Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sebring Trip

Wednesday

Angry trucker in the rear view as I'm creeping along snapping pictures of the fog coming over the orange groves.


I had been driving through these orange groves in the dark for a few hours wondering why it smelled like a car wash for so many miles. The sun rose to reveal the orange groves and the fact that I am an idiot and had never smelled an orange grove.


This sunrise was unreal. I pulled over immediately to take a picture but missed the best part by about 30 seconds. The full sun tucked between the rows of orange trees. Absolutely incredible welcome to Sebring after the exhausting drive.


yyyup

I pulled up to the track around 8 am after a 20 hour drive (with stops to rest/sleep) from just outside Washington, DC. I got my ticket and after some confusion as to where I was allowed to camp I found a perfect spot near turn 10. Getting to Turn 10 and the green park requires crossing a bridge over the circuit. Pictures do not do justice to the severity of the incline of this bridge. I was amazed that the van in front of me was able to make it up and over. Its a rickety one lane bridge that I first felt was completely out of place at a modern circuit but you soon learn that this along with many other shockingly low budget solutions add so much character to the circuit.

I set up my tent and and walked over to Turn 10 to get a quick look at the track before taking a nap. Some Prototype lite cars were running and right as I got near the track one spun right in front of me. My first impressions of the circuit were that it was way way old school. I had seen TV coverage in previous years and I knew that it was a bumpy surface, but the old schoolness of it is not properly conveyed on video. First of all, there really is no catch fencing save for a few areas where the cars could really fly off given their race line. Turn ten and most of the turns feature an unobstructed view of the cars from 20-30 feet. La Sarthe and Spa Francorchamps don't even come close in terms of your proximity to the cars. The support road next to the track (a feature of every circuit for firetrucks, ambulances, and other support vehicles) is a dirt road- something you don't notice on tv or pictures.

After the brief viewing of the prototype lite cars I tried to get some rest in my rental car since my tent wreaked of mildew from not having unpacked it since a very wet weekend at Spa Francorchamps in August. Trying to sleep in the blazing Florida sun with extremely loud cars running less than 100 yards away is pretty futile but I managed maybe an hour or two of sleep.

I spent the rest of the day watching the various practice sessions (vintage, Porsche cup, Prototype lites, Trans am), and meeting my very friendly camping neighbors.



The Porsches provide for me a real connection with Sebring history. Its cool to think about the 59 years of Sebring and how many fans have seen the essentially the same car year after year. If I have one thing in common with all of the Sebring spectators throughout the years, its that we have seen Porsches running.


MoMA Porsche. I'd like to know more about this car.


I hadn't seen an entry list for the vintage cars so I didn't know what to expect. I had no idea there would be machines like this running. Goodwood FOS material.


Are you kidding me? Audi R8? Straight outta Goodwood

Thursday


Much anticipated ALMS practice begins. Really pleased that my point and shoot can take shots like this. Very encouraging for the rest of the weekend. One of the main draws for me to make it to Sebring was to see the R15 for the last time in competition and it was well worth it on its own. Truly one of the great cars of the modern era. A gorgeous expression of what a sports car can be. From all angles its a stunner.


someone made the comment that the new Panoz "looks like a turtle having sex with a rhinoceros" kind of ruined the new Panoz for me... so thanks whoever that was.


doin work


Jags and F458's were the loudest. No chance of hearing the subtleties of the diesels when they are near.




Getting after it

not enough +'s


I was barely shooting this car in practice sessions because I felt that the new 908's were so much prettier. Little did anyone know it would go on to win overall.


Getting loose


Muscle Milk Lola Aston being towed to pits after burning at Turn 10. Marshalls struggled to open the cockpit to free the driver and even started pounding on the perspex window to try to break it. I overheard one angry marshall later say that "he could have died in there". smoke billowed out from the cockpit when they finally opened the door.


Style for miles

Here's a shot with the front exposed and not covered by the blue cloth. The pit access is very nice. Similar to Le Mans but much less crowded.


Hella cool

steeper than it looks trust me




From the Turn 7 hairpin. Some will tell you that this is the best viewing area, but I have to say Turn 10 is better for the spectator. I can buy that with a press pass turn 7 might be better but for a spectator the view is somewhat obscured by a marshaling tent and porta potty right on the corner. There are other advantages at turn 10 that I will mention later.

More from Turn 7

"high speed bimony" looking good in the neighborhood.


Rolling deep

"La Bomba". Seriously well done, guys.


Corvette guys were nice enough to remove the ropes for a minute for me to take this picture even though it stinks. Corvette Gran Sport (replica). Prettiest corvette of all time. Embarrasses modern (80's, 90's ) vettes on looks alone.


Roger Warrick, the artist behind this years poster, at work. I spoke to Roger for a few minutes about his art and about his business. Very nice guy.

La Bomba cruisin USA


pretty cars





casting shadows




Night practice.

St. Paddy's day
My friendly neighbors from Florida. Scott on the left told me many stories of his years of spectating motor races including how he was at the corkscrew at Laguna Seca in 1999 when Gonzalo Rodríguez flipped his car and died instantly right before his eyes. A reminder of the dark side of our obsession.

Thursday night the "Looney Toons" from SebringFans.com who were camped out near me invited me to come along for a night time pit walk. I would have never thought to check out the paddock at this time but its by far the best time to do it. Teams hard at work getting ready for quali on friday and no crowds to get in the way. I even managed to speak a little French with some of the Peugeot guys. This pit walk was certainly one of the highlights of the weekend.



I wouldnt have noticed it but someone pointed out to me the difference between the high and low downforce setting on the louvers above the wheel wells. very interesting.


sickest tail lights of all time

Corvette McDonald's 100% French owned and operated team


Nice little treat. No one seemed to care that we were in the team pit area. Not that it was hot or anything.

