Ode To Sebring

Historic view. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Historic view. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Together, the authors of this article have over 70 years experience covering or participating in motorsports – as writers, photographers, as a driver or a team manager. We have been to countless hundreds (if not thousands) of races. We have been to every major (and minor) race track in the country. We have literally been there and done that.
In all of our experiences there is one in particular that stands out, an annual pilgrimage to the heart and soul of sports car racing. It is our yearly trip to Sebring for the twelve hour race.

If one has not been there, it is difficult to describe the appeal of the place. It is big, flat and used to be a World War II bomber base for B-17s. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by orange groves (we love the smell of the oranges in March). Every spring since the early 1950s an endurance sports car race has been held on this hallowed ground of American motorsport. And every spring for as long as we remember, we have been making the journey to this place – we have raced there, we have worked there, we have won there, we have been defeated there.

There is no place on earth like Sebring. As we write this in mid-February, people in campers are already lined up waiting to be the first in the gates for the 2017 running of the 12 Hours so they can set up their camps in Green Park – the famous/infamous camping compound on the infield.

2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams are currently loading their transporters to head for Sebring for the official test session next week (February 23-24).

Sebring is a very special place, and everyone who has been there has their own special recollections and the memories just get better with the passage of time. Tom Kristensen won six 12 Hour races there, Johnny O’Connell has the most class wins there (7), Steve McQueen raced there, Mario Andretti won there three times, Stirling Moss raced there, so did Jo Siffert, Brian Redman, Pedro Rodriguez and Phil Hill – and many, many more. When you stand in the pits or on the main straight you are standing on the very same surface that these, and many other legends, raced on. At no other race track we have ever been to do you get such a sense of history and have such a feeling of time travel as you imagine the drivers and the battles that have taken place in the past.

Even though it is about flight, the Pink Floyd song “Learning to Fly” perhaps sums up best the feeling when one is at Sebring:

“Into the distance, a ribbon of black, stretched to the point of no turning back. A flight of fancy on a windswept field, standing alone my sensed reeled. A fatal attraction holding me fast, how can I escape this irresistible grasp?…..

There’s no sensation to compare to this. Suspended animation, a state of bliss.”

That is what Sebring means to us. Do yourself a favor – be there for this year’s race. You will never regret it and the memories you make will make you want to come back again and again. Just like us.

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