Portfolio Naples March 2017 - Page 65

begin planning a race for later in the year. ey mapped out a 3.5-mile circuit and set plans for the first Sebring race to be held on new year’s eve. ulmann planned a “little le Mans” endurance race to be run on a complicated handicapping sys- tem called the index of Performance. e circuit included runways and narrow as- phalt roads within the former military base, which the military had turned over to the city of Sebring in 1946. Sam collier was killed during the run- ning of the Watkins glen race of Sep- tember 1950. us, in his honor the first Sebring race was officially named the “Sam collier Memorial grand Prix of Endurance.” it was decided that the first Sebring was to be a six-hour race. Sanc- tioned by the Scca, it would be the first sports car endurance race ever held in the united States and run in strict accor- dance with international rules. among the top drivers entered were jim kimberly, Briggs cunningham (who had raced at le Mans earlier in the year), luigi chinetti (who won at le Mans in 1949), Phil Walters, Bill Spear and tommy cole. among the field of cars were Ferrari, aston Martin, jaguar, al- lard, Mg and Fiat entries. almost all were still oddities in the united States. Vic Sharpe of tampa, whose family owned the cadillac dealership in tampa, Above: Start shot from the late 60’s. Right: Sebring 1956 start during the 1930s. he wanted to create an american endurance classic of the same stature as the famed French classic. ulmann was in the aviation business and had visited the huge facility near Se- bring several times and believed it was a logical location for a sports car race. it of- fered few landmarks other than the aban- doned military barracks, aging aircraft, and dilapidated hangars and warehouses. But the long runways and access roads would make a good, safe racing circuit. at ulmann’s invitation, road racing pioneer Sam collier (of the famous fam- ily that helped established collier county in Florida) and Sports car club of america Florida region director Bob gegen flew to Sebring in early 1950 to drove his little crosley hot Shot to Sebring to watch the race and bring some spare parts for tommy cole, who was co-driving an al- lard cadillac with Erwin goldschmidt. it was cole who approached Sharpe about borrowing the crosley for a lap around the circuit. he timed himself with his wristwatch, then used a slide rule to calculate how the 724cc crosley PORTFOLIO MAGAZINE 63