When we exited the 27 into a smaller road, which was also darker, we could see a large white region of light in the dark horizon, and I said “that must certainly be the raceway”. As we approached it we could not only see more light but also we started hearing engine noise: we are here! Then we saw police cars and cones organizing the traffic and it was just in front of us: Sebring International Raceway.
We were about to be part of history, the first ever Super Sebring. Two days and two iconic races: 1000 Miles of Sebring, in its first iteration being part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The next day the classic 12 Hours of Sebring, part of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship in its 67th edition.
We started planning this trip basically just after the announcement of the double header FIA WEC-IMSA, many months ago, and it was finally becoming true. I stopped the RV at the gates to get the tickets. On that moment the GTE qualification was underway and all we heard was the sound of the mighty Porsche 911 RSR, with some intermissions to hear the Aston Martin and Corvette’s V8. They instructed me to take a road to the right of the gates, and all of a sudden, I was crossing the bridge over turn 17, the mythical last corner of the track with its famous bumps and a lot of history of clashes and accidents. It was only then that I realized I was REALLY there.
Since we were inside, it was time to look for a parking spot for the RV where we would stay until Sunday. It was not an easy task, once we arrived with the event already ongoing, Thursday night, so it took me about 2 hours to finally get a place.
In the next morning after eating something it was time to get out and meet our temporary motorhome neighbours. They are an amazing German couple who also were attending for the first time to a race in Sebring. After some time, we met a group of guys who arrived in their car, coming from Wisconsin and they were also first timers. We all chatted a while and, on that moment, I thought that it was really worth being there, meeting people with the same taste for good racing while being in a race.
Friday was the FIA WEC race, and since it would start just at 4PM, we went to the closest part of the track to watch a little bit of the Michelin Pilot Challenge that started in the morning, and then returned to the RV to make the barbecue (or Churrasco, Gaucho style) and the mate (or Chimarrão, a typical beverage from the south of Brazil). During lunch we chatted a little more with our new friends and then it was race time again.
It was outstanding to be at the hairpin (turn 7) and see the famous hotel in the outside, the crowd in the viewing mound and, of course the iconic sea of motorhomes parked facing the track and all its characters, most of them are there year after year.
That race finished under rain and yellow flags. And the 12 Hours of Sebring started exactly like that, due to the rain that poured the circuit during the night and morning.
Happily, for us, it stopped raining and we could make another barbecue (remember, Gaucho style) and this time we shared it with our new friends. I guess we stayed for more than 4 hours around the fire eating, chatting, laughing, eating and eating. Did I say we’ve eaten?
That time we spent away from the track was not lost time. For me it was the most valuable time of the weekend, when I could hear amazing stories from the Nürburgring, Road America, and also tell some stories about the Rally International de Erechim, about the traditional barbecue Gaucho.
The whole idea of being for several days inside a racetrack, instead of coming just during races is a completely different thing. You’re not there just to see cars passing through at 200km/h. You’re there to watch the race but also to feel the warmth of the people who are there for the same reason as you are.
If you love motorsports, you should definitely go at least once to Sebring. It is a bucket list item I am happy to have checked. And I hope you do too.