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1956 12 Hours of Sebring

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1956 Florida International Grand Prix of Endurance powered by Amoco took place on 24 March, on the Sebring International Raceway, (Florida, United States). It was the second round of the F.I.A. World Sports Car Championship. For the sixth running of the event, was a sign to many in the automotive community that this race had become North America's premier sports car race, and from an international standpoint second only to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

However, this race came just eight months after the disaster at Le Mans. The United States was not immune to the fallout following that race, and the American Automobile Association decide to withdraw from all participation in motor sport. This left the promoters with no international recognition for the race, and therefore no FIA approval. It was very simple; no FIA approval, no international race.[1]

Alec Ullmann, one of those promoters, and founder of Sebring, approached the Sports Car Club of America, but could not maintain its amateur status, if it supported the race. Ullmann did however obtain “special permission” from the FIA to allow him organise the event himself, through his Automobile Racing Club of Florida, and issued the international licenses.[2]

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A massive total of 74 racing cars were registered for this event, of which 69 arrived for practice. Only 59 qualified for the race. Adding to the build-up to the event, was the announcement that five European factory teams were planning to race in Florida. Those teams were Aston Martin, Ferrari, Jaguar, Maserati and Porsche.[3][4]

With Ferrari determined to recapture the manufacturer's championship they lost Mercedes-Benz in 1955, Scuderia Ferrari was making its first factory appearance at Sebring. Accompanying the pair of 860 Monzas and a 857 S, were some of the best drivers in the world. They included the reigning World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, Eugenio Castellotti, Luigi Musso, Harry Schell, Alfonso de Portago and Olivier Gendebien.[3]

Mike Hawthorn returned after winning in 1955, driving a factory Jaguar D-Type along with Desmond Titterington, Duncan Hamilton, Ivor Bueb, Bill Spear. Hawthorn's entrant from the previous year, Briggs Cunningham was now with the factory outfit, as was Indianapolis 500 winner, Bob Sweikert. A total of nine D-Types would start the race. The other English factory team, Aston Martin was led by Stirling Moss. He had won the opening race of the season, 1000km Buenos Aires for Maserati, but due to race for Aston Martin in Florida, partnership by Peter Collins, whom himself had switched from Ferrari. Their team-mates were Texan Carroll Shelby, Roy Salvadori, Tony Brooks and Reg Parnell with John Wyer managing the team.[3]

Maserati was represented by a pair of 300Ss in the hands Jean Behra and Piero Taruffi driving one car while Carlos Menditéguy and Cesare Perdisa drove the other. Porsche send two of their Porsche 550 Spyder for Hans Herrmann and Wolfgang von Trips in one, and Ed Crawford and Herbert Linge in the other. In a private 550 Spyder, entered by John Edgar Enterprises were Jack McAfee and Pete Lovely.[3]

Taking note of the press interest surrounding the race, General Motors dispatched John Fitch to Florida, in February 1956, in order to get a team of Chevrolet Corvettes sorted out for the 12-hour race. Much to Fitch's dismay the factory prepared ‘race-cars’ were totally unsuitable for the rough Sebring airport course.[5]


Because they were no qualifying sessions to set the grid, the starting positions were decided according to engine size with the 5.2 litre Corvette of John Fitch and Walt Hansgen in first place. Next was the 5.0 litre Ferrari 375 Plus of Troy Ruttman and Howard Hively. In third place should have been the 4.4 litre Ferrari 735 LM of Jim Kimberly and Ed Linken, however during practice, the car had more than once thrown a flywheel, so Kimberly withdraw the car. Scuderia Ferrari allowed Kimberly to drive with Alfonso de Portago in their 857 Monza. Next in line were three Corvettes with their 4.3 litre engines, and then came eight 3.4 litre Jaguars.[6]


The race was held over 12 hours on the 5.2 miles Sebring International Raceway. An estimated 47,000 spectators showed on a warm and dry raceday. With the race starting promptly at 10am.[7]

