Victory in a Porsche 718 RS60 for Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien in the 1960 Sebring 12 Hours.

Hans Herrmann at the wheel of the Porsche RS60 in the 1960 Sebring 12H

First victory for Porsche in the Sebring 12 Hours

Even though the Sebring 12 Hours is an important race in the World Sportscar Championship, both the Porsche and Ferrari works team choose not to enter works cars. The Sebring 12Hours was  sponsored by the American company Amoco Oil. Part of the deal was that all competitors had to use exclusively the Amoco products. However, Ferrari had a sponsor deal with Shell, and Porsche with BP. Both were loyal to their sponsor, and refused to take part in the race. One would think that would diminish the chances for a Porsche victory.

Sebring 1960 – Race mechanic, Eberhard Storz next to the Porsche 718 RS60 (718-042) of Hans Herrmann / Olivier Gendebien

However, with a detour, Porsche did brings some cars on the start. The “unemployed” Joakim Bonnier leased some of the works Porsche 718 RS60s. The other Porsche factory drivers were unemployed too. So Bonnier hired Hans Herrmann, Graham Hill, and Olivier Gendebien, who had left the Ferrari team for the benefit of Porsche. Next to these entries, you could find 3 more private Porsche at the start. The Brumos Porsche dealership from Jacksonville Florida brought a Porsche 718 RS60. Both the Argentinian Pedro von Dory and American Ernie Erickson entered a Porsche 718 RSK. Dutch privateer Carel Godin de Beaufort started  in a Porsche 356 Carrera.

Preparing for the start of the 1960 Sebring 12H

In a Le Mans style start jumps Stirling Moss first in his Maserati Tipo 61 but the car refuses to start. Olivier Gendebien has the same problem, and loses approximately half a minute before the engine finally ignites. After an hour race, Stirling Moss made up the time he lost at the start. First Porsche after an hour was the von Dory Porsche 718 RSK in 5th position, followed by Bob Holbert in the Brumos sponsored Porsche 718 RS60. Joakim Bonnier took 7th position, and finally Olivier Gendebien in 8th.  After 5 hours of racing, Dan Gurney, who teamed up with Stirling Moss, lead the rest of the pack with 2 laps. Joakim Bonnier and Graham Hill climbed up and raced in 4th, 3 laps behind the birdcage Maserati Tipo 61. Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien in 5th, with another lap more behind the leaders.

The #46 RS-60 driven by Anton vanDory and Roberto Mieres – DNF – Engine

One hour later, Bonnier and Hill were out of the race with a broken crankshaft. Herrmann and Gendebien were racing in 3rd, while Moss / Gurney had a convincing lead, with Chuck Daigh and Richie Ginther in 2nd in their Ferrari 250 TR. There was absolutely no doubt one of the big engined cars would win the race. However, with 4 hours to go, the Ferrari of Daigh / Ginther  entered the pits. A broken engine prevented them to get back in the race. Soon after, bad luck stroke down for the leading Maserati Tipo 61 of Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney too. The “pygmy” Porsche of Herrmann / Gendebien, as he was narrowly called, took the lead of the race and had no problems to defend their lead. Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien bring home the first victory for Porsche in  the Sebring 12 Hours.

Later Hans Herrmann told that from the beginning of the race, there was a problem with the clutch. To save the engine, they decided to rev the car only up to 7000rpm, even though 8000rpm should be possible. 

Hans Herrmann reunited with Porsche 718-042 at the Porsche Race Car Classic in 2011.

Pictures courtesy Porsche AG, Vintage Race Photography and Barc Boys