Monitor’s Longtime Media Director Shares Recollections with Contributor

By Holly Cain

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ken Breslauer began attending the Twelve Hours of Sebring races as a youngster – making the two-and-a-half-hour drive north from his residence alongside the Atlantic Ocean in Delray Seaside, Florida, to the distant race course within the midst of Central Florida’s cattle land and citrus groves.

Kenbreslauer Fan In 80s 04012021
Breslauer, Sebring fan in Eighties

The historic nature of the occasion and the distinctive setting appealed to Breslauer, who had no thought when he first began attending the Sebring races that he would go on to function media director of the legendary observe for 35 years – a place he retired from following final month’s 69th working of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Introduced by Advance Auto Elements.

It was extra ardour than employment for Breslauer, who left a fulltime reporting job on the Pensacola Information-Journal masking highschool sports activities and space auto races, to take the place at Sebring Worldwide Raceway. He had at all times been within the historic background of the race locale on the former World Battle II airfield in addition to the lore of the legendary race itself.

Finally, the pairing was a lift for Breslauer’s profession and to Sebring’s storied historical past.

Whereas the race at all times earned worldwide acclaim and hosted the largest names within the sport – from Phil Hill and Mario Andretti to Tom Kristensen and Hurley Haywood – Breslauer, 64, rapidly found there was loads of modernizing to do when it got here to the media and the way in which the annual occasion was coated.

For a few years – till an enormous fashionable makeover – the media middle was a crammed house over the entrance straightaway garages. The work “ledge” alongside the windowsill included a terrific observe view, however the small workspace was barely deep sufficient for a laptop computer pc. There have been no interview rooms for reporters and drivers. You both discovered a driver on pit highway for a quote or tried to file audio throughout a busy and boisterous postrace press convention – everybody crammed within the small room.

Normally there wasn’t sufficient house for the groups’ public relations specialists to suit among the many reporters – which at instances felt like principally international information shops, the vary of languages endearingly distinctive to the placement. It was the “Woodstock of auto racing,” as Breslauer lovingly refers.

He nonetheless chuckles at one explicit interplay early in his time period – many years in the past – with legendary motorsports reporter, the late Chris Economaki.

“It’s one of many funniest reminiscences I’ve from that first 12 months, 1986. I used to be the media director and Chris Economaki was on the race, and he insisted on having a handbook typewriter,” Breslauer recalled. “In ’86, all people had switched to these Tandy TRS 80s (small cellular computer systems) that you just hooked as much as a modem. I simply assumed all people would have that, however Chris was like, ‘No, I’ve received to have a handbook typewriter.’

“I didn’t even know the place to seek out one. I discovered an outdated IBM Selective laying round and introduced it up, and Chris simply seems to be at me and goes, ‘That’s an electrical typewriter. I desire a handbook typewriter,’” Breslauer mentioned, completely imitating Economaki’s distinctive voice.

“I managed to seek out one and he was glad, however it simply reveals the little crises it’s a must to cope with in that place. It additionally reveals you ways a lot issues have modified.”

It was an early lesson amongst many who Breslauer would study. Thankfully for reporters, the game and the hundreds of thousands of sports activities automobile racing followers all over the world, Breslauer would set up himself not solely adept at coping with personalities but in addition present a deep ardour for chronicling the occasion’s historical past. He realized the necessity to take action instantly, somewhat stunned that such a storied race lacked a historic database.

Breslauer, Ralph Deshon, First Sebring Race Winner 04012021
Breslauer (proper) with Ralph Deshon, first Sebring Race Winner

“One factor I began doing was documenting the historical past,” Breslauer mentioned. “There was actually nothing stable written concerning the observe. There was by no means any media information, any file e-book. You possibly can discover stuff right here and there, however I began compiling all the outcomes and accumulating photographs, and I ultimately put collectively a pair books about it. No one had actually accomplished that earlier than, and it was simply loads of enjoyable to get all that info collectively.

“Once I began, the race had already been going for 35 years, so there was loads of historical past to doc and to chronicle for folks.

“I began that (Sebring media information) in 1986 after I began there. I type of emulated the media information that the Indy 500 did. I believe folks appreciated that as a result of there was nothing actually written that documented the historical past of the race, in order that made it much more user-friendly, if you’ll.”