As his car was effective on pole position, Fitch's Corvette was the first car to cross the start line, but before he travelled 300 yards down to the first corner, he was passed by the fuel injected Jaguar D-Type of Mike Hawthorn. This, despite starting down in eighth. To some observes, Stirling Moss was the first to drive away from the grid, but as he started down in 26th he had his work cut out. At the end of the first lap, he was running second to Hawthorn by ten seconds. Juan Manuel Fangio was further six seconds adrift. Carroll Shelby was fourth another twelve seconds down the road. The dubious distinction of being the first retirement of the race went to the factory Corvette of Dale Duncan when the axle broke after just three laps.[8][9]

After 60 minutes, Hawthorn's D-Type still held the lead followed by Moss in his Aston Martin, Fangio and Musso in their Ferrari, Hamilton in another D-Type. As it would transpire, a close battle between the factory entered D-Types and the 860 Monzas, would ensue for almost eight hours, with the lead changing nine times, as a leader would pit and almost immediately give up it to a competitor and then regain the lead when that car had to pit.[10]

Just after the start of the third hour, the Maserati 300S of Menditéguy, hit hay bales in the Esses and flipped. As a result, he suffered serious injuries with skull fractures and deep lacerations in the face and arm. After a short delay while he laid bleeding trackside, Menditéguy was rushed to the American Red Cross mobile hospital. There, they stabilized him before transferring him to the Weems Hospital in Sebring. Meanwhile, he co-driver would transfer to the Behra/Taruffi 300S.[8]

Around this time, Moss pitted and expressed his doubts that his car could last the distance. The mechanics did what they could and sent Collins out for his stint. Already the hot Florida day, the punishing pace and the rough Sebring track had taken their toll with seventeen cars having to be retired. At the head of the field, Hawthorn was leading from Behra, Fangio took up third, Collins fourth, with de Portago moving into fifth. For the next couple of hours, the lead changed several times between these drivers, with Shelby competing for a spot in the top five.[11]

The D-Type of Hamilton/Bueb suffered an exploded brake cylinder and retired, around the fifth hour mark, while the Aston Martin of Moss/Collins was parked out on course with a terminal gearbox problem.[8]

At the half-way point, the Hawthorn/Titteringham Jaguar was now back in the lead, when Fangio/Castellotti pitted. By now, more than a third of the field had retired. An hour later, Hawthorn was still leading, from Fangio, Musso, Spear and Portago, although Portago's Ferrari, with Kimberly driving, swallowed a valve and became the first Scuderia Ferrari to retire. A valve problem also took the D-Type of Spear and Sherwood Johnston out of the race. For the next four hours, the top three positions frequently changed between the Hawthorn/Titteringham Jaguar, the Fangio/Castellotti Ferrari and the Musso/Schell Ferrari.[12]

Finally the pace was too much for the Hawthorn /Titterington Jaguar and it retired on lap 162 with just over ninety minutes to go in the race. Their D-Type had either led or was in second place for most of the race until the very last pit stop. When Hawthorn pulled into the pits for the last time the brakes were useless. They had locked up on him going into one of the turns and then stopped working. It seems that a brake piston gave way and he lost all brake fluid. The Jaguar mechanics worked on the car for more than fifteen minutes but by then it was too late. Having lost too many laps to the Ferrari of Fangio and Castellotti, they withdrew the car.[8][13]

A Ferrari 860 Monza, similar to the race winning car of Fangio & Castellotti, in the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum , Sinsheim, Germany
A Ferrari 860 Monza, similar to the race winning car of Fangio & Castellotti, in the Sinsheim Auto & Technik Museum , Sinsheim, Germany

Castellotti began driving at a slower pace now that the Jaguar challenge was gone. He was determined that the car would finish, and started to lap slower than most of the remaining cars left in the race. However, he made sure not to slow down enough to give his team-mates Musso and Schell any chance of catching him. At 10pm, and after 12 hours of racing, Castellotti took the chequered flag, with his 860 Monza completing 194 laps, and a record distance of 1,008.8 miles, averaging a speed of 84.07 mph. This was the first time the thousand mile mark has been arching at the 12 Hours of Sebring.[8]

