Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sebring International Raceway

John Marine | 12/26/2010 12:37:00 AM | | |
NOTE: Edited for better facts.

Central Florida's formidable race track is Sebring International Raceway. It began life as an Air Force base until it opened as a race track in 1950. I have seen some races where planes still use Sebring. There is a proper airplane runway adjacent to Sebring International Raceway. The venue is best known for the 12 Hours of Sebring, which brings many people out to the track. The race is usually run in the middle of March during Spring Break for most students. Therefore, you can imagine how much of a party atmosphere it can be. Sebring used to serve as the home of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix back in 1959 (though it was a financial disaster). The layout was much different then. Today's layout is a 17-turn thrill ride at over 3.7 miles (5.95 kilometers) in length. It is a mix of asphalt and concrete. I don't think anyone cares if this track is aging- Sebring has plenty of character even for a mostly flat track like Sebring. Maybe it's not as glamourous and pretty as any European track where F1 races are held, but this is still an ageless wonder of a race track. If anything, Sebring gets you ready for the big one at Le Mans because of its length and how abusive Sebring is to race on. Other than sportscar racing, it is a great race track for almost any other form of racing ranging from club racing to single-seaters. The only other major event I could think of at Sebring was the event called Sebring Octoberfest, a two-hour long race around Sebring featuring cars from the World Sportscar Championship. The only iteration of this was in 1997. There was also an FIA GT race around Sebring in 1997 that lasted for three hours. Other than that, there aren't too many other international races I can recall in Sebring's history. I doubt this track is even motorcycle racing friendly, so I am not sure this track has hosted any motorcycle racing (whether local or international).

This blog post concerns the track that has been kicking racers' butts for over sixty years- Sebring International Raceway.

--- Sebring International Raceway ---
Here is a map of Sebring International Raceway:
Sebring International Raceway
^ from: - the track map of the 6th generation of Sebring.

Sebring has gone through six different variations (counting the current one). I was first introduced to this track by playing "Sports Car GT" on both the PC and for the PlayStation 1. You can race this track in the Forza Motorsport series The fact this course is flat just about all around means you really have to judge your braking points well. The most joyous sight to see is four or five (sometimes six) cars wide down the front stretch. Four-wide sportscar racing. Who said sportscar racing doesn't know how to mix things up? Yeah! Take that, NASCAR! :) The toughest part of the track to me is when you head into Turn 7 after blasting down Big Bend (Turn 6). Heading into Turn 7 is where you start to see the Chateau Elan Lodge on the far left. Going full speed down Ullman Straight is always fun... as long as you're not battling the setting sun heading into the appropriately-named Sunset Bend that leads to the Start/Finish line. Nothing like this amazing racing facility.

Here is a video lap around Sebring (David Brabham for Highcroft Racing):

Bonus Video!

And here is a bonus video representing maybe one of the most epic racing moments this decade (2001-2010) at Sebring. Allow me to set it up, and you may know EXACTLY what I'm talking about if you're an ALMS fan- it was a battle in 2007 of [Houston's own] Risi Competizione vs. Flying Lizard. It was the best Ferrari team vs. the best Porsche team. The fireworks went off for Audi winning the 12 Hours of Sebring outright (to the surprise of absolutely nobody), but the REAL fireworks exploded when THIS happened (announcing crew: announcing crew for Speed Channel: Leigh Diffey, Dorsey Schroder, and Calvin Fish):

Lap Times.

The all-time record around Sebring's full course (as of the date of this blog post) is 1:43.274 by a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Here are some other lap times to take note of:

* Spec Racer Ford - 2:35.100
* Spec Miata - 2:39.700
* Formula Mazda Pro - 1:58.989
* Audi R10 - 1:47.373
* Formula Atlantic Swift 016.a - 1:53.571
* Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - 2:04.547

For more information and more details on lap times and more, visit the Sebring page on

--- What If: NASCAR at Sebring? ---
To my knowledge, NASCAR has NEVER held a race around Sebring, especially not among the top three series. NASCAR desperately needs a road course as part of the Chase for the Cup. Don't give me that stuff about how road racing isn't "racing." NASCAR needs something different as far as tracks are concerned. Unless Sebring doesn't have enough pit space for 36 NASCAR Trucks or 43 NASCAR cars, Sebring is perfectly fine a race track. Its bumpy and abrasive nature shouldn't be too much a problem for a stock car or stock truck (though some would complain about the bumpiness of Daytona). NASCAR Cup could just get rid of some insignificant and boring track and put Sebring in its place. Or to make things interesting... make the Homestead race the next-to-last event and make Sebring the final race. Not good at road courses but contesting for a championship? You need to race this course to the best of your ability.

I think NASCAR would be great to see around Sebring. Look at the reception that was given for NASCAR Nationwide at Road America as it replaced the Milwaukee Mile this season. Imagine the battles that could take place on this intense racing facility with stock cars rumbling around. Also- more NASCAR racing in the great state of Florida!

--- What If: Formula 1 Returning to Sebring? ---
Okay, it's a far-fetched concept. However, what if Sebring had some kind of extended makeover just to make Sebring more appealing as a modern European-style F1 Grand Prix venue? The track is certainly long enough at 3.7 miles. I think of Sebring like I think of Road America- a Grand Prix-worthy race course. This track could consistently be good for clocking in laps of about 1:35.000 in today's F1 cars. A track like Sebring, however, doesn't have any grandstands. A total makeover of Sebring just to host an F1 race (and maybe some other forms of international racing) would make Sebring more modern and better as a whole. However, you take away what is missing from a lot of today's Formula 1 racing- character. Do you want to run the risk of ruining Sebring just to host something like a 21st Century F1 race? Also, would someone actually transform and renovate Sebring so much to actually allow this if given the money and time? Think about when the old Hockenheim was taken from that high-speed blast through the forest... to being just another boring European race track. You run the risk of destroying the character of a racing facility when you make such drastic changes. Then too, some are for the better.

I would be curious to see how F1 cars would take on Sebring in its current form. The first F1 race around Sebring was also the last time F1 raced here- 1959.

--- What If: The Return of Sebring Octoberfest? ---
Sebring Octoberfest was a one-time deal where the World Sportscar Championship and FIA GT raced on the same weekend around Sebring. The real problem would be about what cars would race around Sebring. October somewhat belongs to the Petit Le Mans these days. Maybe if it returned, it would be pretty cool as an ALMS All-Star race.

In this day and age, you may also open up Sebring for things like drifting and time attack. When I think of an event with a name like "Octoberfest," it has to be a (not to play on words) a festival of speed around one of America's oldest road racing facilities. What kind of racing could you introduce to Sebring to please racing fans? Just a lot of things to wonder...

I want to say hello to anybody at Sebring International Raceway if anyone there were to actually read this and if they enjoyed my commentary. I'm saying this because I am often surprised at who actually reads my blog and comments on it. Like when I did my blog post about the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, I unexpectedly got a tweet from their Twitter feed complimenting my work. If you produce quality and unique content, you WILL get noticed. You never know who actually will read and admire your work. So if anyone from Sebring International Raceway actually reads this and enjoys what I have posted, I salute you all. Sebring is still a great and formidable race track even sixty years later. Learn more about Sebring International Raceway by visiting their official website at

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John B. Marine said...

I wish you the same! Have a great new year and thanks for your lovely comments!

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