Corvettes at Sebring 12 Hour Grand Prix: 1957
Ryan had a great post about the 1957 Corvette SS a while back, and I recently found more pictures of the entire racing team in action at the 12 Hours of Sebring. This was General Motors first year officially entering the prestigious sports car event, and brought four race-prepped Corvettes to compete with an all-European crowd of contenders. First and foremost, Zora Duntov’s alloy bodied Chevrolet Corvette Super Sport (#1) was on hand. The small block motor featured aluminum heads good for over 30 more horsepower (315 HP) than the production F.I. Corvette (283 HP), and weighing 1000 pounds less. Also racing that day was the fabled SR-2 (SR=Sebring Racer), originally built for Harley’s Earl’s son, Jerry, now painted red with white stripes (car #2), and two modified production model F.I. Corvettes painted white with blue stripes (cars numbered #3 and #4). The variety of entry cars allowed GM to compete in multiple classes and increases the chances of a podium finish.
For practice laps, Corvette brought the “P” model (Practice) Corvette SS. This was essentially a bare white fiberglass-bodied test mule for the more expensive (and delicate) magnesium version that would race in the actual event. After John Fitch finished practice the ‘P’ Corvette SS, Duntov allowed both fabled GP racers Juan Fangio and Stirling Moss from team Maserati to take a courtesy run in the mule SS:
“Fangio got into a car he has never driven before and on his first two laps broke the course record of 3:29.7 set the previous year by Mike Hawthorn of England in a Jaguar. On the third lap Fangio broke the course record by almost three seconds (3:27.4). Not to be outdone by his team-mate, Stirling Moss also broke the 1956 record with a time of 3:28 in the Corvette. When John Fitch, who was the designated SS driver for the race, took the “mule” out for a run the best he could do was get a couple of seconds closer to the course record but not break it.”
Unfortunately, for the big race, the Corvette SS was dogged with suspension problems (caused by race damage) and overheating issues, and forced its retirement after only 23 laps.
(That’s driver Fitch with gray-haired Duntov in the photos:)