Deep in the shadow of more famous races like Le Mans and Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring gets short shrift sometimes. But in 1986, the action was fierce, the cars were beautiful, and the aesthetic was rad. And you can catch all of that right here.
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1986 was deep in the golden era of endurance racing. The breakneck pace of Group C racing in Europe was intoxicating. This was the height of Porsche’s dominance with its mighty 956 and 962. Teams like Rothmans Porsche, Joest Racing, and Brun Motorsport dominated the field in Europe with their Porsches, but over on the other side of the Atlantic, it was Bob Akin, who joined Rothmans driver Hans Stuck and Porsche Kremer Racing ace Jo Gartner in his 962, that ruled endurance racing in America.
At Sebring back in 1986, the 962 Akin, Stuck, and Gartner drove to victory was a little different than the ones fielded in Europe. IMSA guidelines required Porsche to move the front axle forward more than four inches to accommodate the pedal box and also to remove the second turbo.
Still, despite those technological drawbacks, the 962s were more than capable of holding their own on the track against competition like the Jaguar XJR-7 and the #5 car in its legendary Coca-Cola livery carried Akin, Stuck, and Gartner to victory, but not without some trouble on the way. The Coca-Cola 962 lost its front right wheel multiple times in the second half of the race, even crossing the finish line without it.
Interestingly, Akin and Co. saw tough competition in the form of a cross-category challenge from Caitlyn Jenner and Scott Pruett in their Seven Eleven-liveried Fox-body mustang. Jenner and Pruett would sit in fourth place overall as the race wound down with Akin, Stuck, and Gartner finally locking down that first-pace position. Jenner and Pruett would win the GTO category, making this already incredibly ‘80s race even more so.
Not long after this race, Jo Gartner would lose his life driving another Porsche 962 at Le Mans later that year. His death would be among those that led to the the chicanes on the then-infamous Mulsanne Straight. Sebring would be the promising driver’s final win.
But what a win it was. Between the front wheel loss and the intense competition from the field, the 1986 12 Hours of Sebring was a classic. So much so that Porsche brought back a version of the bold red Coca-Cola livery featured on the winning car for a 911 RSR that competed at Petit le Mans last year. It looked great. Not as good as that 962 missing a wheel, but great nonetheless.