March 20, 2015

The Sounds of Sebring.

Tomorrow you'll be able to tune into Fox Sports to follow the 2015 12 Hours of Sebring.  You'll get live timing and scoring, updates on Twitter and Facebook,  Before most of us were born, before there was an internet, before podcasting, before there was live TV for motor racing,  fans would either read about races or perhaps be lucky enough to score one of these audio documentaries on vinyl from Riverside Records.

Riverside was a jazz label in the 50s but its founder, Bill Grauer was a racing fan who produced these incredible recordings.

Given how attention span has decreased over the years, you might find it hard to listen to the whole thing: the 1956 edition is an hour long, the 1957 an hour and a half.  That would be a shame but,  if it's just too much, at least browse them,  there are some real gems here.  

Moss and Z.A-D

The 1956 edition, for example,  starts with a description of Stirling Moss:

"As a driver, Moss' style can described as erratic but terribly fast.  He sits well back in the car, arms outstretched to the wheel.  He's quite spectacular, honking his horn frequently at cars that do not pull over fast enough for him to pass, waving at spectators and flagmen.   In easier races he is inclined to aim for photographers who get too close on corners, all in fun of course, and while they bare him no malice, they learned to honor his right to the road and take their pictures from behind the fences."

Later this description of Alfonso de Portago

"Of all the drivers at Sebring, the marquis de Portago has the least experience being limited by only two years in racing cars.  Ferrari's confidence in him may well be justified however because of his wide success in other dangerous sports:  he has distinguished himself on an Olympic bobsled team, in polo and as a steeplechase jockey.   He is a swashbuckling young man with streaming black hair almost to his shoulders.  It would be difficult to predict what his future will be in cars, driving is an art which requires great concentration and a spirit of dedication, the Marquis, undoubtedly conscious of his notoriety as Spain's ranking nobleman seems uncertain which sport will demand his greatest attention and since he is a connoisseur of all the arts of good living as well, it is problematical is he will ever achieve the fame his very obvious talents might lead him to."

De Portago would be killed, along with ten spectators  at the 1957 edition of the Mille Miglia, effectively ending that race forever.

Fangio, Shelby, Castellotti, Schell, dePortago

It's amazing to hear the voices of all these legends,  Fangio, Moss, Collins, De Portago, Hawthorn, Phil Hill, Von Trips, Carroll Shelby and so many more legendary racers.

For the 57 edition,  the big news was Corvette, with European manufacturers seemingly happy about GM's involvement in international racing.   There was some controversy because of the tube framed, magnesium bodied Corvette SS. which had broken the lap record in practice.  Incredibly that was at the hands of rival guest drivers, Fangio and Moss who had been invited by Corvette boss Zora Arkus-Duntov to give it a go.   "Goes like stick" said Carroll Shelby.

Photo: Laird Scott/Flickr

Nothing new under the sun, there was controversy with Ferrari.  Fangio jumped ship to Maserati in 57.   Nobody left Ferrari without getting fired by the Commendatore but that year Maserati was debuting their "monster" 4.5 liter v8 car and the lure was just too strong for the Argentine.    Maserati made  six different cars for Fangio to test and pick the one he liked best.  it was a huge effort which paid off with an overall win and one grumpy Commendatore.

Fangio with Ferrari in 56

There was bad blood between Fangio and il Commenndatore stemming from a the previous year when Fangio ignored calls from Maranello to return to Italy  in order to stay at the bedside of fellow Argentine racer Carlos Menditeguy, injured in a crash at Sebring.

Ferrari made sure to have its drivers cast doubt on Maserati's reliability prospects.  Check out De Portago and Collin's comments towards the beginning of the record.
Ferrari was worried about Maserati and tried to sandbag: it was announced at the driver's meeting, the Scudeia had declared their engines to be 3.5 liters but  the stewards called them on it and revealed the true displacement was 3.8 liters.  Crowd boos....check it out at about 50:00.

You might want to listen also to Luigi Chinetti  at about 13 minutes and Baron Fritz Von Hanstein, Porsche's racing manager at about 19 minutes saying how he, because one of his drivers could not obtain a US travel visa, would have to hop in a 356A Carrera and drive it himself.

What incredible documents, well worth your time.

For more information, schedule, live timing and scoring for the 2015 12 Hour of Sebring check the Tudor United Sports Car Championship site
(pictures, unless otherwise noter come via Lois Galanos' priceless Flickr archive)

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