The ALMS season is well underway with Sebring and Long Beach on the books. The last race, being the shortest of the season, was certainly filled with its fair share of ups and downs. At Long Beach’s street course, Black Swan was put out after rear ending the Lotus Evora. A bad flag caused the team to retire without even putting one lap in. However, Corvette finally broke it’s losing streak in the GT category.
Watching the first two rounds on ESPN 3 was amazing. Every camera shot is crystal clear picking up every detail of the cars. The announcers keep you up to date on all the action and the pit announcers keep in touch with the engineers so we can get a glimpse into the team strategies.
As great as all that is, I’ve the actually been lucky enough to have gone to some ALMS races live. As I watched the camera shots from the helicopter, the announcers talked about the beauty of the infield. As true as that may have been, from the camera shots, I couldn’t help but think of the seedy under belly of Sebring.
Don’t get me wrong, Sebring is an amazing track with lots of history. It’s a very fan friendly track as well. If you don’t mind hiking, you can literally walk to every portion of the track. The back of the pits is chain link so you can watch the cars come in, driver changes and the whole shebang. But if your the adventurous type, there is a story or two to be found as a souvenir of the weekend.
First things first, the infield isn’t the infield to a true Sebring usual. It is affectionately known as the Zoo. During the day it’s pretty tame but lets keep in mind this is a 12 hour race. The eating, drinking, lunacy and testosterone only magnify as the sun goes down.
Many fans want to get a birds eye view of the track so they’ll sit on top of there RV but not everyone can afford an RV. Some people only have a retired school bus and some ancient scaffolding. Yes, I once saw a bus with the roof cut off and about three stories of scaffolding frighteningly rigged to the inside with zip ties and rope. And you may say “Terry, you said ONE time you saw that.” I only saw a bus one time but I’ve also seen jeeps, trucks, station wagons and golf carts with similar set ups. All equally scary.
And who wouldn’t want to show off such back yard engineering. The announcers thought that people were leaving early on in the race but the entry road to the race track is a make shift “Sebring Main St.” used for 12 hours of cruising. Weather it’s showing off your European super car, American muscle, huge mudder or rolling scaffolding, you’ll find people cruising up and down it for the entire event.
The people of Sebring are quite amazing as well. My current room mate and I actually met at the 12 hour enduro. You can also find an unsavory character or two at the event as well. There is a photo floating around of me somewhere with a huge smile on my face and quite the brawl going on in the background. As I said, the testosterone levels get mighty high in the wee hours.
As the sun fades and the lights of the cars trace their way through the night you start to think back on the weekends adventure. The smell of barbecue and brakes is about the sweetest mixture my nose has ever sampled. And the day starts to take its toll on your sun drenched body. You have no concept of the time, the only thing kind enough to let you know the completion of the race is the fireworks display exploding over the track.
As beautiful as the explosions are, they pale in comparison as you turn your attention back to the horizon of the Zoo. As soon as the race is over the Zoo turns into a scene out of Thunder Dome. All the little shacks, look out towers, couches and just about anything you can think of, is set ablaze. I assume bringing all this material in was hard enough, so people would rather burn it than lug it home again. Bands start to play and every one packs the main drag, revving their engines and peeling out for any crowd member that begs for it. Beers are “borrowed” from anyone foolish enough to leave their cooler where anyone can see it and the partying continues till the sun comes up.
So, take my advice, go to as many live races as you can. Support the tracks in your area or make a special trip once in your life to a special track. You won’t be sorry you did. If you get out there and strike up a conversation with the guy or girl next to you, just no you’ll always have at least one thing in common. Cars. But I would suggest going over to the guy only wearing cut off jean shorts, wailing on a harmonica, who is quite obviously drunk. There’s a way better story to tell when you hang out with that dude!
Go to our facebook page and let share with us your favorite track adventures!