24th June 2024

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Classic sports cars and aircraft return to Sebring this weekend

The annual dual celebration of Sebring International Raceway’s legendary auto racing legacy and patriotic aviation returns to the airport road course November 30-December 3, for the Eighth Annual Historic Sportscar Racing Classic 12 Hour at Sebring, Pistons and Props, presented by the Alan Jay Automotive Network.

Debuting in 2016, the Classic 12 Hour Sebring, Pistons and Props is an on-track and on-the-runways celebration of the 12 Hours of Sebring and historic Hendricks Field, the World War II era military and civil aviation facility on which the famous sports car race has been run for more than 70 years.

The Classic 12 Hour at Sebring features five full-days of historic and vintage sports car racing and a full “fly-in” and display of equally awe-inspiring military and civilian aircraft from the last half century and older.

The weekend also includes the HSR Sebring Historics featuring the year-end rounds of the full-season WeatherTech Sprint, Sasco Sports International/American Challenge, Stoner Car Care Global GT and B.R.M. Endurance Challenge series.

A debuting and must-see airplane headed to Sebring this week is the 1945 Grumman TMB-3R Avenger built and piloted by Job Savage. One of the largest single-engine planes of World War II, the Avenger was complex and cutting-edge for its day, with folding wings, hydraulically powered bomb bay and a powered gun turret at the rear of the canopy.

In addition to being a flying piece of American history, Savage’s Avenger is noteworthy because it was restored by legendary Grumman Aircraft test pilot Corwin H. “Corky” Meyer who started on the project at age 71. Meyer became a test pilot for Grumman on Long Island in 1942 and went on to test a long line of planes, continuing his test-flying career at Edwards Air Force Base in California from 1952 to 1954, where he piloted the experimental Grumman XF10F Jaguar with variable-sweep wings. The first civilian pilot to be carrier qualified by the U.S. Navy, Meyer, who passed away in 2017, later became CEO for Grumman American.

As the current owner of “Corky’s Avenger,” Savage, who comes from a notable “Warbird Family” himself, is looking forward to showcasing the plane in front of both fans and HSR competitors alike at the Classic 12 Sebring Pistons and Props. Savage spent his Thanksgiving Thursday holiday last week flying the Avenger from Huntington, Indiana to his home base in Ocala, Florida, where Meyer restored the plane years earlier at Leeward Air Ranch.

A debuting sports car as revered in auto racing as the Avenger is in aviation circles is a must-see entry in a diverse field of historic and vintage cars that has assembled for this year’s HSR Classic 12. Danish driver Lars Erik Nielsen debuted his immaculate 1990 No. 90 Porsche 962C in “HSR Classics” competition in early November at the Classic Daytona 24 Hour presented by IMSA and scored a Run Group victory.

Nielsen — father of two-time IMSA GTD champion and 12 Hours of Sebring winner Christina Nielsen — now heads to Sebring where he seeks a second-straight HSR Classics victory. The Daytona win didn’t come without some late drama as Nielsen felt the right rear tire on the 962 start to go down exiting the high-banked NASCAR Turn 2 while leading the fourth and final race in his Run Group. Nielsen slowly nursed the Porsche back to the pits, minus some right-rear bodywork, and returned to the race with a fresh tire and the determination to get back to first overall by the checkered. Nielsen retook the lead in the segment’s final minutes to claim his first HSR Classics victory.

While four different teams have driven 962s to multiple HSR Classic 24 victories over the years, the landmark Porsche prototype — one of four iconic race cars inducted this year in the inaugural class of the IMSA Hall of Fame — has yet to make its mark in the HSR Classic at Sebring. A victory by Nielsen this weekend would be a first for a 962 in the Classic 12.

Phil Daigrepont is a familiar HSR competitor but is set for his Classic 12 debut in his 1978 No. 4 Toj SC206. The car still carries its trademark and original Warsteiner beer colors. A Group 6-specification, open-cockpit sports prototype built in Europe, the Toj had no significant U.S. racing history in its prime, but Daigrepont, a former jockey from Louisiana, has made a mark in North American historic racing with his SC206. Even better, another Toj is also on the entry list with former HSR Classic 12 and Classic 24 winner David Porter entered in his 1975 No. 205 Toj SC205 he co-drives with former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Richard Bradley. Daigrepont co-drives his Toj with veteran HSR competitor Edward Sevadjian.

Back on the airplane front, a returning favorite is the1943 Vultee BT-13 Valiant of Bryce Bock. The Vultee BT-13, which carries tail number 242605, is one of approximately 11,000 built powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-985. Vultee also contracted with Wright Aeronautical for their W-975 engine and redesignated the plane the BT-15.

On-track historic race car action at the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour, Pistons and Props, begins Wednesday with an unofficial test session.

Official competition gets underway Thursday with the weekend’s featured HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour starting at 12pm Saturday with each of the four Run Groups taking to the three times in succession in a rotation that races into the night with the day’s final checkered flag just before 9pm.

Classic Sebring 12 Hour competitors return to the track Sunday at 12pm with each Group getting one final segment to decide this year’s winners. Overall Run Group winners will be presented with special-edition Classic Sebring 12 Hour edition B.R.M. Chronographes.

Still in part an active airport, the featured vintage aircraft will be landing on the Sebring runways throughout the day on Friday. At 5pm that day, the parade of planes will taxi along parts of the actual Sebring race course to the paddock where they will be on display alongside the historic race cars through Sunday morning at 10:30am.