DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 5, 2015)– Fans at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida will take a trip down memory lane when the famed Chaparral 2 turns exhibition laps around the historic Sebring International Raceway on the 50th anniversary of its 1965 victory, prior to the 63rd running of the classic on Saturday, March 21.
With the publicized battle between Ford and Ferrari for supremacy in international endurance racing, interest in the sport was at an all-time high in 1965 – especially following Ford’s breakthrough first victory for the GT40 earlier in the year at Daytona.
For Sebring, though, it was a Chevrolet-powered prototype fielded by Texan Jim Hall that scored a four-lap victory in what is considered to be one of the greatest races in Sebring history. Hall was the fastest qualifier with a lap of 105.41 mph, and then broke the race lap record, running 104.41 mph. Torrential rain fell later in the event and ended the opportunity for additional records, with Hall and Hap Sharp scoring an all-American victory.
Jim Hall II will drive his father’s car, running laps on Friday before the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race and again on Saturday before the 63rd running of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event. The Chaparral 2 will be on display in the Gallery of Legends in the Paddock throughout the weekend.
“Driving the Chaparral at Sebring will be a real honor," said Hall II, who has owned and operated Jim Hall Kart Racing School for 33 years in Oxnard, California. “This particular car, the Chaparral 2, was their most successful car in terms of wins. Hap won the USRRC championship in 1964 and Dad repeated in 1965, and they won a lot of races during those two years."
The car had many innovations, including a fiberglass monocoque and a torque-converter transmission that allowed drivers to shift without using the clutch. In future years, that would allow Chaparral racers to control Hall’s innovative wings with the left-foot pedal.
“Taking that car back to Sebring will be real special. Fifty years is a long time ago. That was an amazing race, and winning was very, very satisfying for the team. That race had a huge amount of rain. Dad brought in a consultant forecaster to tell him when it was going to hit. They ran flat-out until it hit and had a huge (seven-lap) lead, and then parked the car for a time because you couldn’t see anything. The water was so deep it came into the cockpit, so they were sitting in water for a fair amount of time. They felt very lucky to finish that race."
Hall II has driven the car several times in the Goodwood Festival of Speed, sharing it with Lord March and Gil de Ferran, and the Monterey Historics, but it will his first time driving the Chaparral at Sebring.
“I’ve raced Formula Mazdas for about 15 seasons, beginning in the late Nineties, and did Sebring a couple of times," said Hall II, who also was at Sebring for the 20th anniversary in 1985, when his father drove the Chaparral 2.
Jim Hall went on to enjoy success in IndyCar, Formula 5000, Can-Am, Trans-Am and endurance racing through 1996. His seven remaining Chaparrals are on permanent display at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas.