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FANTASTICO is for FANGIO
Kenneth Rudeen
April 01, 1957
A success for an old master and a failure full of hope marked the running of Sebring's 12-hour Grand Prix. Although it was Fangio who won, Detroit made the news
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April 01, 1957

Fantastico Is For Fangio

A success for an old master and a failure full of hope marked the running of Sebring's 12-hour Grand Prix. Although it was Fangio who won, Detroit made the news

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THE RESULTS AT SEBRING

ORDER OF FINISH

CAR

CLASS

DRIVERS

LAPS

OVER-ALL PERFORMANCE

1

4.5 Maserati

C

Behra, Fangio

197

2

3.0 Maserati

D

Moss, Schell

195

3

3.8 D Jaguar

C

Hawthorn, Bueb

193

4

3.5 Ferrari

C

Gregory, Brero

193

5

3.8 D Jaguar

C

Hansgen, Boss

188

6

3.5 Ferrari

C

Collins, Trintignant

187

1

3.5 Ferrari

C

De Portago, Musso

186

8

1.5 Porsche

F

Bunker, Wallace

185

9

1.5 Porsche

F

Kunstle, Miles

184

10

2.0 Ferrari

E

Hively, Ginther

179

11

1.0 Lotus

G

Chapman, Sheppard

174

12

4.6 Corvette (production)

C

Thompson, Andrey

173

13

1.5 OSCA

F

Linton, Beck

170

14

2.0 Ferrari

E

De Vroom, Arents

169

15

4.6 Corvette (production)

C

Duncan, Kilborn

168

16

4.6 Corvette (modified)

C

O'Shea, Lovely

166

17

2.0 AC

E

Fernandez, Droulers

161

18

1.0 Cooper

G

Hallock, Goldman

159

19

2.0 Triumph TR3

E

Oker, Johns

159

20

1.3 Alta Romeo Giulietta

F

Kaplan, Rainville

158

21

2.0 Triumph TR3

E

Rothschild, Pennybacker

156

22

2.0 AC

E

Dressel, Cullen

154

23

1.5 MG

F

Miller, Leaven

154

24

1.3 Alfa Romeo Giulietta

F

Crise, Markelson

153

25

3.0 Mercedes 300SL

D

Windridge, Reed

153

INDEX OF PERFORMANCE

 

CAR

CLASS

INDEX

DRIVERS

1

Porsche

F

1.360

Bunker, Wallace

2

Porsche

F

1.352

Kunstle, Miles

3

Lotus

G

1.349

Chapman, Sheppard

CLASS WINNERS

CAR

CLASS

DRIVERS

Maserati

C

Behra, Fangio

Maserati

D

Moss, Schell

Ferrari

E

Hively, Ginther

Porsche

F

Bunker, Wallace

Lotus

G

Chapman, Sheppard

Stanguellini

H

Behm, Haas

GRAND TOURING CATEGORY WINNERS

CAR

SERIES

DRIVERS

Corvette (production)

10

Thompson, Andrey

Mercedes 300SL

9

Windridge, Reed

Triumph TR3

7

Oker, Johns

MG

6

Miller, Leaven

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

5

Kaplan, Rainville

Renault

4

Michy, Foulgoc

For one galvanic day it seemed that a storybook race was in the making, but instead, the seventh and most momentous Sebring 12-hours yet was a lesson straight from the textbook: the fastest and soundest car with the most skillful drivers will win, barring bad racing luck.

Nothing resembling ill luck troubled the world champion driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, and his accomplished teammate, Jean Behra, in their pursuit of victory in a Maserati that could run away from any car on the course. They dominated the race completely from the moment Behra took the lead on the 19th lap until the end. If that weren't lesson enough, the driver second only to Fangio in ability, Britain's Stirling Moss, placed second with the considerable help of Co-driver Harry Schell.

Yet look what had happened before the Maseratis and their accomplished drivers proved that automobile racing does not normally lend itself to the fairy tale ending.

Chevrolet brought Detroit's first all-out sports racing car (SI, March 25) to the taxing course at Sebring, Fla. and created a sensation, on the first day of practice, the scope of which would be difficult to exaggerate. Its new racer, the Corvette Super Sport, had been in the making for only five months and had been assembled in reasonably final form for little more than a week. Its shakedown trial would have to be in the race itself, for there was not enough time in practice to explore all the unknowns.

Besides the elegant metallic-blue car which was to represent Chevrolet—and the United States—at Sebring, there was an ugly duckling of a practice car. True, it had substantially the same in-sides as the blue car, but its grimy, white plastic body with a gaping hole in the hood and another behind the cockpit looked shabby beside the glistening magnesium sheath of its patrician stablemate. Its engine had the cast-iron cylinder heads of a standard Corvette, not the lightweight aluminum heads which Designer Zora Arkus Duntov had devised to produce 30 more horsepower in the finished SS. In fact, it wasn't long before everyone was calling the white practice Corvette "The Mule."

When John Fitch, the No. 1 Corvette driver, achieved lap times in The Mule that were within a few seconds of last year's record (3 minutes 29.7 seconds) on a 5.2-mile circuit which had been narrowed at spots and therefore was considered some three seconds slower than last year's layout, the Corvette pit was jammed with spectators.

Before the gawkers had stopped rubbing their eyes, Fangio had strolled over to take a ride in The Mule himself. He turned the first two laps in new course-record times, plus a third in a staggering 3:27.

The seeds of the storybook tale were then sown—a Detroit sports car, of all things, traveling easily at lap speeds that would make it one of the major contenders in a world championship race.

"Fant�stico," said Fangio. "I could have gone two seconds faster if I had tried."

"It is irrational," said Duntov, "that the car should go so fast when it is so new." Having made this disclaimer, he smiled broadly and looked as though he could have danced for joy.

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