Breslauer’s portion of Sebring historical past spanned the GTP days of Toyota, Nissan, Jaguar and Porsche prototypes to the World Sports activities Vehicles infancy via maturity and now the Daytona Prototype internationals that star because the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship marquee class.

Drivers in Breslauer’s three-decade span included legends from Geoff Brabham and Wayne Taylor to Haywood and Kristensen to Scott Pruett and Allan McNish.

“In 2002, we had the fiftieth anniversary race and one of many issues I did was invite again all the previous profitable drivers, and that was simply such an honor to do this,” Breslauer mentioned.

“Dan Gurney and Jim Corridor, Bob Akin and Sterling Moss and Phil Hill. Thankfully, loads of these guys have been nonetheless round and we received all of them collectively on the similar time. It was simply wonderful. I believe we had 28 former winners and located 25 of the previous profitable automobiles. It was only a tremendous expertise to cope with the previous profitable drivers.

“Everyone was simply so flattered to be requested again they usually had a blast. It was simply a good time and simply reveals you ways a lot the race means to the drivers. As a lot as it’s a problem to go to Sebring, to win at Sebring is simply so essential. It means a lot to folks.”

Earlier than the race on March 20, Breslauer was acknowledged for his many years of essential work and excessive dedication to the observe and its legacy. IMSA President John Doonan introduced him with a Rolex watch and observe president Wayne Estes introduced that the present media middle can be renamed in Breslauer’s honor.

Retiring Sebring PR Ken Breslauer receives a Rolex Daytona watch from John Doonan

Breslauer additionally fittingly acquired notes and effectively needs from among the drivers who competed at Sebring throughout his lengthy tenure. Kristensen, the race’s all-time winningest driver, despatched Breslauer a signed copy of his new e-book, wishing him all the perfect.

“I’ll let you know what’s nice about my place, I’ve met so many nice folks within the media and drivers,” Breslauer mentioned. “I received an e-mail from none apart from Tom Kristensen. He’s Mr. Le Mans and Mr. Sebring, and he despatched me his new e-book. He’s such a terrific man and there’s an instance, profitable Sebring six instances means a lot to him.

“I bear in mind once we had the WEC (race) in 2019 and the drivers would inform me, they arrive to Sebring and as a substitute of being remoted from the followers and having these excellent circuits, they arrive right here and the followers have whole entry to them. And so they find it irresistible. They really feel the ambiance, it’s so totally different to them.

“After which they exit on the observe and with all of the bumps and challenges, they find it irresistible. They actually, actually recognize the character of Sebring. You may joke concerning the bumps, however it actually units it aside, makes it a take a look at for drivers. And so they love the place.”

Breslauer admitted it’s laborious to choose a time, a relationship, even an period to designate “the perfect” of his time on the observe. He genuinely and absolutely appreciates all of it.

“I believe simply serving to doc and preserve the histories and traditions of the race (is most essential),” he mentioned. “I believe we’re actually fortunate to have a terrific workers and Wayne Estes is so appreciative of the historical past and understands that’s what Sebring is all about. The custom.

“I really feel, if nothing else, I helped doc and protect the historical past of it for future followers and so forth. That’s essential to me. Not simply the racing historical past, however the navy historical past of the power. I’m proud I used to be in a position to do this.”

Subsequent March – for the primary time since Ronald Reagan was president of the USA – Breslauer will drive up from South Florida for race week as a fan. It will likely be a journey of combined emotions. He’s so proud to have been trackside for among the biggest races within the observe’s historical past. He’s met his heroes and made long-lasting friendships. He guided and guarded one in all racing’s most vital occasions. He needs to be proud.

Breslauer has written two must-have “books of file” on the Sebring Twelve Hour, and as he winds up his official obligations, he says he’ll preserve busy engaged on one other e-book. And subsequent 12 months’s Twelve Hours of Sebring?

“I’m going to be in Inexperienced Park,” Breslauer says with out hesitation.

“I can be a spectator and I’ve actually missed that. I need to have the ability to benefit from the race. IMSA is wanting so good for the long run, it’s actually going to be a enjoyable time and I’m going to take pleasure in it for some time.”

Nobody deserves that extra.