12 Hours of Sebring - One of the world's finest once around the clock races
The 12 Hours of Sebring probably lacks all the fuss and elation of Le Mans or Daytona, but this race is still one of the biggest endurance events in the world.
Maiden 12 hours race was held in 1952
The Sebring International Raceway was opened in 1950 and it was 5.31 road course. Over the years the layout of the track was shortened and lengthened but since 1952 the 12-hour race format has never been changed. The race held on New Year’s eve in 1950 was a non-championship 6-hour event while in 1951 the race wasn’t held.
The race, that is also known as ’once around the clock’, traditionally starts in the morning and finishes at night. Over the decades, 12 Hours of Sebring was a part of various series, including World Sportscar Championship, IMSA GT Championship, World Endurance Championship, American Le Mans Series, FIA World Endurance Championship, and United SportsCar Championship.
Many legends raced at Sebring
Since its beginning, 12 Hours of Sebring attracted famous drivers from all over the world, as well as the manufacturers. A lot of famous drivers competed at Sebring and among the winners were many true legends, like Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Hans-Joachim Stuck, AJ Foyt, etc.
Unfortunately, during the 1966 race, several huge accidents had happened. Bob McLean was killed in a crash when his car rolled several times before it was struck by the utility pole and then exploded. In another accident, Mario Andretti’s Ferrari tangled with Don Wester’s Porsche killing four spectators and then crashing into the warehouse next to the track.
Many teams were using 12 Hours of Sebring as a good preparation for 24 Hours of Le Mans. The bumpy track combined with a hot weather and humidity at Florida is an excellent test for reliability of both cars and drivers.
Porsche’s impressive streak of wins
In the early years, Ferrari dominated the race but in the late 1960s, Ford became a serious opponent. Porsche became a dominant car in the 1970s. Porsche scored 15 victories from 1971 to 1988 (in 1974, the race wasn’t held due to energy crisis). The German manufacturer was so dominant that it scored 13 consecutive wins from 1976 to 1988.
After that, Nissan, Eagle-Toyota, and Ferrari bounced back for a while before Audi took control in the 2000s scoring eight consecutive wins between 2000 and 2007 with the R8 and R10 TDI models. The ’Four Rings’ scored other four wins between 2009 and 2013 with their diesel LMP1 prototype.
Since 2014, the Sebring 12 Hours is a part of the IMSA SportsCar Championship and winning cars came from Daytona Prototype (DP) class – Riley MkXXVI-Ford, Corvette DP, Ligier-Honda and Cadillac DPi.