Another Florida race, another delayed flight from my home in New York. This time all flights are cancelled due to a massive snowstorm poised to unleash upward of two feet of snow. Fast forward twelve hours, the storm has dropped only a measly inch or two of wet slush and light rain. Meanwhile at Sebring International Raceway, Prototype challenge and Porsche GT3 cup car practice is carrying on as scheduled. American Airlines doesn’t seem to be as worried about it as I am though, so I’m left hunting for any possible openings to get my pale ass onto the next flight towards that glorious Florida sun and the sensory overload of the high horsepower cars about to be put to test by the historic course.
Luckily, there’s about 12 hours every day for the next three days of practice, qualifying and racing scheduled for the weekend. Despite losing nearly a full day to the snowpocalypse dud, I manage to get to the track in time for the start of the prototype challenge. About an hour later, the GT3 cup cars began their rounds of the track, sliding and lifting a front wheel through nearly every corner. As the sun began to dip below the horizon the GT and P1 and P2 cars lapped the track through the darkness, rotors glowing and plumes of blue flames from exhausts fully visible now. With the sun gone and the adrenaline subsiding slightly, I set up my tent right outside turn 13 and curled up to sleep for a couple hours. It wasn’t the morning sunlight peeking through my tent that woke me, but the distant sounds of race engines idling from the paddocks half a track away as the Continental Challenge cars were being warmed up and prepped for their practice and qualifying rounds.
While Daytona and Sebring are a mere 150 miles or so apart from each other, they have a completely different look and feel. Daytona is situated in a relatively urban environment- nearby to a multitude of stores and restaurants while Sebring is decidedly in a much more rural setting, nearby to a field and not much else. Daytona’s grandstands have gift shops, restrooms and food courts built in, while Sebring has outdoor tents for merchandise and small concession stands for food. Daytona has huge banked turns and straightaways encircling the infield campgrounds while Sebring is flat and home to 4 straights and 17 turns. The patrons of both events are similar to an extent, but it’s clear that Sebring’s fans are more geared to partying and take tailgating throughout the campground very seriously. Aside from tents and RV’s of varying sizes, Sebring’s campgrounds are packed with tremendous scaffoldings with chairs, couches, coolers, even refrigerators and coolers in some cases. These redneck skyscrapers are usually decorated with different themes or names in an effort to set themselves apart from the other crews a turn or straight away. Some go as far as having full bars and bbq pits at their campsites. Sebring has a much more laid back and sort of whimsical feel, you can tell everyone is there to have a good time. Oh, Daytona’s massive grandstands offer some shelter from the Florida sun, whereas Sebring offers literally none- by Friday afternoon I had already acquired one hell of a sunburn.