It should be noted that team managers may juggle their drivers at the last minute if they please. The driver nominated as No. 1 is firmly attached to a specific car, but the second drivers may be shifted on paper at will until they actually take the wheel of a car. Then they are committed.
If the heavyweights fail—not an impossibility on the tortuous Sebring layout—the terriers will have their day. Not to be discounted are the two-liter Maseratis and Ferraris and the 1.5-liter Porsches. The basic goal for the smaller cars, however, is a class victory or over-all win on the index of performance (an arbitrary method of judging which car best measured up to its potential, regardless of engine size).
Besides its other superlatives, Sebring constitutes the longest race in the U.S. and the world's most severe test of brakes.
The thoroughgoing fan who for weeks has wallowed in pre- Sebring rumors now has the delectable time of fulfillment at hand. The same amount of time that another man devotes to breakfasting and shaving, putting in a full day's work, dining, dandling the children and catching the Ed Murrow newscast, the fan will be spending on the Sebring grounds—from the moment the starting flag dips at 10 a.m. Saturday and the drivers sprint across the pavement toward the 65 cars, to the moment in darkness, 12 hours later, when the winner receives the checkered flag. If this dedicated enthusiast is not exhausted, the next day he will be able to go right back and watch a three-hour race for the overflow of applicants who missed the main event.
The most extensive radio coverage so far will include live broadcasts by Walter Cronkite and Arthur Peck over CBS from 10:20 to 10:25 a.m., 1:05 to 1:20, 8:45 to 9 o'clock and 10:05 to 10:30 p.m. on race day. There will be CBS bulletins on the hour.
As a searching test of brakes Sebring is so rugged that this factor tends to override other considerations, especially for the larger cars which have the greatest weight to retard at the corners. Ferrari and Maserati have modified their drum brakes; the Jaguars will have new discs by Dunlop. Sebring, thus, will write another chapter in a lively engineering argument—drums vs. discs—the drum brakes having seen long service on family cars as well as racing cars, the more recent discs having been derived from airplanes. (For a graphic look at the latest drum and disc brakes, see drawings, left.)
But let Vittorio Bellentani, Ferrari racing engineer, take the stand:
"Ninety per cent of success at Sebring depends on brakes—specifically on the continuance of braking power despite heat-producing braking efforts. Le Mans and Monaco may be equally severe for hard braking but nowhere except at Sebring is there such a succession of bends which allow the brakes almost no cooling time between one application and the next.
"The problem is not to provide exceptionally powerful brakes, but brakes whose cooling system is such that their power does not diminish through fading."
Well aware that Ferrari's 1956 Sebring victory was won in no small measure because of the lack of competition toward the end, Bellentani concedes, "There was no adversary who could molest us at the finish when our braking power had become immensely limited." Both Maserati and Ferrari have facilitated brake cooling. Instead of fixed shoes pressing against a rotating drum the Jaguars employ steel discs which turn with the wheels and are squeezed by a pair of pads when the brake pedal is depressed. The pads are mounted inside a so-called "caliper," which is fixed in place to bracket part of the disc without retarding its motion until the pads are activated.