Badass sculpture in the infield. As I was sitting one afternoon sharing a drink with one of my neighbors he commented on the "fascinating human behavior" that was on display. It struck me as a good description of what was occurring that weekend. Different expressions of human behavior. Seeing what we are capable in terms of technology and sport on the track and in terms of creative expression and performance art in the infield. The people responsible for this sculpture and the people behind "La Bomba" and the different "Sebring cruisers" are artists.

Friday
Breakfast of champions: eggs, ham, cheese, spray butter, wheat bread. Credit card spatula is something I picked up from an outdoors magazine in high school. works perfectly and is less cumbersome with a small pan like this.

Moments before I shook hands with Allan Mcnish.

I waited in line for about 45 minutes to get to the Audi table. I had my 2007 Le Mans ticket which I was sort of hesitant to get signed since it was a DNF for these three guys. I figured they would be happy that I would want it signed by them despite the DNF in 07? anyway I got up to McNish and he looked up and commented on my shirt, "I recognize that car. That was the first drivable Formula 1 car. I used to watch that car as a young lad". Inredible.
I responded, "Do you want one?"
"Where did you get it?"
"I make them do you want one?"
"Sure I'll take one"
"L or XL?"
some comment about how small he is and if I had a M
He then stood up from the table shook my hand and accepted the shirt from me. Fucking incredible moment. I got my ticket signed and thanked him profusely. I was embarrassingly star struck and my hand was shaking after the whole thing. I treated myself to a corn dog to calm my nerves.
I will now be stalking google images for the rest of my life to see if anyone ever photographs him wearing my shirt.

I learned later that Allan Mcnish tested with McLaren in 1990 with a MP4/5 which is very similar to the MP4/4 on the shirt which explains his instant recognition and appreciation of the car.

sexy Turn 10 hat courtesy of Lee Self

Quali


Love the oversize chess pieces. This guy was at it all weekend
Vintage race. Prettiest shade of blue Ive ever seen on a car


This was running at the same time as the Audi R8 and Rothmans 962. Many laughs but also much respect for this guy

I dont have any pictures of this, but on Friday night Lee Self at Turn 10 puts on a slide show that is not to be missed. It lasted about 45 min to an hour and featured his pictures from the last 30 years at Sebring. He did a series of pictures from 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago and last year. His photos were some of the best motorposts photography I have ever seen. Old Kodachrome slide film as well as digital shots of the more recent cars. He told stories and others in attendance chimed in with their own anecdotes. One of my best memories from the weekend. It was so cool to hear from these guys who had seen it all.

F Troop party down. Surprisingly good bands all weekend. Southern Rock mostly with good riffs and solos


Race Day

Bringing sexy back




RHD Jag


Might have to invest in one of these.





I'm just trying to get from one part of the circuit to the other and these damn cars are so distracting during the race.





Possibly the most memorable car of the weekend for me. The 458 Italia is the prettiest F car since the 355. This was the loudest car in the field and sounded like a Ferrari should. I could watch this car all day... and I did.





Dave Hsu, marshall from the DC area. Really nice guy. Talked to him for a few minutes and he gave me some info about marshalling in MD which I might look into. He said he had marshalled at the Goodwood FOS a few years ago which must have been amazing.











Right around this time I met up with Mike Harley from Autoblog. We chatted for about 45 minutes yelling over the sound of the cars. I asked him about his path to automotive journalism and his impression of the weekend. We discussed some of our favorite cars and our reasons for getting into cars. He was just a really cool guy that was able to be humble about having every car guy's dream job. He said he liked my shirts which was flattering.

This guy does this every year apparently and it is much appreciated. Its hard to follow the race even with a radio and this scoreboard updated on the hour is a vital source of information and a great spot to hang out and catch up on whats going on. Props on the Michelin Man costume. Might have to replicate that next year for Halloween.


I was worried about being out of touch with email and internet for so many days especially given all that is happening in the world right now. This note about Libya provides a fascinating historical context to the race and a much appreciated connection to the outside world.

Useless night photography but I had to try yo get that incredible full moon


When viewed from the platforms and scaffolding, the view from Turn 10 includes the run out of Turn 8 all the way to the entrance into Turn 12.

Bravo Sebring. Beautiful weekend.

Final results

LMP1 graphed from the whiteboard (note this does not reflect all position changes just the standings on the hour... also note the lunch break in the fourth hour)

Party Time


a final note: a man named Bill was in the motorhome next to my camping spot and the first person I met at Sebring. He was extremely friendly right off the bat and we got along really well. Bill has been to some 40 years of Sebring 12 hours as well as countless Rolex 24 hours and many other races in the south east. He worked as a mechanic his whole life and worked on many pit crews throughout the years at Sebring and elsewhere. He was kind enough to show me old photo albums from the 60's 70's and 80's of truly amazing pictures of some of he most famous and successful cars to ever race at Sebring and the Rolex 24. Some of his most interesting pictures which he was very proud of were pitues taken from outside of helicopter of the Sebring 12 hours in the 1960's. The motion and energy captured in these pictures was stunnning. I encouraged him to put them online at some point. He said that he was strapped to the outside of the helicopter and standing on the landing gear when the pilot cut the engine as a sort of prank. Bill and his brothers who I met were really great guys that helped me have a tremendous weekend. Bill's first hand accounts of his experiences at the races over the years are something I will cherish and made the whole trip so real and interesting.

Campers start burning. Time to leave.

Im going to add some video and more text as i think of more stuff. thats all for now. Thanks to everyone at Sebring for their Hospitality and good times.

all of the images can be seen in high res here: I'll link the individual pictures later