Through The Esses - Ken Breslauer  Sebrings Historian Sees An Historic Race Ahead
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02/04/08 © Andrew S. Hartwell

Sebring is the toughest test in the world on Brakes and gears. As of now, it's also no daisy-dance for the drivers; for them it is the toughest twelve hours they can spend behind the wheel. - Sports Car Illustrated article from 1958

In a few short weeks the hundreds of palm trees and orange blossoms of south central Florida will once again share their warm environs with hundreds of thousands of fanatic sportscar racing fans who will come to this remote area to participate in the festival of noise and speed known as the annual Mobil 1 12 Hours Of Sebring. Since 1950, the word Sebring' has meant one thing; a premier endurance event featuring racings finest cars and drivers - and some of the most enthusiastic fans to be found anywhere. And for a continuous 24 of those 58 years, one man has never missed a 12 Hours race. His name is Ken Breslauer.

Breslauer is the Media Director and Track Historian at Sebring International Raceway. His passion for auto racing goes back to his roots as a newspaperman - a vocation he began right out of college - covering local sports teams for a Florida daily. He authored a comprehensive book (Sebring - The OfficialHhistory of America's Great Sports Car Race, David Bull Publishing - 1995) that chronicles each year of the Sebring Circuit's history from the days when promoter Alec Ulmann first waved a green flag in December of 1950, right through to the final FIA World Championship race in 1972.

The circuit has undergone a significant number of temporary and make-do changes since 1950, and as we approach the opening of the 56th 12 Hour weekend, changes of a more permanent nature are now in place - or are about to be finalized in time for the March 12 - 15 weekend. Breslauer talked with us about his personal history with Sebring and about the significant and modern upgrades fans will find in place this year.

I started going to Sebring in 1976, as a spectator. I have been there every year since. I was a spectator the first two years, and then I was a sports writer for the Pensacola News Journal. I was doing some freelance stuff for the track - program articles and the like - and then in 1985 they called me and asked me if I would like the job as Media Director. Back then, the job was on a contract basis, not as a full time employee. I did that for a few years and eventually I was hired into the job full time.

With the Pensacola News Journal I covered mostly high school sports as I was the new kid just out of college. I was always a race fan so I did get to do some auto races. My editor, Jack Flowers - who is a well known NASCAR writer now - let me cover a few NASCAR races like Daytona and Talladega. I also got to cover Sebring.

Breslauer had a passion for motorsports that branched out into the history of racing, adding an additional element of joy for this fully qualified historian of the sport.

I've always been a motorsports fan, and I have always had a keen interest in history (Breslauer also has a Masters Degree in Historic Preservation and has authored several books on Florida history and roadside Americana). Major events like the Sebring 12 Hours and the Indianapolis 500 really appealed to me from a racing and historical standpoint. And back in the 1970's Sebring was still a temporary circuit. It was an airport for 360 days a year and a racetrack for just four or five days. I would go to the races and see all the old airplanes that were there (Sebring is on property that once was known as Hendricks Field, a training base for the B-17 bombers of World War II). It was all very fascinating to me.

Breslauer continued his display of his affection for this historically bumpy and makeshift facility when he told us about a small part of the history he works to preserve. Even the parts most followers of sportscar racing would rather forget.

I983 was the first year they deleted part of the actual runway<