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As baseball has its Yankee haters, auto racing counts fans who are not partial to the mighty Ferrari cars. Those who love to loathe have in common a desire to see the high and lordly reduced a notch or two, and for a time last Saturday during the rousing 12-hour endurance race at Sebring in the Florida midlands it looked as though Providence had taken sides against the world-famous Italian factory, builder of the championship sports and Grand Prix cars last year and a mighty good bet to repeat in 1962.
In fantastic succession, through Sebring's long hours of bright, balmy sunshine and on into the starlit evening, Ferrari after Ferrari sickened mechanically or suffered some other setback. In the last two hours just a pair of topflight contenders for major prizes remained. But, despite warm pleas from the disaffected, lightning did not strike these cars, and first across the finish line was the long-nosed red racer of Sweden's bearded driver, Joakim Bonnier, and Italian-born Lucien Bianchi, who sports a mustache. All in all they traveled 1,071 miles at an average speed of 89.142 mph.
The car-babying touch
Ten laps behind but still ahead of any other contenders came the elegant, gray Grand Touring Ferrari co-driven by America's world champion, Phil Hill, and his longtime sports car sidekick, Olivier Gendebien, the suave and courtly Belgian. Men who make their own lightning and shave their faces clean, Hill and Gendebien are the reigning masters of the light, car-babying touch; they had each won the Sebring race three times before.
The overall victory of Bonnier and Bianchi added, of course, to the great stature of shrewd old Enzo Ferrari as a builder of racing cars. This year, however, the remarkably high GT finish of Hill and Gendebien gave him something of greater value. Under the new rules of the F�d�ration Internationale de l'Auto-mobile it was the Grand Touring car, not the prototype sports racer, that won points toward the manufacturers' world championship.
Thus the Hill-Gendebien triumph was the more important one on paper, but there was no question where the greater drama lay. The fact is, the public prefers sports racers with the driver plainly visible, not obscured by a roof, and with a full-blooded exhaust roar rather than GT's muted thunder. And on Saturday, when the 65 cars lined up for Sebring's Le Mans start, the situation was dramatic indeed. Two new rear-engined V-12 sports racers from the works of Ferrari's archrival, Maserati, and a British Cooper with a rear-mounted four-cylinder Maserati engine were ready to do battle with six violent Ferrari prototypes. This was the kind of high-blooded scrap the public came to see.
America's Walt Hansgen and Dick Thompson manned one new Maserati, entered by the Connecticut sportsman Briggs Cunningham. An Italian pair, Nino Vaccarella and Carlo Abate, took the other. The Cooper- Maserati, also Cunningham's, was given to America's Roger Penske and New Zealand's fine Grand Prix driver Bruce McLaren.
The Ferrari assets were decidedly sounder. Bonnier had tried out one of the Maseratis and admired its great speed, but elected in the end to put his faith in the Ferrari's proved staying power. Britain's Stirling Moss and Scotland's Innes Ireland drove an identical V-12; they had first been assigned a rear-engined Ferrari—one with the firm's new V-8 engine—but rejected it as unproved. The hard-charging Rodriguez kids from Mexico, Ricardo, 20 (SI, March 26), and Pedro, 22, drew a rear-engined V-6; the American Bob Grossman and Allen Connell a front-engined V-6; the American youngsters Peter Ryan and John Fulp, both 21, the new V-8. Finally, there was the older V-12 of the rugged George Constantine, stout, gray-haired but still a leadfoot at age 43.
Among the other sports racers adding to Sebring's color were two homebred Chaparrals, Corvette-powered and built by Texas' Jim Hall, reduced in displacement from six to four liters to fit Sebring requirements. While they were a treat to American eyes, running in the top 10 early in the race, they could not challenge the top Italian cars. Both Chaparrals suffered mechanical trouble, but in the end one of them finished handsomely in sixth place. Nor did the seven American Corvettes in the field have a prayer against the all-conquering Ferrari GTs.
Go-go-go from Mexico