Eighteen Years Later, the Truth Comes Out
Race car drivers will do just about anything to win the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Just ask Andy Wallace.
As he prepares to drive Genoa Racing's bright red LMPC car, No. 36, with Tom Sutherland and J.R. Hildebrand in Saturday's 58th edition of the marquee event for both the American Le Mans Series and Sebring International Raceway, Wallace remembered the circumstances surrounding one of his two overall victories in the most popular endurance sports car race in North America.
"I won it overall in 1992 and 1993 driving with Juan Manuel Fangio II for Dan Gurney's All American Racers Eagle Toyota team," recalled Wallace, who has two class victories in this event too and holds the record for the most overall podium finishes in this race with 10. "But for that first overall win in 1992, I was driving with two broken ribs. I toughed it out because I knew if I told Dan Gurney, I'd lose the ride.
|1992 Gurney Eagle Toyota IMSA car|
"I broke the ribs on the last day of a nine-day test for Toyota at Eastern Creek in Australia a couple of weeks before Sebring," Wallace said. "I remember it well; it was the 29th of February because it was a leap year, and I think Sebring was on March 20 that year, three weeks later.
"It was the oddest thing," Wallace continued. "I didn't break the ribs in a crash. There was a long straightaway that we were taking at over 190 miles an hour, followed by a turn with two bumps in it. Real early in my last double stint, I went over the bump so hard that it broke two ribs. The same thing happened to a Japanese driver testing that day."
Wallace was in agony for the rest of that double stint and during the two 12-hour flights required to return to his home in Oxford, England from Sydney, Australia. "When people got up to stretch their legs in the aisles on those flights, I begged them not to brush against me," he recalled. "I went to the doctor when I got home, and he said it would take at least five weeks for the ribs to heal. I didn't have that kind of time, because I had to be at Sebring for practice to start in just two weeks."
At the track, Wallace tried not to grimace too much while he buckled up the safety harness in the cockpit, and he turned slightly in the seat to protect the injury as much as possible.
After 12 hours of competition, the result was his first victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Toyota's first victory in an endurance race.
"I guess it's OK if Dan reads this and finds out about the ribs now," Wallace added with a smile.