After what can only be described as a very successful season, including the “Classic 24 Hours of Daytona” and the crown jewel of vintage motorsports,”The Mitty” at Road Atlanta, Historic Sportswear Racing, Ltd. (HSR) closed out its 2015 season with the 13th Annual Sebring Historics on the hallowed grounds of the old WWII bomber base know today as Sebring International Raceway.
HSR was formed early in the mid-’70s with the primary mission to celebrate the race cars of yesteryear, provide motorsports enthusiasts with a “time machine” of sorts, and experience the sights and sounds of our racing heritage. The primary goal of HSR is to organize and promote historic racing events that will allow competitors and fans alike to experience the living history provided by these iconic automobiles that have competed at race tracks around the world.
Historic racing recaptures an era of motorsports when the cars were simple and the drivers were visible. As modern racing grows ever more dependent on technology and remote from the fans, the appeal of historic racing has increased substantially. Perhaps the best part of HSR events is the open feeling experienced by spectators. Unlike other series, fans can stroll through the paddock area to view cars and talk with drivers. Often, racing legends are on hand and behind the wheel of cars they previously raced.
With a continued commitment to safety and a dedication to sportsmanship, coupled with a more welcoming attitude, a unique grouping system that provides racers with a level playing field, and spectators with close, exciting action. It’s easy to understand how the HSR has evolved into one of the largest and most active organizations of its type in North America.
It is not uncommon for HSR events to attract in excess of 150 competitors, and up to 30,000 spectators. These numbers create a very viable marketplace for major corporate sponsors. To date, companies like Hawk Performance, Sunoco, Braille Batteries, and BRM Chronographs have all made major commitments.
To assure an equal level of competition for competitors, and exciting action for the fans, HSR uses several parameters to separate the cars into specific groups. Age and engine size are considered, as well as if the car is production-based or purpose-built for racing. All HSR events utilize this grouping system, and the 2015 edition of the Sebring Historic class is no exception. With this in mind, before we recap the weekend racing activities and cover a few of the highlights, let’s look at the groups competing at Sebring as specified by HSR.
Overall, there are 10 groups employed by HSR. A brief description and examples for each group are:
Group Two Vintage Production Category: Early ’50s production sports cars and sedans, early sports racing cars, and certain mid ’60s and early ’70s small-bore production sports cars. Such as: Jaguar XK120, MGB, early Corvette, and Porsche 356.
Group Three Historic Production Category: Production cars from the mid ’60s thru the early ’80s except large-displacement. Examples: Jaguar XKE, Lotus 7, Porsche 911, 914/6, 924, and 944. These groups were combined during the Sebring Historic race.
Group Four A, B, and C — Open Wheel Formula Cars: Cars within this group range from the small bore Formula cars like Formula Ford and Formula 2, up to and including the large displacement cars of Formula Atlantic, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, Indy Car, and Formula 1.
Group Five Historic Large -Displacement Production Category: Production sports and grand touring cars from 1960 thru 1974. Examples are: Ford Mustang GT350, Cobra, and Boss 302. Corvette and Porsche 911RS, RSR, and IROC.
Group Six Racing Prototypes: Purpose-built tube framed sports cars/prototypes. Examples are: Porsche 962, Tiga, Audi R8 LMP, Lola, Radical, Norman, and Riley & Scott. This group was combined with group four during the Sebring Historic Race.
Group Nine Historic Grand Touring Category: Purpose-built silhouette race cars from ALMS, IMSA, Trans-Am, Grand-Am, SCCA, and GTX. Examples are: Dekon Monza, Jaguar, Mazda RX7, Porsche 911RSR, and Corvette.
Group 10 Modern-Era Global GT Challenge Category: Production-based, purpose-built race cars. Examples are: Porsche GT3 Cup Cars, Ferrari Challenge, World Challenge, Grand-am, and America’s GT Cup cars. Groups eight, nine and 10 were combined for the Sebring Historic race.
Action got underway Friday with two qualifying sessions scheduled per group; the Bob Woodman Tire International/American Challenge race was scheduled for late afternoon followed by race one for the America’s GT Cup, with a 45-minute night race completing the day. As teams prepared for their first qualifying sessions, a light steady rain pelted the fabled old raceway.
The forecast called for isolated showers throughout the day, and drivers approached the sessions with reserved caution. Jon Wactor from Oakland, California driving a 1970 Porsche 914/6 GT-1991 remarked, “tomorrow should be dry, so today we’ll just be conservative and save our stuff, there’s no reason to take unnecessary risks, tomorrow is when it really counts.”
Following Friday’s qualifying sessions the steady rain that had been falling throughout the day finally subsided, leaving a very wet track for the first of five feature races scheduled for the weekend. The Bob Woodman International/American Challenge race had 39 cars from groups two, three and five taking the grid for the eight-lap sprint race.
This race pits the production sports cars over 1.5 liters against the American GT cars. Over the years, this race has proven to be one of the fan favorites.
As the field came under the green flag the Mustang of Bill Foster, from Aurora, Ohio was first into turn one, with the Porsche 911RSR of Mike Banz in close pursuit. Lap two found Curt Vogt’s Mustang facing the wrong way in turn one after spinning on the wet surface; Vogt recovered and continued on.
As the laps wound down it became evident that Foster would be the man to beat. Gary Moore, driving a 1966 Shelby GT350, had made his way into second, with Banz in third. When the checkered flag waved over the hood of Foster’s Cobra, Vogt in his Boss 302 had come back from his lap two spin to finish less than one-second behind Foster. Moore brought his Mustang home to a very respectable third place finish, followed closely by the Porsche’s of Banz, Patrick McGinnis, and Yves Scemama.
