We keep waiting for Sebring to let us down. Not because we expect it, but because we have such a great time every time we enter the gates, we keep waiting for it to level out. To not be able to get better. However, today, as usual, beyond exceeded our expectations.
We ended up arriving at the track about 6:30 am this morning to pick up our credentials. After a 7 am photographers meeting, it was out to pit road to photograph the sunrise. There are many sights in this world that one can call beautiful, but the sun rising behind the Jaguar bridge is truly breathtaking. From there, we had to make a quick trip into Sebring – our first trip into the actual town – to fix a hair disaster. Hey, we’re women – it happens!
Once we were back into the track, we hit the paddock immediately. We ran into so many old friends from different circles of racing. Our first trip through the paddock is like a family reunion – but the kind you want to attend. We spoke with Guy Cosmo (@guycosmo) and Ed Brown of Extreme Speed Motorsports (@ESMRacing) almost immediately. Somehow, we were able to get pictures with both Lucas Luhr (@luxll01) of Cytosport (@MuscleMilkRace) and Mike Rockenfeller of Audi (@Audi).
From there, it was straight to pit lane for the final practice before qualifying. This was a completely new experience for us – we had never been in the pits when the track was hot. We continued to run into people that we knew. Before too long, Brie was able to have her long-awaited reunion with Scott Sharp (Note from Brie: Take the biggest fan of a driver that you can think of, multiply it by 8, and you’ll begin to understand how much she supports him). It’s because of Scott’s move to ALMS in 2008 that we know anything about the American Le Mans Series at all, so we will forever feel indebted to him.
We were also able to speak to our collective favorite Guy Smith (@GUYSMITH16) who we had not seen since his win at Mid-Ohio in August. Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard were two of the first drivers we ever met (thanks to Heidi’s friendship with Ryan Briscoe). We were able to see them for the first time since the 2009 Homestead Grand-Am race – something we had been looking forwards to since Audi announced their driver line-up. (Note from Heidi: Putting Romain, Timo, and Rocky in car together is my dream come true.) Brie was able to get a photo with Mr. Le Mans himself, Tom Kristensen (Note from Brie: THE Tom Kristensen! Can you believe it?!).
From there, it was straight to the autograph session. To us, the autograph sessions aren’t really about getting autographs, but instead being able to interact with drivers that we may or may not have been able to talk to. We spent 35 minutes of the one hour session in Audi’s line, moving a total of nine feet, then gave up and headed for Dyson Racing’s line. It was one of our best decisions of the day, as we immediately started in with a conversation with Chris Dyson (@ChrisDyson16) and Guy about their Twitter habits. If you have never seen Chris, Guy, Oliver Gavin (@olivergavin) and Andy Meyrick (@AndyMeyrick) go at it with each other, you are missing out on some hilarious commentary!
The ESM guys also proved as hilarious as expected. Brie has known Scott and Ed since their IZOD IndyCar Series days so they have no problem giving her a hard time. Ed asked Brie, “Which team are you rooting for?” Brie replies, “You guys.” Ed asks her to specify between the 001 and the 002 – of course, we all knew how THAT ended. Brie’s explanation to Scott? “Some things never change!”
Then we were off to visit another favorite of ours, Pat Long (@pLmotorsport) of Flying Lizard Motorsports (@FlyingLizard_MS), the boys of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (@BMWNA_Racing), our friends at Highcroft Racing (@highcroftracing), and the Falken Tire team (@FalkenTire). After a quick swing-though of the merchandise vendors (again, we’re women – we can’t help it!), we started our Friday afternoon tradition of riding the tram. There is just so much to see in Sebring and boarding the tram is the best way to see it all. It’s free and continuously loops all around the track. We headed out to take photos of qualifying which you will see shortly – stay tuned!
One of the best ways to experience what is the event of Sebring (not just the race) is to get away from the racing, to wander into the campgrounds and talk to the fans and the old-timers, the people that may or may not even care that one of the most prestigious sports car races in the world will occur the next day. It really broadens one’s horizons to get outside of the paddock (again – you’ll want to check out our photo galleries for that!)
And of course, it wouldn’t be Sebring if our day didn’t end on a fantastic note. As we were waiting…and waiting…and waiting for a tram back to our car (a tiny Kia Rio we have unaffectionately nicknamed the Jelly Bean), golf carts and golf carts full of drivers came by. Audi, Peugeot, TRG…they all waved and and said hello as they passed. Really – Alan McNish and Tom Kristensen, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernard – all said hello. Unbelievable for a couple of women from central Indiana who did not even know what the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring was in February of 2008!
2011 marks our third trip to the small Florida town of Sebring – and it’s already shaping up to be the most spectacular one yet. Stay with us as we’ll bring you photos and coverage from tomorrow’s race and really try to put into word and photos what this race really means. All we want to do is share the experience of this great race with everyone, in hopes that our excitement, enthusiasm, and passion for this fantastic racing series makes you as big of fan as we are.
All the best,