SEBRING 1961 Race Report
Dave Nicholas
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The BARC outdid themselves at Sebring this year [1961]. It would take a book to tell of all the exploits that happened in the maddening eight days that it took to write this episode of BARC literature.  It all started on Sunday a few weeks before the race, when BARF members Smith, Poupard, Zych, Tierno, and Nicholas were at Augie’s restaurant eating hotpie (pizza) and discussing the March 25 race.  From this little meeting evolved a week that couldn’t possibly be matched at any cost. Monday, the 20th before the race, Spank, Bob, Zike, and myself left for the sunny southland. Spank drove a heroic 13 hours and landed in South Carolina or thereabouts. We played a lot of slot machines, joked, argued, and did all sorts of things. Bob carried us to southern Georgia, and Zych took us into Florida. I had the easy shift of driving through the green state, and then, 27 hours after we left, we were at the Sun Ray Motel in Frostproof, Florida.

We cleaned up and went to the city to find Sherm and Bob. This was a hard task, however, because they had driven back to the motel just as we were going into town. After a slight night’s sleep, we were up and at ‘em for Wednesday’s practice. The day showed us the new factory Ferraris which are ugly like nothing, and the rear-engined Birdcages which are worse yet. The cars were really screaming and we were going wild. Thursday found the Kelleys, both Jr. and Sr., and their SAAB at our motel. Also, as we were walking through the pits before the big car practice, John felt a big hand around his neck. We looked up to see some form of a human with a big felt hat on... IT WAS THE VAIL! The four of us searched around the pits and took millions of pictures which will have to account for a near-future BARC meeting. This was also the day for night practice, and the weather was beautiful. Spank, or, as he is more commonly known, Stank, by David Ash and friends, as busy devising a good scoring system.

That evening, Zych, Vail, the Stanton Brothers, and myself ate dinner and enjoyed the sight of Vail eating Florida French-Fried Frogs’ Legs. Also of prominence was a ride in the amazing Citroen station wagon of member #9 [Bob Stanton]. Whilst riding into Sebring from the course, the car was found to be slowly shifting up and down, due to Bob’ s work on the suspension lever. Back to the course for a beautiful sunset, and a problem for all. How could we tell our car for timing and scoring?  The lights were no different from any others, and it was extremely difficult to tell when Bob or Sherm was coming around. We devised a system whereby two of us would sit on the back side of the last straight and be close to the cars before they came into sight of the timers and scorers. From here we could easily read the number, and every time the Aston would come by, we would flash two times -- and the pit members would know the car would be by at any moment.

The worst was yet to come. With Vail in our room on the cot, there were four in our domain. We were all fast asleep, an Poupard was snoring pleasantly, when in walked Tierno, Ruston, Gerry Kenyon, Ken Stickles, an two other fellows whom we later found out were hitchhikers that the four had picked up on the way down. Well, after much confusion, and Poupard almost going insane, we all settled down on the floors, in the shower, tub, and even under the beds, out in the car, and people were everywhere. The morning came all to soon, and we were all set for the first races of the week. I drove Kenyon’s 1957 Ford convertible to the track, and we put three fellows in the trunk and snuck them in. After that, I found Zych, and we went out to pick up the other three and snuck them in in typical BARF mannerisms.

After these nefarious dealings, we watche the last three hours of a GT race and soaked up the sun. The Go-Kart race was neat, and after a hectic start, the dominance of the Exterminator Karts began showing up. Bobby Allen, the world’s champ of go-kart driving, won handily. Oh, by the way, the winner of the GT race was Hank Washburn in a Fiat Abarth. The Junior race was lined up and it looked as if an interesting race would take place between the numerous new Cooper and Loti. They didn’t stand a chance, though, as from the first lap on, Charlie Kolb drove a beautiful race in his rear-engined Gemini. This apparently is one of a kind, but soon the public will have a chance to get this fantastic junior. It ran away so completely that Kolb could have stopped half way through the race for a beer and still lapped the field.

Back farther, it was a race among the Coopers of Pedro Rodriguez, Walt Hansgen, Jim Hall, and the Lotus of Pat Pigott and Harry Carter. Both the Loti folded, however, and Hansgen and Hall passed Pedro on the next-to-last lap.

That night, as last minute preparations were being made to the Astons, we raided the nearby orange and grapefruit groves for about the sixth time and had a ball. Zych, Vail, and I were playing basketball with the giant grapefruit and we would jump high in the air and act as if we were getting a rebound and come banging down with a giant citrus fruit of some sort. The native blacks weren’t too happy with us, but we managed to escape each time. That was the most fun of the whole trip--not counting the races--and wait until next year. Gene Osborne was very haply with the smooth-running Lola that Kurtz and Ripley were driving, and he proved it with normal Osborne tactics--which the bartender at the Circle will tell you about in more detail.

We were up early on Saturday and out to the course. The details for the day were handed out and Zych volunteered for the first two-hour stint of timing and scoring. The Le Mans start was fantastic, and Sherm outdid himself. Moss was stalled on the line with bad battery and was delayed for almost two laps before he could get out. Sherm came by on the first lap with things in typical Decker manner, and the car was a little banged up. A GT Ferrari looked even worse, though, and we guessed that the two of them had a little accident. This proved to be correct, when Sherm’s brakes failed to stop him; the softest thing seemed to be the Ferrari.

Masten Gregory had the lead on the first lap and kept it for about four more. Then the Rodriguez boys had a hold on the lead for quite awhile. Next it line was the rear-engined Ferrari driven by Richie Ginther and Wolfgang VonCrash. This amazing mobile went faster than anything on the course, including the rear-mounted Masers, and should prove to be the car to beat. A little steering problem brought it to a halt an Rodriguez, once again, held top position. About this time, the Aston split a hub and the left front wheel came off in the hairpin.

Poor Decker took the long walk back to the pits, only to find the other Aston having problems, too. As it was, the same thing happened to the sister car. Only in a different place. Most of you already know the anxious happenings that capped the race off, and it was exciting. Charlie Kurtz and Millard Ripley did well winning their class and placing well on index. The most fantastic race was over, and most of the action, too. John and I snuck into the Automobile Racing Club of Florida (ARCF) tent and came out considerably happier then when we went in, but that should be kept quiet.

For those of you who didn’t go, you should be mad enough now to make sure you go next year. Once you do, you will realize for yourself the wonders of the sights, smells ,colors, fun, and the sounds of Sebring.

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