1959 12 Hours of Sebring
The 1959 12-Hour Florida International Grand Prix of Endurance for the Amoco Trophy took place on 21 March, on the Sebring International Raceway, (Florida, United States). It was the opening round of the 1959 World Sportscar Championship. This was eighth running of the 12-hour race.
A massive total of 81 racing cars were registered for this event, of which 74 arrived for practice. Only these, 65 qualified for, and started the race. Reigning champions, Ferrari had eight of their new 250 TRs in Florida, of which three were works machines (1959 model) for their squad of drivers; Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Chuck Daigh, Olivier Gendebien, Jean Behra and Cliff Allison. Their main opposition would come from a single works Aston Martin.
David Brown sent just one Aston Martin DBR1/300 over from England for Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori. Also on the entry list were some quick looking Lister-Jaguar entered by Briggs Cunningham with himself, Walt Hansgen and Stirling Moss amongst their squad. The work outfit also brought a car for Moss and paired him with Ivor Bueb.
Because there were no qualifying sessions to set the grid, the starting positions were decided according to engine size with the 3.0 litre Aston Martin DBR1 of Shelby and Salvadori being given first place.
Most of the 40,000 spectators expected a battle for sole Aston Martin and the Ferrari. Although early on, there was a great scrap, the Aston retired after just 32 laps with gear lever problems. This meant it really was a Ferrari battle at the front of the field for almost all the race. The official result lists the winner as the no. 7 Ferrari of Gurney, Daigh, Hill and Gendebien, but that’s not the whole story.
For the opening four and half hours, the Ferrari of Hill and Gendebien led until suffering from a broken differential. That put the Gurney/Daigh car in front. Behra/Allison were in second, followed by Moss/Bueb. And then the heavy rain arrived and the race became intriguing. With cars sliding off all over the place, one of the most dramatic accidents come just after the six-hour mark when Robert Rollason’s Stanguellini 750 Sport collided with a pole that supported a bridge. The car hit the pole while sideways throwing it up into the air before splitting in half, and ending up on its roof. It required a number of track marshals to flip it back onto its wheels, so that Rollason could escape uninjured.
The conditions made it difficult for even the very best to keep their cars under control. The works Lister-Jaguar with Moss behind the wheel, despite struggling for most of the race, came alive and moved up through the field passing both the Ferraris. After five hours, Moss led Behra and by now the little Porsche of Wolfgang von Trips and Jo Bonnier had moved into third. At this time, Scuderia Ferrari decided to call on the experience of Hill and Gendebien and added them the Gurney/Daigh car. Although the fans were not happy, this was a team event and Ferrari wanted to win. Then Moss was disqualified for illegal refuelling.
With the better drivers now driving the no.7, Hill passed Behra for the lead and the car held on to first place until the flag dropped. After 12 hours of racing, the Scuderia Ferrari of Gurney, Daigh, Hill and Gendebien won ahead of their team-mates Behra and Allison. Car number 7, took an impressive victory, completing 188 laps, covering 977.6 miles after 12 hours of racing, averaging a speed of 81.181mph. Second place went to the second Ferrari, albeit one lap adrift. The podium was complete by works Porsche of von Trips and Bonnier who were four laps behind the winners.
Class Winners are in Bold text.
|Sports 3000 – Class D||7||Ferrari 250 TR 59||Gurney / Daigh / Hill / Gendebien|
|Sports 2000 – Class E||31||Porsche 718 RSK||von Trips / Bonnier|
|Sports 1500 – Class F||34||Porsche 718 RSK||Holbert / Sessiar|
|Sports 1100 – Class G||48||Elva-Climax Mk IV||Baptista / Wallace / Tweedale|
|Sports 750 – Class H||59||D.B.-Panhard HBR4||Laureau / Armagnac|
|Grand Touring 3500 – Class 9||70||Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder||Hively / Ginther|
|Grand Touring 2000 – Class 7||25||AC Ace||Burns / Jackson-Moore / Cook|
|Grand Touring 1600 – Class 6||33||Porsche 356A Carrera GT||von Hanstein / de Beaufort|
|Grand Touring 1300 – Class 5||44||Alfa Romeo Giuletta Spider Veloce||Kaplan / Rainville|
|Grand Touring 1000 – Class 4||54||Austin-Healey Sebring Sprite||Stiles / Sutherland|
|Grand Touring 750 – Class 3||64||Fiat-Abarth 750 Record Monza||Rutan / Cuomo / Richards|
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included in this set of standings.
Championship points were awarded for the first six places in each race in the order of 8-6-4-3-2-1. Manufacturers were only awarded points for their highest finishing car with no points awarded for positions filled by additional cars. Only the best 3 results out of the 5 races could be retained by each manufacturer. Points earned but not counted towards the championship totals are listed within brackets in the above table.
- Alec Ulmann. The Sebring Story. Chilton Book Company. ASIN B0006CUAP2.
|World Sportscar Championship|
1958 RAC Tourist Trophy
|1959 season||Next race:|