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Sebring 1977

In my recent post about Number 38, I promised more of Roy Jacobson’s accounts of motor racing at grass roots level. Well it’s time to deliver – here’s how to take an old M.G. and challenge the big boys.

Roy in his trusty M.G.

Just An Old M.G…

The Australian Grand Prix was held over the weekend but it was also the 12 hours race at Sebring. I had an experience there that may be entertaining.

In the early 1970s I began racing an M.G. TD, a Mark 2, which the company had offered in 1953 as the competition option. Larger carburetors, 4 extra dampers and a lower rear axle ratio – hardly competitive options. Over time I learned to drive and developed the car to a high degree and became bold enough to enter it in a “curtain raiser” race just prior to the Sebring
12 hours race of 1977.

Long sentences are not necessary; just imagine a 1,400 mile drive in an old bread van, towing the M.G. on a trailer, no reservations, a room I found in Lake Worth – I had to chase the chameleons out first. At entrant registration came word that an IMSA competition license was necessary and that cost about all the cash I had – I had not even entered the circuit yet!

MG TD and friend

Practice went well but the competition looked rather intimidating; have a look at the photo – that’s a 1959 Lister-Chevrolet, 5.3 liter V-8. Final practice confirmed we were ready but Sebring is a long way around, 5.3 miles in those days. It can get lonely out there and the IMSA folks must have realized this during my practice for they sent out a few modern cars to do “exhibition laps”.

Half way down the long straight, topping 100mph, a glance in the mirror – NOTHING – but as I reached the 90 degree right hander I felt the ground shaking. John Greenwood’s Corvette was passing me! On another lap a Porsche 908 passed me doing 170+. That car didn’t make noise but you could hear the air displacement as it ‘whistled’ past.

The race went better than expected; that monster Lister-Chevrolet lost a wheel in turn one, others expired from the flat out running, but the M.G. never failed me and I remember some cheering as I managed to pass a single car, a 6 cylinder Mustang which I had harried for 10 laps or so.

With a 15th place finish in my logbook and a time sheet, the M.G. loaded on the trailer, some sandwiches and a Thermos of orange juice presented by a friend’s wife, I headed north in the bread van. Many, many hours later, freezing cold, late at night, north of New York City, the van’s fuel tank ran dry. I had to drain the M.G. tank to feed the van for the final 100 miles!

Not really F1 is it? But come back next week for another adventure.

Number 38

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