Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Around the corner from Sebring

The Twelve Hours of Sebring is less then a week away and boy am I excited.

Sebring is one of the most difficult of endurance races. Most drivers would even label it as the number one most difficult. 

Sebring International Raceway was built on an abandoned WWII airfield. The track is made mostly out of old concrete slabs poured back during the war. Because of this, it's one of North America's oldest operating race tracks. It's rarely, if ever repaved or resurfaced so the track is just squares of concrete. Driving for 12 hours straight on this stuff will shake cars and drivers to pieces. As Alan McNish said, Sebring is like an old man, just getting more and more grumpy every year. Every year the track surface gets rougher and rougher and proves to be more and more of a challenge of driver skills and car design.

Many drivers have said something along the lines of "if you can drive for 12 hours at Sebring, you can drive for 24 hours anywhere else." This is probably true. As I pointed out earlier, the surface Sebring is no joke. To add on top of that,  the track is about 3.7 miles long, less then half the 8.469 miles of La Sarthe. With only 2 major straight aways, this makes passing much more difficult. This year, with no fewer then 57 cars on the starting grid, teams will have to pay special attention to strategy as dealing with traffic will help define the winners and the losers.

On top of all the physical challenges, it makes the race no easier with the fact that Sebring is the season opener for both Intercontinental Le Mans Series as well as American Le Mans Series. This is important because this means teams are scrambling to get the season off to a good start. Teams like Corvette need it in order to recover from a rough previous year. Audi will need it to feel out Peugeots newest diesel workhorse. Ferrari will be putting it's new 458 GT car through the paces.

Overall, it should be one hell of a race. Watching it this year will be easier then ever ALMS has signed contracts to have races broadcast on ABS, ESPN2, and even ESPN3 for all you Xbox people.

Qualifying will be on Friday at 3 PM EST and the the green flag for the 12 hours drops at 10:30 AM EST.

Live timing for practices, qualifying and races can be found on ALMS handy timing page.