One Man’s Impression Of The 12 Hours Of Sebring
Column By: EDWARD KOCHERSBERGER / RPW – SEBRING, FL – The phrase “good old days” is a term that rotates its way around many different racing forums and communities. There is always one guarantee that will entice fans and some competitors to continue to use this idea. Change is that guarantee. We will always deal with it in some way or another. And it is the challenge of many to be able to accept change.
While this general idea of change is quite obvious, we may be able to identify the “good old days” right in the present moment in front of us. One place that we can find racing frozen in time is at Sebring International Raceway and The 12 Hours of Sebring.
Sebring International Raceway is a facility that has been mildly affected by change in the modern motorsports era. The original mission of the grounds was for B-17 aircraft training during World War II. While its configuration has been shortened and modified over the years due to safety concerns and airport access, the layout is one that still includes a lot of its original course. It has aged and evolved into a 17 turn challenging road-circuit that can never be recreated by artificial means.
The old-school character of Sebring is apparent in every stretch and apex of the facility. You can see the age in the surface when the modern sports cars and prototypes attack its flat and rough combined asphalt and concrete surface. Team engineers must work extra hard to help the sophisticated IMSA-approved chassis and suspensions react to the demanding and punishing course. The fans cannot drive the cars, but they can sense the intensity of car reaction in places like turn 17.
This corner is also known as “sunset bend.” This is a turn that actually shows three different apexes on a track map. The cars will quite often carry the right-front wheel through the ripples and final apex before squaring-up to charge back down the main straightaway. This incredible car reaction can capture the senses of both the leisurely fan and most intense motorsports enthusiast.
While many older motorsports facilities have been modernized with towering grandstands and powerful lighting systems, Sebring remains mostly untouched in these areas. There have been smaller lights added at some crucial areas of the track to help the drivers recognize their reference points. Most of the speedway is still dark during the final stages of the 12-hour endurance race. Just like the early days of this great event, all the driver has to rely on is his or her headlights and the course in front of them. All of outlying references go away with daylight. The historic sense of driving ability is preserved, tested and showcased in the 12 hours of Sebring.
The outlying architecture of Sebring International Raceway is simple and old-fashioned. There is Green Park, the family camping areas, and the surrounding airport property. These have always been the areas where fans and friends come together to enjoy the 12 hours as the event that it was always known as. We may never see massive grandstands and fanfare facilities at Sebring International Raceway. You will probably never be able to see the whole circuit in-person. But it is alright and very acceptable. This only adds to the nostalgic feel and experience that one will encounter at this great motorsports spectacle.
The “good old days” drivers are long retired. Mario Andretti, Derek Bell, and AJ Foyt are just a few of the names that graced the timing and scoring boards over the years at Sebring. They are now replaced with names like Dixon, Lally, Hawksworth, and Townsend Bell. The link between our Hall of Fame drivers and the drivers of today have not changed. Sebring has always attracted the professional race car driver. It is a place for a competitor to get away from the comforts of their original cars and series. It tests skills and abilities to become diverse and improve on their greatness. Sebring will always be a resume’ builder for the serious racer.
Sebring is a destination of greatness and nostalgia. The good old days will always seem like something that can no-longer be seen or experienced. But it is true that we can find an exception. Sebring International Raceway is one place where the good old days are preserved and still lives on once a year in The 12 Hours of Sebring.http://raceproweekly.com/rpw/2017/03/20/one-mans-impression-of-the-12-hours-of-sebring/http://raceproweekly.com/rpw/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/170320col_ekochersberger_01.jpghttp://raceproweekly.com/rpw/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/170320col_ekochersberger_01-150x150.jpgRPW Exclusive