SVRA at the 60th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring
by Bob Harrington
WOW! What a weekend! Of all the years since 1982 that SVRA has been part of the 12 Hours of Sebring, I don’t ever recall an entry as large and varied as this year’s. Well over 100 cars took part ranging from a 1953 Nash-Healey with LeMans history, to three of the current eras dominate Audis. Also in the mix were a number of ex-works Sebring cars such as a Sunbeam Alpine and a number of MGAs. On display in the Sebring Hall of Fame was an impressive display of previous winners dating back to the 1952 Class winning Siata 1400 GS that had been driven by Dick Irish and Bob Fergus.
Thursday morning a great turnout of cars took the trip to the circle in downtown Sebring for the annual “Taste of the Race” event. The cars looked great in the Florida sun and there was an appreciative audience of spectators ogling the cars and asking questions of the proud owners. There were ample food vendors on hand providing refreshment, while a band kept everyone entertained.
In the Mike Stott~UBS Enduro an impressive 84 cars took the Green Flag. Again it was a huge variety of cars with great speed differentials, ranging from a 1956 Denzel, to the 2005 Audis. No surprises at the end with the three Audis taking the checker in a staged three abreast finish. For the record, the order was; Andy Wallace, Doug Smith and Travis Engen. In the Vintage class, Greg Ira, ’71 Datsun 240Z, drove a very strong race, taking the overall lead during the pit stops and finished a very credible tenth overall. Rounding out the Vintage podium were Richard Lind, ’69 Camaro Z28 and Carlo Falcone, ’70 Porsche 914/6.
Late Friday afternoon it was time for the Historic Race-Cars.com Sprint race. For this race Doug Smith had switched from driving the Audi to Jim Roger’s 85 Jaguar XJR7. Andy Wallace, ’05 Audi R8 took the lead from the drop of the flag and was never seriously challenged. Travis Engen, also in an ’05 Audi took second at the start followed by Smith in the Jaguar. Engen made a quick pitstop after the first lap moving Jeff Bernatovich, ’90 Corvette into third, but the next time by, Engen was back up to third. He chased the Jaguar for the next two laps, but then got by and held the position to the end, with the order being Wallace, Engen, and Smith.
Next up was the Vintage Race-Cars.com Sprint Race. At the start it was Sam Viviano, ’69 Camaro, first into corner one, chased by Greg Ira, ’71 Datsun 240Z, and Richard Lind, ’69 Camaro Z28. At the end of the first lap, Ira had the lead, followed by Viviano and Lind. The order the next time by was unchanged, but at the end of lap three, Kevin Wheeler, ’70 Porsche 914/6 had taken over third. That looked to be the order to the finish, but on the last lap, Viviano got by Ira to claim the win. A great close race. After the race, the “Spirit of Sebring” awards, present by Victory Lane Magazine and SVRA were awarded. The recipient of the Vintage award was Steven Alcala for his immaculate ex-works ’62 Sunbeam Alpine. The historic award went to Dr. Robert Bodin with his ’95 Ferrari 333SP MOMO, a car with great Sebring history.
Finalizing the weekend was the traditional demonstration lap Saturday morning before the start of the 12 Hour race. Among the highlights of the many significant cars that took part were Bob Tullius, driving the Group 44 Jaguar XJR7, and a spry Otto Linden, 97 Years old, and one of the few remaining “original’ Watkins Glen participants, driving the 1952 class winning Siata. A chance to mingle and share the weekends experiences was held at the afternoon barbeque presented by Wire Wheels.com and Predator Racing.
The next SVRA event is the SAAC/SVRA Watkins Glen 200, June 7-10. This is a don’t miss event with the normal full slate of SVRA races, plus, with this being the fiftieth Anniversary of the Cobra, there is sure to be a breath taking assortment of Cobras to admire among the Shelby American cars sure to be present. See you there!