Sounds of Sebring 1957

The Riverside record company, in addition to a large catalog of musical acts, also put out a number of LPs of auto racing field recordings. Perhaps the most well known from their discography are the “Sounds of Sebring” series from 1956—1962.

For the 1957 outing, most of the pre-race interview chatter centered around Corvette’s effort for the race, which brought a huge unknown into pit lane. The concensus among the drivers and teams interviewed (including de Portago, Phil Hill, Briggs Cunningham, Huschke von Hanstein, Shelby, and others) was one of excitement that a huge manufacturer like General Motors was starting to enter European-style sportscar racing. Perhaps it’s just the American-centricity of the production and interviewer, but the interviewees really seemed impressed by the power and speed of the new Vettes. There were doubts (correctly so, as it turns out) as to whether they could go the full 12 hours, but it’s fantastic to see an as-it-happened impression that Chevy was making with people around the circuit.

Despite the gossip and chatter, Maserati was heavily favored and with Moss and Fangio in different cars, the only question was would the smaller 300 of Moss/Schell or the bigger 450 of Fangio/Behra take the checkers. I won’t spoil here, but it’s all there in the audio above.

I’ve started to track down the original LPs of these Riverside releases and when I sit in front of the turntable with the headphones on I imagine what it must have felt like for racing fans around the world—and particularly the United States (who had limited access to racing media)—for whom these recordings were the most visceral way to experience the race without actually venturing to the track. What a thrill it must have been to lie of the floor of a dimly lit room with stack of racing reports and magazine clippings spread out, hearing these astonishing engine notes for the first time.

You can almost hear the footfalls as the drivers run across the street and leap into their cars for the famous LeMans-style start. Glorious.

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