120 Hours of Sebring

Click on image to view GalleryDid you really think it was a 12 hour race? Seriously, putting the long winter aside, if you’re an active member of a Sebring bound ALMS race team, you’re looking at a minimum of seven 18-hour days. You wake up by the car, you eat by the car… and if no one is looking, you sleep under the car. And after six long days, you get to go racing.

Yet everyone involved… and I do mean everyone, revels in it. They flock to it likes moths to a candle… milling around, tired and whipped, yet with a nervous energy likened only to that of junkies in needle park… just before they’re about to score a fix.

Even the fans line up days (if not a week) before. They create special vehicles, build scaffolds… hell, they build open air family rooms complete with sofas, Christmas lights and possibly a brass pole or two. It’s Woodstock with a different soundtrack.

This places ROCKS!

Sebring is Sebring. It’s not a “500.” It’s bigger. It has more drama. It has more tricks up its sleeve than a… well, since I’ve already taken you on a mental tour of needle park, let’s just say it’s full of surprises.

Sebring is one of those events that spurs its own urban legends… both on and off the track. The stories from days gone by loom larger than life with each passing year. Yet somehow, the fabled WWII airstrip finds a way to add to its legacy year after year.

It’s a rarity in this day and age that an event actually exceeds the promises of the preceding media-driven hype. Seriously, how many Super Bowls have been as “super” as the advance campaigns would have you believe? How many Daytona 500s since the legendary Allison / Yarborough slugfest in turn four have been all that gripping? Heavyweight title fights rarely rise to anything much bigger than Don King’s hair. Even close political battles are predicted before the polls close… except in Florida were the chads are hanging and the counters can’t count.

So, even though the Peugeots marched to a restrained delivery of uncontested whoop-ass, the 2010 Sebring circus delivered. In its own clumsy way it’s like Disneyworld… it’s a guaranteed good time. It’s drama, it’s suspense, it’s even a little bit of comedy (French speaking pace car drivers might want to apply for work via Braselton).

So while critics may roll their eyes, and others choose to pass judgement (as if world peace hangs in the balance), I’m betting those that actually attended the race are still talking about it. And I bet they’re damn glad they went.

In a time when all we have is the SPEED Channel spoon feeding us racer-tainment (in case you didn’t know, Monster Jam, Thunder Jam and Nitro Jam are all owned and operated by Ringling Bros. and then there’s that other traveling circus… ) and putting aside the 24 Hour French grand-daddy of them all, Sebring stands alone as the real deal. Of all the races and all the tracks, Sebring delivers what you bargain for. Sebring is a legend that lives.

For me personally, the experience is always, well… an experience. 2011? Count me in! Enjoy the photos.

« Racing needs a little less talk, and a lot more action. | Main | The year was 1984 and I was in awe »