Driven by Stirling Moss in the 1960 Sebring 4 Hour Race
when he achieved a class win & 2nd overall.
The Donald Healey Motor Company prepared just a single Sprite for the Sebring 4 hours in 1960. The car was entered in the 1000cc GT class for Stirling Moss and John Sprinzel to drive (though it appears John did not start and Stirling drove the whole race). Twenty-nine cars practiced and 17 of them were in the 1000GT class, the race beginning with a Le Mans start. The winning car was a Fiat-Abarth 750, driven by American, Paul Richards, which covered 57 laps of the 8.4 km circuit and Moss was just one lap behind at the end. The winner's average speed was just over 121 k.p.h.
Geoff Healey wrote in his book, "More Healeys":-
"For 1960, the organisers of Sebring introduced a four hour race for the smaller cars. This was one we could win. As the race was for GT cars, we could make only minimal alterations, using homologated equipment. We decided to enter TFR 1, our first Targa Florio Sprite*. The engine was sent to Harry Weslake at Rye for him to try to get just a little bit more power, which of course he did. To make our chances of a win more certain it was decided that we would try to get Stirling Moss to drive it..............The main opposition .... would be the twin-cam Abarth cars, whose advanced engines were capable of giving considerably more power.......We knew that our hope for a win lay in Stirling being seconds quicker than almost any other driver".
" However, when the car was being driven around prior to the race, it lost water and overheated. On stripping we found that a flaw in the head casting had developed into a hole. Our alternatives were to weld the port at a point about 2 inches in from the manifold, or to fit a production head and lose power. We decided on the former and found a repair shop in Avon Park where the owner, expressing misgivings, welded the head. One inlet port now had a large bump of weld and we did not risk filing much of it off. When rebuilt the car seemed to run as well as ever, but it must have lost something at the top end"....."Stirling made one of his normal good starts but the two fastest Abarths got ahead of him. He took the lead when the Abarths pitted for fuel, but after two and three-quarter hours he had to come in for both tyres and fuel. This lost him a good two minutes to the Abarths, who did not need a tyre change. He had to make a second stop for fuel and finished a very close second".
*However in "Spritely Years" Tom Coulthard states that the car used at Sebring was actually a new car, modified by the Canadian distributors from parts sent out from Warwick! ?
I received the following little anecdote from Verne Wheelwright who supplied the accompanying picture (towards the top right):
"Moss was a wonderful guy and a fantastic driver. I (in No.24 Fiat-Abarth 750) got lucky on the start of this race and got into the first turn ahead of Moss, who had a great reputation for Le Mans starts. He passed me on turn two and waved...with a bottle of Coke in his right hand! I just checked your site and learned something new! I watched Moss drive the Birdcage most of the day until it broke. Gearbox, I think. Didn't know he'd gotten into a Sprite for the rest of the race! [Sorry, my error, Moss only practiced the Falcon car - MEI]. We didn't get a lot of photos of the 4 hour because we had a problem with a blown head gasket. Got it fixed and finished the race. The owner of the car, Donivan McCune ran from the pits to the Esses a few times with parts, then got to drive the last five laps".
After Sebring the story of this Sebring Sprite becomes a bit confused. It is believed Moss's red and white race car was delivered to local BMC dealer Ship & Shore Motors of West Palm Beach (still bearing its UK registration plate 7080AC though Geoff Healey then applied this same number to another car, back in England, which took part in the Alpine Rally and was subsequently sold (on 4th October, 1960) to Jack Wheeler (possibly re-shelled again) who raced and rallied it along with Martin Davidson).
The ex-Moss car is thought to have been sold, by the dealer, to Tom Bratten as a car bearing that licence plate was entered by him at Sebring the following year wearing No.9 (see photo right - note forward-hinging bonnet and go-faster stripe!). Tom retired after completing 39 laps of the 1961 4 Hour FIA GT race, the front runners achieving 59 laps of the course - Sebring Sprites finished 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th behind the two Fiat-Abarths.
One piece of information reveals that the car was damaged during another race at Sebring. It is possible it was then re-shelled and painted in metallic blue as Ron and Rob Gordon much later acquired such a car still bearing the reg. no. 7080 AC - see the Rob Gordon page. All this was the subject of lengthy correspondence in "Your Comments" in Nov/Dec 2013.
[The above 5 pictures kindly supplied by Hans van der Kerkhof of the Healey Museum (Netherlands)]
Presumably the ex-Moss car, back at Sebring in 1961 when Tom Bratten raced it (DNF), now with a roll-over hoop.
[courtesy of the Revs Library at Stanford University]