Coming home in second was the Scuderia Ferrari 860 Monza of Musso and Schell, having completed 192 laps. On their first trip to Sebring, Maranello scored the first one-two sweep ever by a manufacturer. The podium was complete by the Jaguar D-Type of Sweikert, co-driven by Jack Ensley, the American pairing salvaging some honour for the English marque. In fourth, and also a class winner was the Aston Martin of Salvadori and Shelby. Only 24 of the original 59 starters were there at the finish.[8]

Official Classification

Class Winners are in Bold text.

Pos No Class Driver Entrant Chassis Laps Reason Out
1st 17 S5.0 Argentina Juan Manuel Fangio Italy Eugenio Castellotti Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 860 Monza 12hr 00:31.198, 194
2nd 18 S5.0 Italy Luigi Musso United States Harry Schell Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 860 Monza 192
3rd 14 S5.0 United States Bob Sweikert United States Jack Ensley Jack Ensley Jaguar D-Type 188
4th 27 S3.0 United Kingdom Roy Salvadori United States Carroll Shelby David Brown & Sons, Ltd. Aston Martin DB3S 187
5th 24 S3.0 France Jean Behra
Italy Cesare Perdisa
Italy Piero Taruffi Officine Alfieri Maserati S.p.a. Maserati 300S 186
6th 41 S1.5 West Germany Hans Herrmann West Germany Wolfgang von Trips Porsche K.G. Porsche 500 Spyder 182
7th 43 S1.5 United States Jack McAfee United States Pete Lovely John Edgar Enterprises Porsche 550 Spyder 179
8th 16 S5.0 Cuba Alfonso Gomez-Mena Cuba Santiago González Alfonso Mena Jaguar D-Type 176
9th 1 S8.0 United States John Fitch United States Walt Hansgen Raceway Enterprises Chevrolet Corvette Special 176
10th 33 S2.0 Dominican Republic Porfirio Rubirosa United States Jim Pauley Porfirio Rubirosa Ferrari 500 Mondial 172
DNF 28 S3.0 United Kingdom Reg Parnell United Kingdom Tony Brooks David Brown & Sons, Ltd. Aston Martin DB3S 169 Engine
11th 31 S3.0 United States Phil Stiles United States George Huntoon Ship & Shores Motors Austin-Healey 100 S 168
12th 11 S5.0 United States Briggs Cunningham United States John Gordon Bennett B. S. Cunningham Jaguar D-Type 168
13th 39 S2.0 United States Bob Ballenger United States Phil Stewart S. H. Arnolt Arnolt -Bristol Bolide 158
DNF 8 S5.0 United Kingdom Mike Hawthorn United Kingdom Desmond Titterington Jaguar of New York Distributors Inc. Jaguar D-Type 162 Brakes
14th 66 S1.5 United States Mike Marshall
West Germany Huschke von Hanstein
United States Jan Brundage Porsche KG Porsche 550 158
15th 6 S5.0 United States Max Goldman United States Ray Crawford Raceway Enterprises Chevrolet Corvette C1 157
16th 58 S750 France Paul Armagnac France Guillaume Mercader Automobiles D.B. D.B. – Panhard HBR 5 155
17th 40 S2.0 United States Jim Peterson United States Ted Boynton S. H. Arnolt Arnolt-Bristol Bolide 154
18th 37 S2.0 United States Joseph Hap Dressel United States William F. Woodbury J. H. Dressel AC Ace 154
19th 50 S1.5 United States William Kinchloe United States Stephen Spilter Hambro Automotive Company MGA 151
20th 49 S1.5 United States David Ash
United States John van Driel
United States Gus Ehrman Hambro Automotive Company MGA 151
21st 55 S1.1 United States Leech Cracraft United States Red Bryon Cooper Car Co. Cooper-Climax T39 147
22nd 38 S1.5 United States Fred Allen United States Sid W. Blackman Hambro Automotive Company MGA 139
DNF 19 S5.0 United States Jim Kimberly Spain Alfonso de Portago Scuderia Ferrari Ferrari 857 S 137 Valve
23rd 3 S5.0 United States Don Davis United States Robert Gatz Carl Beuhler III Chevrolet Corvette C1 136
DNF 67 S2.0 United States Jack Ryan John Ryan Arnolt -Bristol Bolide 108 Out of fuel
DNF 22 S3.0 Venezuela Chester Flynn United States George Reed Chester Flynn Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 126 Camshaft
DNF 10 S5.0 United States Bill Spear United States Sherwood Johnston Jaguar of New York Distributors Inc. Jaguar D-Type 127 Value
DNF 12 S5.0 United States Jake Kaplan United States Russ Boss Jake Kaplan Jaguar D-Type 120 Brakes
DNF 56 S1.1 United States Ed Hugus United States John Bentley Cooper Car Co. Cooper-Climax T39 117 Flat battery