The America’s GT Cup was up next and brought 30 cars to the grid for the first of three scheduled races. It featured the more modern era production-based sports cars such as the Porsche Cayman S, Ferrari 458 Challenge car, and the Porsche 991, and 997 GT Cup car. The 2011 Porsche 997 Cup/3800 of Wayne Dycote from New Orleans led from flag to flag to claim the top position on the podium for race one.
The highly anticipated 45-minute night race would close the action for Friday. After the America’s GT Cup race a dry line had begun to appear on the race track. As teams prepared for the final race of the day, and started rolling towards the grid, the pesky rain showers that had plagued the raceway all day, returned with a vengeance … so much for a dry line.
Many of the teams that had anticipated a dry race returned to the paddock leaving just a 14-car field for the race into the night. As the field made its way around the raceway, fans in attendance cheered loudly at the sight of the lights reflecting off the wet surface, and marveled at the 10-foot tall rooster tails coming off the back of the cars. Gomez of Key Biscayne, Florida drove his 2009 Porsche Cayman-S/3400 to a very close victory over the 430 GTC Ferrari of William Binnie from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
As the last race car rolled back into the paddock area Friday night, despite the less than favorable weather conditions, HSR officials appeared to be satisfied with the results of the day. The teams and drivers were debriefing and making plans for the upcoming endurance races, and fans were anxious to see what the rest of the weekend would bring. The forecast for both Saturday and Sunday called for blue skies, warm temperatures and plenty of bright Florida sunshine — and that’s exactly what they got.
Pistons and Props
The Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Classic 12 Hours of Sebring, Pistons and Props, Presented by Alan Jay Automotive Network – an on-track and on-the-runways celebration of the 12 Hours of Sebring and historic Hendricks Field, will debut in December 2016 at Sebring International Raceway.
An entirely unique aspect of the Classic 12 Hours of Sebring, Pistons and Props, will be the simultaneous celebration of Sebring’s rich military and civil aviation history that is as much a part of the 12 Hours of Sebring as the race itself. Sebring International Raceway President and General Manager Wayne Estes stated. “Combining Sebring’s aviation heritage and six decades of endurance racing history into one event made for a truly spectacular weekend.”
The HSR Weather Tech Sprint series races provided fans with close nose to tail and side-by-side racing, but more so, served as a prelude for the upcoming endurance races that would round out Saturday’s action. Winners of Saturday’s HSR Weather Tech Sprint Series races were: Group Two and Three, Tom Grudovich of Palm Beach, Florida driving a 1966 Ginette G4/1720; Group Four and Six: Norman in a 2006 Swift 016/2294 Formula Atlantic.
Group Five: Vogt in a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302. Group Seven: Lee Brahin from Philadelphia in a 1994 Ralt RT41 (CSR)/1600. Groups Eight, Nine and 10: Juan Lopez-Santina of Plantation, Florida driving a 2008 Porsche 997 Cup/3800 America’s GT Cup: Steven White of Sarasota, Florida in a 2014 Porsche 991 GT America/4000.
Saturday’s first one-hour endurance race featured the historic Prototype and Grand Touring automobiles. Thirty-six cars filled the grid for what would be a dominating performance by Travis Engen from Weston, Connecticut in the 2005 Audi R8 LMP 3600 Turbo. Engen took the point at the drop of the green and never looked back. The newer 2013 Oreca FLM09 6227, driven by Juan Gonzalez from Dallas, stayed on Engen’s gearbox early on but faded late in the going. Engen finished with a 10.780 margin of victory.
The second one-hour race of the day saw 28 cars from groups three and five on the grid ready to go. This race would feature the vintage/GTC cars, in a very closely contested event. Alan Sevadjian from Dallas, in his 1968 Chevrolet Corvette held on for a scant 1.598 second margin of victory over the 1974 Porsche 911 RSR/3000 of Banz. As the sun set over the fabled old raceway Saturday, race fans were anticipating what they could expect to see Sunday.
The weather for the final event of the weekend was nothing short of Chamber of Commerce type weather. Blue sky, bright sunshine and warm temperatures greeted both competitors and race fans alike for the running of the final HSR Four Hours of Sebring presented by the Alan Jay Automotive Network.
Open to cars from all groups, with the exception of groups four and eight, 31 drivers took to the tarmac of the old bomber base for the final event of 2015, and the last ever standalone, HSR Four Hours of Sebring. As the cars circulated around the 3.74-mile layout, fans witnessed close, hard, competitive racing and enjoyed watching the crews service the machines during scheduled pit stops. As the clock approached the four-hour mark, the drivers had completed nearly 100 laps. Richard Carlino and Nigel Greensall from Sarasota, Florida and their 1996 Riley & Scott MK III were atop the podium and declared the victors.
Although it’s sad to see the HSR Sebring Historic Races come to an end as a standalone event, in combination with the inaugural, HSR Classic 12 Hours of Sebring, Pistons and Props, scheduled to take place in December of 2016, this new combination should prove to be a worthy replacement for this long running event. This event will allow vintage motorsport enthusiasts to experience the excitement of the classic, historic sports cars that have competed at this iconic old venue, and the opportunity to celebrate the rich aviation history associated with Sebring International Raceway. It should be on the must attend 2016 list for every motorsports enthusiast.