SEBRING, Fla. — A large crowd turned out for Saturday’s portion of the Classic 12 Hour at Sebring, Pistons and Props, presented by the Alan Jay Automotive Network and Classic Motorsports at Sebring Int’l Raceway.
This weekend’s inaugural event, which was sanctioned by Historic Sportscar Racing, is an on-track and on-the-runways celebration of the legendary 12 Hours of Sebring auto race and historic Hendricks Field, the iconic military and civil aviation facility on which the race is run every year.
Kicking off today’s Classic 12 Hour schedule was Group A for 1960’s era sports cars. The field fired up its engines at the command of John Hendricks, grandson of Hendricks Field namesake Lieutenant Laird W. Hendricks Jr. This year marks both the 75th anniversary of the opening of the airfield and what would have been Lieutenant Laird’s 100th birthday.
Group A has developed into a dogfight that would make any flying ace proud. The 1969 Lola T70s of Gerard Lopez and co-driver Franz Wallenborn and the similar No. 77 machine of Toni Seiler are just one lap ahead of the 1969 No. 186 Chevron B16 of Martin Lauber and Malte Muller-Wrede.
The No. 10 Lopez/Wallenborn Lola won both the day and nighttime segments on Saturday and, like Seiler’s T70, has completed 51 laps. The No. 186 Chevron has completed 50 laps, and all three entries have a chance to take the overall Group A win in Sunday morning’s fourth and final 42-minute segment.
Things weren’t as close in Group B where John Harrold enlisted winning professional driver Randy Pobst to co-drive his Team Mean 1979 No. 94 Chevron B in the Classic 12 Hour. Pobst drove both Saturday segments and he and Harrold head into tomorrow’s Group B finale with a healthy four-lap lead on the field in the KMW Motorsports prepared Chevron.
The Group D leader is the 1996 No. 4 Riley & Scott MkIII of Rick Carlino and Derek Jones that has completed 52 laps and swept all three segments despite a steady challenge from brothers Hunter Harris and Hamilton Harris. The Harris twins co-drive a 2000 Lola B2K/40S, have stayed on the same lap as the Riley & Scott and will no doubt take the Group D battle down to the wire in Sunday’s final segment.
Group D shared the track with Group C, which has developed into an all-Porsche 964 Cup car battle. With 47 laps completed, Alan Benjamin and co-driver Robert Ames lead Group D in their 1990 No. 17 964, just ahead of the similar No. 931 1993 model of Alex Welch and Alexandra Sabados, which is on the same lap.
With 2015 Le Mans 24 Hour LMP2 winning co-driver Richard Bradley in his camp, the GMT Racing 2007 No. 18 Pescarolo Judd LMP of David Porter has opened up a decent lead in Group E. The No. 18 is two laps ahead of nearest challengers Butch Leitzinger and Juan Gonzalez, who co-drive the 2010 No. 52 Oreca FLM09, and the similar No. 11 “PC” car of Keith Frieser.
Before Classic 12 Hour competition began on Saturday, an impressive parade of Vintage Airplanes taxied along the Sebring race course to a full-display area in the infield. The collection includes World War II era aircraft such as a BT-9, P40 Warhawk, two Stearman PT-17s, a Vultee BT-15 Valiant and a Beech C-45 named “Beech Baby.”