DNF 29 S3.0 United Kingdom Lance Macklin United Kingdom Archie Scott Brown Donald Healey Motors Co. Ltd. Austin-Healey 100 S 110 Starter
DNF 42 S1.5 United States Ed Crawford
West Germany Huschke von Hanstein
West Germany Herbert Linge Porsche K.G. Porsche 500 Spyder 108 Wheel
24th 54 S1.1 United States M. R. J. Wyllie United States Margaret Wyllie Dr. M. R. J. Wyllie Lotus-Climax Mark IX 99
DNF 30 S3.0 United States Roy Jackson-Moore United States Elliot Forbes-Robinson Donald Healey Motor Co. Ltd. Austin-Healey 100 S 90 Engine
DNF 35 S2.0 United States Mike Rothschild United States George Hunt Morgan Motors Morgan-Triumph Plus 4 87 Steering
DNF 32 S3.0 United States Gene Greenspan United States Bruce Kessler William Greenspan Ferrari 250 MM 82 Engine
DNF 47 S1.5 United States Bobby Burns United States Norman Scott Allen Guiberson Maserati 150S 77 Gearbox
DNF 38 S2.0 United States S. H. Arnolt United States Bob Goldrich S. H. Arnolt Arnolt -Bristol Bolide 77 Accident, steering
DNF 15 S5.0 United States Lou Brero United States Sam Weiss A. A. Brown Jaguar D-Type 68 Clutch
DNF 9 S5.0 United Kingdom Duncan Hamilton United Kingdom Ivor Bueb Jaguar of New York Distributors Inc. Jaguar D-Type 63 Brakes
DNF 20 S5.0 United States Phil Hill United States Masten Gregory George Tilp Ferrari 857 S 61 Bearings
DISQ 53 S1.1 United States Warren Smith United States Joe Sheppard Joe Sheppard Lotus-Climax Mark IX 51 Illegal repairs
DNF 26 S3.0 United Kingdom Stirling Moss United Kingdom Peter Collins David Brown & Sons, Ltd. Aston Martin DB3S 51 Gearbox
DNF 63 S1.1 United States Ralph Miller United States Harold Fenner Ralph Miller Lotus-Climax Eleven 49 Oil system
DNF 2 S5.0 United States Troy Ruttman United States Howard Hively Howard Hively Ferrari 375 Plus 48 Transmission
DNF 25 S3.0 Italy Cesare Perdisa Argentina Carlos Menditéguy Officine Alfieri Maserati S.p.a Maserati 300S 39 Accident
DNF 62 S5.0 United States Loyal Katskee United States Roger Wing Loyal Katskee Jaguar D-Type 39 Accident
DNF 64 S3.0 United States William Brewsterbill United States Bill Rutan William Brewster Austin-Healey 100 S 39 Clutch
DNF 59 S750 France Gérard Laureau United States Hal Ullrich Brooks Stevens D.B. – Panhard HBR 36 Clutch
DNF 52 S1.1 United States Curtis Attaway United States Ralph Parkinson Robert Brown Cooper-Climax T39 26 Valve
DNF 60 S750 United States Harry Kite France François Crouzet Harry Kite D.B. – Panhard HBR 25 Accident
DNF 7 S5.0 United States Ernie Erickson United States Charles Hassan Ernie Erickson Chevrolet Corvette 22 Piston
DNF 48 S1.5 Argentina Alejandro de Tomaso United States Isabelle Haskell Alessandro de Tomaso Maserati 150S 15 Gearshift linkage
DNF 46 S1.5 United States Bill Lloyd United States Karl Brocken William B. Lloyd Maserati 150S 13 Gearbox
DNF 57 S1.1 Venezuela Mauricio Marcotulli Venezuela Ed Munoz Touring y Automovil Clude de Venezuela Osca MT4 1100 11 Differential
DNF 61 S750 France Jean Lucas United States John Norwood Ecurie Lafayette D.B. – Panhard HBR 8 Gearbox
DNF 34 S2.0 Venezuela Julio Pola Venezuela Enrique Muro Touring y Automovil Clude de Venezuela Ferrari 500 TR 8 Accident
DNF 5 S5.0 United States Dale Duncan United States William Eager Raceway Enterprises Chevrolet Corvette C1 3 Real wheel
DNS 3A S5.0 United States Jim Kimberly United States Ed Lunken Jim Kimberly Ferrari 735 LM Transmission
DNS 21 S3.0 United States Paul O’Shea United States Dick Thompson George Tilp Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Oil leak
DNS 23 S3.0 United States Charles Wallace United States Duncan Black Jack Pry Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Engine
DNS 36 S2.0 United States John Weitz United States Manuel Bos Morgan Motors Morgan-Triumph Plus 4 Accident in practice
DNS 44 S1.5 United States Rees Makins United States Frank Bott Automobili Osca S.p.a. Osca MT4 1500 Withdrawn
DNS 46 S2.0 United Kingdom Colin Chapman United States Len Bastrup Lotus Engineering Co. Lotus-Climax Eleven Accident in practice
DNS S5.0 United States Fred Dagavar United States Al Garz Lillian Sands Jaguar XK140 did not start


