Classic YouTube: The 1965 12 Hours of Sebring – Racing While Flooded!

Classic YouTube: The 1965 12 Hours of Sebring – Racing While Flooded!

With 50,000 fans piled into the viewing areas, drivers and teams ready to battle, and a track ready to host the showdown, the 1965 12 Hours of Sebring race was meant to be an interesting sight. The FIA allowed big-block race cars (think Cobras, Daytona Coupes and more) to come in to play with some of Europe’s best. Chaparrals would be going up against Ferrari, who also had to worry about Ford. Originally, Ferrari wasn’t even intending to race…Enzo was pissed-off about the 1965 rule change that allowed big-blocks in (among other sections of the new code) and had officially withdrawn all factory cars and informed the NART team and privateer John Surtees that they weren’t going to drive either. Ultimately, Enzo changed his mind and sent two ringer cars and brought Surtees along as a “consultant”. Ford, meanwhile, ws in the middle of Henry Ford II’s red-mist driven anti-Ferrari campaign. The GT40 and the Daytona Coupes were going to show up and show off, regardless of how much money they would have to throw down.

Of course, there were other cars, like Iso Grifos, Corvette Gran Sports, Alfa Romeos and others would take to the track, but from the moment the flag dropped this race would be a show unlike all others. For starters, it was a typical Florida day…hot as hell and twice as humid. Nevermind the cars trying to get into Sebring, the race cars were all popping their radiators like miniature Old Faithful geysers from the heat. Throughout the day there were incidents…Dan Gurney’s All-American Lotus-Ford fragged the oil pump drive, sending his team out. An Iso Grifo lost it’s brakes and went into the crowd, hitting a spectator’s vehicle. A Shelby Cobra mechanic was temporarily paralyzed when he found a hot wire by accident. One of the Chaparrals had it’s battery cook out. Phil Hill’s GT40 had a suspension mount crack, knocking the car out of contention, but when Lew Spencer went down due to the heat, he would step into his driver’s spot in a Daytona Coupe. Nick Cone’s Volvo P1800 blew an engine, and was plowed into by George Reed in a Cobra with no injuries at all. Don Yenko’s Corvette spit the right-rear wheel out and had to pack up when he ground half of the rear suspension off driving the car back to the pits.

Sounds like a fun day? Oh, just wait, sunshine, because at 5:25 p.m., shit got really interesting. A storm rolled through and straight-up pounded Sebring, with most reports claiming at least five inches of rainfall within thirty minutes. In some places, water was eight-inches deep…and nobody bothered to stop the race. The cars kept going! Pit Lane, which had recently got a wall, looked like a Venice canal. Mike Gammino’s Iso Grifo hydroplaned and impacted the Mercedes-Benz bridge, splitting the car in two, with Gammino uninjured. Cars were plowing through the floods like boats…the Porsche 904s looking especially at home, the average lap time over ten minutes, the average speed under 30 miles per hour.

With three hours left on the clock, the rains finally let up and in short order, racing resumed in full anger. By the time the checker flag had waived, Jim Hall and Hap Sharp’s Chaparral had overall, Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren’s GT40 had second, and David Piper and Tony Maggs’ Ferrari 250LM was third.

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