Posted on April 22 2016
Sebring International Raceway
On New Year’s Eve, 1950, aeronautical engineer and road racing enthusiast Alec Ulmann, inspired by his viewing of 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier that year, used the runways of a defunct US Army airbase to host a six-hour endurance race. Thirty race cars from all across North America participated, and Sebring International Raceway was born.
Sebring is America’s oldest road racing track, and one of the oldest continuously operating tracks in North America. What was once the home of World War II pilots learning to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress, an endurance test in it’s own right, became the home to one of the most famous endurance tests in the world - 12 Hours of Sebring.
The track’s central Florida location, about two hours south of Orlando, provides more than just a backdrop of scenic orange groves (though it’s got those, too). It provides year-round heat - one of the main factors which makes 12 Hours of Sebring considered by many to be a great test for a car’s reliability, and the best training for 24 Hours of Le Mans. The other main factor? A bumpy road.
No, that isn’t a metaphor. The track is still built on top of sections of old World War II airbase runways, which make Sebring synonymous with it’s rough surface. The runways were constructed in concrete sections with large seams, and when cars transition between those sections, sparks tend to fly. Turn seventeen, known as the “Sunset Bend”, spans a width of three cars, and is famous for it’s length and rough ride leading into the front straight.
Sebring’s appearance has changed a bit over the years, mostly out of necessity, as the original track configuration resulted in a handful of fatal accidents, the worst of which coming during the 1966 12 Hours, when five people were killed. Since then, efforts have been made through Sebring’s history to tweak and alter the track to improve safety and visibility. A good thing, too, since Mario Andretti, a participant in another fatal collision at Sebring, was once quoted as saying that the hardest part about the original track was “finding the track to begin with.”
Fortunately, you should have no problem finding it now.
Team Stradale competed at Sebring at the Winterfest Radical Cup Race on January 24th.