OP-ed – Looking Forward to Sebring 60th Next Year


An OP-ed submitted by Barry Foster, aka “MisterMedia20”, aka “trackside”, detailing plans for next year’s 60th running at Sebring.  We can start to look forward to it now and make our 2011 plans accordingly.

It may seem like a long time away, but 2012 is actually right around the corner for a number of those preparing to celebrate landmark anniversaries in Sebring. Next year represents the centennial anniversary for the city of Sebring, the 75th year for the Highlands County Fair, the 70th annuversary of the Sebring Regional Airport and the 60th anniversary for the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Members of the Sebring Hall of Fame Committee Friday unveiled their plans for the race celebration as well as the new logo for the event. The actual observance of Sebring’s 60th begins later this year with the second annual presentation of the Bobby Rahal signature event The Legends of Motorsports Dec 2-4. Rahal’s vintage and historic racing series was well recieved in its first time out both by fans and competitors with many historic racing figures, including former Sebring winner taking to the track for another run at the storied circuit.

January of 2012 will see Sebring racers paying homage to the airport roots of the circut at the Sebring Regional Air Expo. The raceway originally was carved out of runways and airport access roads of the old Hendricks field. Over the years it has morphed into a for-purpose racing facilities that plays host to one of the world’s premier endurance races.

February again will see the annual Sebring 12/24 bicycling event. Like the 12 Hour race, it draws competitors from all over the world. It also involves a “race within a race” as some of the cyclists participate for a 12 Hour cycle,,while others pedal a full 24. In the past the cyclists have started on the raceway then gone to a course involving Airport Road and US 98. Next year, plans are to run the event on the raceway flag to flag. Additionally, an art and photo contest for elementary school students and a tennis tournament have been scheduled.

March always means racing at Sebring. The month begins with a weekend of events hosted by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association. That event will be titled “Champions of Sebring,” with a special emphasis on both cars and drivers who have competed and won the 12 Hour grind over the past six decades. As always, the second week in March will see the Grand Prix Ball at the Chateau Elan and the annual Chamber of Commerce Ride the Racetrack event where people have an opportunity to ride with instructors from the Skip Barber Racing School. For 2012, the March Chamber of Commerce mixer will be held at the track inside the Gallery of Legends building. Shortly after the opening of the front gates on Race Week of 2012, hundreds of people will gather at the Chateau Elan for the Hairpin Spin. A tenth as old as the race, the event again will allow people to wager chips for prizes. Money collected will be distributed to local charities. It is always accmpanied by a smorgasbord prepared by the Chateau Elan and appearances by some of the top teams and race notables.

The 60th anniversary year will also mark the induction of new members of the Sebring Hall of Fame. Over the past eight years, 21 competitors, five race promoters, five race officials ahd four manufacturers have been inducted. Plaques in their honor have been mounted in the Gallery of Legends building in the raceway’s paddock area. In fact, work has already started to have a display of winning cars of the past in the Gallry of Legends during the 2012 Race Week.

The 60th annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida will take the green flag on March 17 of next year. Officials of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup already have indicated they plan to be back for the opening of their series next year. The addition of the series within the 12 Hours has inflated the field to nearly 60 top-flite teams from around the world and more are expected next year.

The events announced at the Friday press conference already are in the works but organizers have allowed other events and observances may still be created.

You can follow Mr. Foster on Twitter as @Mistermedia20.

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