We are still days away from the 12 Hours of Sebring and the event that begins the season for the Speed channel cup cars. Id like to inform some of you that may not know what this race is all about. A lot of you have heard of the 12 hours of Sebring, and its status as one of the greatest sportscar endurance races in the world. Sebring is also one of the most prestigious tracks in the world ranking right up there with Lemans and Indianapolis motor speedway. Drivers frequently say that winning Sebring is much harder than winning Lemans. You may ask yourself “why the Sebring race is only 12 hours where Lemans is a full 24 “. Myself having spent way too many weekends to remember and attending a couple of the 12 hour races have learned why they only run for 12 hours.
First in order to understand the nature of the track we need to look at what it is. Sebring at one time (1941) was a military air base for training the Army Aircorps. “Hendricks Field” served dutifully through World War 2 training our fighting men to bring the wrath of the US to the Axis’s doorstep. In 1950 Alec Ulmann brings an idea to use the old air base as a racetrack for sportscar racing. By 1952 Sebring hosts its first 12 hour race.
Being an old military airbase the tracks construction was never ment to host racecars hurdling down its runway. So even today as you exit turn 16 you are greeted by the old runway with its cement construction and nasty expansion joints almost 1 inch wide. Today’s cars head down the long straightaway running around 160-190 mph before a lift and brush of the brake pedal to set the car up for sunset bend. Most of these cars may have 2 inches of suspension travel and the dampening while special for this track is still incredibly stiff. If you have fillings in your teeth you will not have them after 5 laps. The rough stuff still isn’t over, sunset bend has had a little work done to it but it’s still a very rough high speed corner. A corner leading onto the straightaway that brings you to start finish, which is yet another expansion joint filled cement runway. As you heave the car over in turn one you’re greeted by a pavement change, going from cement to good old blacktop. This transition happens right after you nail the throttle for the wide open throttle run right smack thru turn two. 3 years ago turn seven brought a host of problems. You would run hard towards seven to late brake into the corner putting all your faith in a braking system that’s been beaten senseless the whole race. Many times cars would find there way into the barrier 45-60 yards off the turn, sometimes upside-down. We even found ourselves in trouble years ago here for a club race, when the driver realized there were no brakes running 90-100 headed into this very tight corner. Luckily the driver knew where the runoff road was.
In 2004 when Alan Mcnish took the checkers in the Audi r8r only 25 of the 44 cars that started made it to the end under there own power. Trips through the garage area during the race revealed a host of cars being worked on to reenter the track. Even Audi as usual put on there show of 20 minute transmission swaps. Cadillac with the CTSV will only have to run 20 laps for their event(SPEED World Challenge). Good reason, as these cars are not built up enough to run any further at Sebring. Team Corvette however has a long weekend, attempting to make the all new C6R run 12 hours and possibly win. We will all know how it shakes up after this weekend. Be sure to checkout Speed channel for the times and coverage , and keep a keen eye out for a 94 Deville sporting DTS wheels in the infield , as I’ll be there watching the competition and the Mari Gras like atmosphere in the background.