Hidden in the lake speckled interior of Florida is the world-famous Sebring International Speedway, home of the Mobil-1 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race. Each March the Speedway welcomes thousands of race fans to one of the oldest race tracks in the country. Evolving from what was a World War II airfield, Sebring not only has one of the most exciting tracks, but also some of the most prestigious alumni of racing history.
Sebring is a 3.7 mile, 17 turn track and, according to Sebring, many portions of the road course were originally B-17 training grounds. Since 1952 a record 3,360 cars have started races there and 102 drivers have finished first. A total of 2.3 million miles have been driven since the airfield became a track in 1952, not only by race car legends but also celebrities such as Patrick Dempsey, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman. Thirty-nine of the 102 winners have been Americans, representing a higher percentage of winners than any other nation. Although the drivers come to race, the fans come to see the cars, and the Audi is the king among them, winning an unparalleled 8 consecutive races.
The track amenities include a hall of fame called the Gallery of Legends. There, spectators can see all of the history behind the track including past participants and car manufacturers. The next induction ceremony will be in March of 2012 and will include greats such as Carroll Shelby, Porsche, and Mario Andretti.
But, for me, the real excitement is coming up August 27-28,2011 when Sebring opens its track for the first time in what it calls the Sebring Fantasy Camp. For a $500 (+tax) registration fee interested drivers can bring their car to run the historic track and receive some invaluable instruction from 7-time Sebring winner Terry Earwood. In addition to his impressive Sebring record, Earwood has also been a chief instructor at the Skip Barber Racing school for 27 years and has been inducted into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame. Also included with admission are school provided cars for testing out the knowledge passed on about vehicle dynamics, skid recovery, and proper apexing among other techniques. Then, after you have put those lessons to the test, you can participate, in your car with similarly matched cars, in an autocross or let the professionals take control of your ride to show you how it’s done. Oh, and lodging and receptions are included so you will have ample time to chat it up with the other participants.
So, if you’re looking for something to do on August 27 and 28 and you happen to be driving through orange grove country and you think you and your car has what it takes to conquer the road course that legends are made of, head over to the Sebring International Speedway. If you don’t make it, maybe I’ll see you again in March.