaguar XK-E Jaguar 3.8L I6 82
DSQ P
+5.0
2 United States Shelby-American Inc. United States Dan Gurney
United States Jerry Grant
Ford GT40 Mk.II Ford 7.0L V8 227
DNF P
5.0
26 United States North American Racing Team (NART) Mexico Pedro Rodriguez
United States Mario Andretti
Ferrari 365P2 Ferrari 4.4L V12 188
DNF P
2.0
48 United States Otto Zipper United States Don Wester
United States Scooter Patrick
Porsche 906 Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 182
DNF P
5.0
84 Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC United Kingdom Mike Parkes
United States Bob Bondurant
Ferrari 330P3 Ferrari 4.0L V12 172
DNF GT
2.0
59 United Kingdom British Motor Co. United Kingdom Paddy Hopkirk
United Kingdom Andrew Hedges
MG B BMC 1.8L I4 178
DNF S
2.0
47 United States Briggs Cunningham United States Briggs Cunningham
United States Dave Jordan
United States John Fitch
Porsche 904 GTS Porsche 2.0L Flat-6 148
DNF S
1.3
68 United States Howard Hanna United States Howard Hanna
United States Morrow Decker
Matra Djet MB8S Renault 1.1L I4 148
DNF S
5.0
8 United Kingdom Alan Mann Racing United Kingdom John Whitmore
Australia Frank Gardner
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 142
DNF S
5.0
8 United Kingdom Alan Mann Racing United Kingdom Graham Hill
United Kingdom Jackie Stewart
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 142
DNF GT
2.0
85 United Kingdom Continental Cars, Ltd. United States Albert Ackerly
United States Arch McNeill
MG B BMC 1.8L I4 137
DNF P
2.0
53 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Gerhard Mitter
Germany Günther Klass
Porsche 906 Porsche 1.9L Flat-6 120
DNF S
2.0
55 Germany Porsche System Engineering Germany Gerhard Mitter
Germany Günther Klass
Porsche 904 GTS Porsche 2.0L Flat-4 114
DSQ S
5.0
22 United States Bill Wonder United States William Wonder
United States Bobby Brown
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 100
DNF S
5.0
17 Canada Comstock Racing Team Canada Eppie Wietzes
Canada Craig Fisher
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 96
DNF S
2.0
57 United States Wetanson & Ripley United States Millard Ripley
United States Herb Wetanson
Porsche 904 GTS Porsche 2.0L Flat-4 94
DNF P
2.0
87 United States Keymo Motors Corporation United States Charlie Kolb
United States John Fulp
Porsche 904/8 Bergspyder Porsche 1.9L Flat-8 87
DNF S
5.0
17 Canada Comstock Racing Team Canada Bob McLean
Canada Jean Oueillet
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 83
DNF GT
5.0
82 United States Jerry Kohler United States Jerry Kohler
United States Michael Reina
United States Walt Biddle
Shelby GT350 Ford 4.7L V8 71
DNF S
5.0
33 United States Arthur Swanson United States Arthur W. Swanson
United States /Robert Ennis
Ferrari 250LM Ferrari 3.3L V12 70
DNF P
+5.0
10 United States Roger Penske United States Dick Thompson
United States Dick Guldstrand
Chevrolet Corvette GrandSport Chevrolet 7.0L V8 65
DNF S
1.6
62 Italy Autodelta SpA Belgium Lucien Bianchi
France Bernard Consten
Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ2 Alfa Romeo 1.6L I4 61
DNF P
2.0
67 United States Jack Slottag United States Jack Slottag
United States Larry B. Perkins
Ferrari 250 GTO Ferrari 3.0L V12 61
DNF P
3.0
39 United Kingdom Standard Triumph Motor Co. United States Bob Tullius
United States Charles Gates
Triumph TR4A Triumph 2.2L I4 47
DNF S
5.0
17 United Kingdom Peter Sutcliffe United Kingdom Innes Ireland
United Kingdom Peter Sutcliffe
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 47
DNF P
+5.0
11 United States Chaparral Cars Inc. United States Hap Sharp
United States Jim Hall
Chaparral 2D Chevrolet 7.0L V8 35
DSQ P
3.0
43 United States Fergus Import Motors United States Ben Hall
United States Al Costner
Morgan Plus 4 SS Triumph 2.1L I4 35
DNF S
5.0
20 United States Essex Wire Corporation United States Masten Gregory
United States Augie Pabst
Ford GT40 Mk.I Ford 4.7L V8 30
DNF P
+5.0
11 United States Chaparral Cars Inc. Sweden Jo Bonnier
United States Phil Hill
Chaparral 2D Chevrolet 7.0L V8 27
DNF GT
1.6
60 United States Autolab Imports United States Robert Colombosian
United States John Todd
Lotus Elan Ford 1.6L I4 25
DNF S
5.0
36 United States Ross MacGrotty Chevrolet United States Ross MacGrotty
United States Ed Myers
United StatesArt Riley
Yenko Stinger Chevrolet 2.7L Flat-6 25
DNF S
1.6
61 Italy Autodelta SpA Italy Teodoro Zeccoli
Italy Giacomo Russo
Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ2 Alfa Romeo 1.6L I4 22
DNF S
1.6
64 Italy Filippo Theodoli United States Sam Posey
United States Harry Theodoracopulos
Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ2 Alfa Romeo 1.6L I4 16
DNF S
1.3
89 United States Sherman S. Smith United States Edgar H. Schwantz
United States Sherman S. Smith
Abarth-Simca 1300 Balbero Abarth 1.3L I4 13
DNF GT
2.0
84 United States Roger West United States Roger West
United States Tommy Charles
MG B BMC 1.8L I4 7
DNF GT
2.0
60 United States McMillan Ring Free Oil Co. United States Donna Mae Mims
United States John Luke
Yenko Stinger Chevrolet 2.7L Flat-6 1

Statistics[edit]

References[edit]


World Sportscar Championship
Previous race:
24 Hours of Daytona
1966 season Next race:
1000km of Monza