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The 1979 Sebring 12 Hour – The Tortoise comes through

The #6 Barbour, Stommelen, Mears car, a 935-78 (935-77A), enters the Sebring front straight. While this was the fastest car there, it was delayed for some laps with a brake issue and finished fourth

The IMSA season in the 1970s always started with the two toughest races on the calendar, the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours. Daytona was tough because back then, there was no chicane, and more than fifty per cent of the race was in the dark. The traffic was very difficult, as in the old days they would start with upwards of 80 cars on the 3.84-mile oval/infield circuit. Bob Wollek once told me he viewed Daytona as much more difficult than Le Mans, just because of the traffic. Sebring back in the 1970s was also very tough, this course being built on old airport runways from the second world war. The airfield was a training base for the B17 bombers, and it seemed the facilities had not been changed much since then. The circuit was very bumpy, and notoriously bad on suspensions and gearboxes. Facilities for crews and spectators were minimal, but routinely 75,000+ racegoers would show up, camp out and have one big party.

The 1979 Daytona race had not gone well for the Dick Barbour Team. We had run two cars, and both had fallen out with engine failure. It turned out we had some faulty boost gauges that were misreading the actual boost and the 1.15 indicated on the gauge turned out to be 1.35 or some such, so both engines failed before the 24- hour distance.

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