Spring Tradition

Old pro, Bill Auberlen in the BMW. [Jack Webster Photo]

Old pro, Bill Auberlen in the BMW. [Jack Webster Photo]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

It is a rite of spring decades old. The smell of the orange blossoms excites your senses as you roll the windows down on your car as you drive through the orange groves on your way to the historic airport circuit. As you get closer to the entrance, you see countless motorhomes, campers and spectator vehicles all lines up to gain entry onto the most hallowed ground of racing history. For this is the third week of March, and that old airport circuit known by racing fans around the world as just “Sebring” is about to host the second round of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – the 69th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Of course, in this COVID pandemic year, things can’t be quite normal. There is no fan access to the paddock area, which is a main attraction for both participants and spectators alike, so we will miss seeing the cowboys and the monks interacting with drivers and fans at the autograph session. For participants and media, we have to go through a daily medical screening to gain access to the track, which is a daily reminder of the times we are living in. That, along with wearing a mask while walking around in 90-degree heat, is a constant reminder that things are not quite normal.

One thing that is normal, however, is that Sebring week again includes St. Patrick’s Day. Yesterday we were greeted with the usual assortment of race fans wearing green tee shirts and adorned with their green beads. As it typical of the Spring Break crown at Sebring, some of them may have had a drink or two (or three). Sebring is full of tradition and history.

Regardless of COVID restrictions, it looks like a pretty large crowd is going to show up for this year’s event to watch the 37 entered cars vie for a place in motorsports history, as a winner of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

There is just something very special about this place, which is perhaps what keeps bringing us all back here, year after year. Perhaps driver Patrick Long summed it up the best when he said: “Sebring is a race track with a soul. It’s one of the greatest challenges in motor racing and it really puts man and machine to the test.”

The track is famous for its bumps, as the main straights are still the old airport runways, the very same surface that the likes of Stirling Moss, Vic Elford, Mario Andretti and other greats raced upon, and which added to the legend of both the drivers and the track.

As Wayne Taylor Racing Acura driver Ricky Taylor said: “You always have to understand what your car does well and what it doesn’t do well. We’ve been able to exploit the areas we’re really strong to a point, to where I feel like when we come to Sebring, we’re strong – even if we aren’t as good over the bumps.”

Sebring, respect the history. Respect the bumps.

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