Class Winners

Class Winners
Class B - Sports 8000 1 Chevrolet Corvette Special Fitch / Hansgen
Class C - Sports 5000 17 Ferrari 860 Monza Fangio / Castellotti
Class D - Sports 3000 27 Aston Martin DB3S Salvadori / Shelby
Class E- Sports 2000 33 Ferrari 500 Mondial II Rubirosa / Pauley
Class F - Sports 1500 41 Porsche 500 Spyder Hermann / von Trips
Class G - Sports 1100 55 Cooper-Climax T39 Cracraft / Byron
Class H - Sports 750 58 D.B. HBR - Panhard Armagnac / Mercader

Standings after the race

Pos Championship Points
1 Italy Ferrari 14
2 Italy Maserati 10
3 United Kingdom Jaguar 4
4 United Kingdom Aston Martin 3
5= West Germany Mercedes-Benz 1
West Germany Porsche 1
  • 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 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.


  1. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  2. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "World Sports Racing Prototypes - World Championship 1956". Archived from the original on 2015-02-22. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  4. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  5. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  6. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  7. ^ "Sebring 12 Hours 1956 - Racing Sports Cars". Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "1956 Sebring 12 Hours". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  9. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  10. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  11. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  12. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  13. ^ "1956 Sebring 12 Hours Grand Prix - Race Photos, History, Profile". Sports Car Digest - The Sports, Racing and Vintage Car Journal. 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2019-09-13.
  14. ^ "Sebring 12 Hours 1956 - Race Results - Racing Sports Cars". Retrieved 2019-09-13.

Further reading

  • Alec Ulmann. The Sebring Story. Chilton Book Company. ASIN B0006CUAP2.

World Sportscar Championship
Previous race:
1000 km Buenos Aires
1956 season Next race:
Mille Miglia
This page was last edited on 13 September 2019, at 11:07
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