Sebring America's First Endurance Race

Posted by: TalesofToyCars in Member Blogs

This article was initially published in April 2004 by David Cook, images by David Cook and Doug Breithaupt.

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Audi R8R - Norev

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This year's Sebring 12 Hours endurance race was the event's 52nd anniversary and inspires this look at some past and present winners in 1/64th scale. Sebring was our country's first big international sports car enduro that brought the racing world to our doorstep in Florida's winter playground. As is common with race events, Sebring was conceived as a tourist attraction by entrepreneur Alec Ulmann in 1950. Using the runways of an ex-military airport a course was laid out for the first events and the initial 12-hours was held in 1952. Always staged in March, the second 12-hour event was the opening race for the FIA's new sports car world championship in 1953 and was won by a Cunningham C4R as shown here by this recent Hot Wheels release.

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Corvette C5R - GMP

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Cunningham C4 - Hot Wheels

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Ferrari 250TR - Hot Wheels


Sebring's bumpy concrete runways were an infamously unforgiving endurance test for man and machine with many early leaders dropping out before the finish. The Jaguar pictured here by Hot Wheels was the winner in 1955. During the 50's and 60's, sports car racing was mostly a Ferrari playground and Sebring was no exception. The Italian marque won here seven times between 1956 and 1964 using famous name drivers like JM Fangio, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney and John Surtees. Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas models won four times; this famous car is pictured here by Hot Wheels.

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Ferrari 312 - Hot Wheels



Ferrari 333SP - Hot Wheels

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Ferrari 512 - Corgi


In 1965 an American car won finally won again ‚ ­ a Chaparral 2D driven by it's designer, Jim Hall and his partner Hap Sharp. Two examples are seen here by Hot Wheels. Porsche won its first Sebring in 1960, breaking a Ferrari stranglehold on the podium. The German marque won again in 1968 with the 907 model pictured here by Majorette of France. Ford used Sebring as a tune-up race for an assault on its ultimate goal of winning LeMans and won in Florida 3 times between 1966 and 1969 with GT40 models. Pictured here is a recent releases of this famous racer by Hot Wheels.

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Ford GT40 - Hot Wheels

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Jaguar 'D' type - Hot Wheels


Ferrari won again in 1970 with a 512S model depicted here by Corgi of England. Porsche used its world-beating 917 model to win in 1971 ‚ ­ an example is shown here by Hot Wheels. Ferrari won again in 1972 with its famous 312P model. Hot Wheels and Polistil provide two different versions of this race car.

But 1972 marked the end of an era for Sebring. The FIA withdrew its sanction of the race and Alec Ulmann was ready to walk away from the whole event. But cooler heads prevailed and the race was held in 1973 managed by IMSA as part of a North American sports car series. Mr. Ulmann finally retired in 1975 and the promotion of the race is now managed by the Sebring Airport Authority. The '73 event was production cars only, no prototypes and was won by a Porsche RS similar to the Corgi model shown here. A production-based BMW CSL (a Tomica model is show here) won in 1975 but the IMSA era at Sebring was all about Porsche. Between '76 and '88 the German cars won with RS models ('73, '76 & '77), 935's ('78 through '84, shown here by Matchbox), and 962's, '85 to '88 and depicted here by Guisval of Spain.

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Nissan R9 GTP - Zee Toys


Porsche 907 - Majorette



Porsche 911 RS - Corgi


In 1987 a series of major improvements to the track began and most of the bumpy concrete runways have been abandoned. Improvements to other spectator facilities continue to make Sebring fan friendly.

Nissan began a string of wins in 1989 and Porsche has not contested for an overall win since then. The Nissan R9 GTP won between '89 & '91. Ferrari returned to the sports car world with its 333SP model shown here by Hot Wheels of course, due to it's now exclusive agreement with the famous Italian brand. These red horses won in '95 and '97-'98. An Oldsmobile powered R&S sports prototype shown here again by Hot Wheels won in 1996.

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Porsche 917 - Hot Wheels



Porsche 935 - Matchbox



Porsche 962 - Guisval


Our most recent Sebring winner is the Audi R8R depicted here by Norev of France. This absolutely beautiful and hard to find model has won the last 5 Sebring races in addition to taking LeMans four times in a row. In addition, the GT class winner Corvette C5R is shown here. This is a most beautiful and detailed model with a removable hood by GMP especially commissioned by GM.

Sebring is now the crown jewel of the American LeMans series managed by Don Panoz. The cars run to LeMans specs and are the most advanced sports cars in the world today. Almost continuous television coverage by the Speed Channel make the race highly visible to the North American viewing audience as well as the rest of the world.

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BMW 3.0CSL - Tomica

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Chaparral 2D - Hot Wheels

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