In some ways better than LeMans
The Sebring 12 Hour race is a classic race in the same way as LeMans. Both races have tons of history and both race tracks are quite old. You can feel the history as you enter either track and it just gets better as you stay a while. There some major differences and major similarities at the very same time.
Sebring is quite warm in March and LeMans is quite cold at night in June. Sebring always falls during college’s Spring Break (right) while LeMans generally falls on Father’s Day (with the exception of 2020). Both are huge parties with the added bonus of a great race as well. While the parties can be eye-opening and huge fun, I prefer the racing.
It’s well known that LeMans is a huge race track. In the end LeMans is a sort of huge oval with some great turns mixed in. Sebring is half the size, but it snakes back upon itself. LeMans turns have famous names; Sebring’s turns mostly have numbers. LeMans requires transportation to be able see all of the turns without exhausting yourself. You can walk all of the Sebring track in a fraction of the time.
LeMans has a fantastic museum on-premises. The only “museum” at the Sebring track is a tiny thing called the “Gallery of Legends”. If you are clever (and if it’s still there), you can find the Group 44/Bob Tullius hanger of cars, planes and cats just across from turn 13.
In the same way, facilities can be rather crude. You can also find great eating at either track if you look hard enough, or poison yourself if you don’t. Where they differ greatly is in the viewing opportunities.
The difference between old-school tracks here… and there
You couldn’t get a look on the Mulsanne straight (left) without great trouble from the gendarmes. Being an FIA regulated track, there’s lots of tall catch fencing to look through. Viewing from the side of the track can be from afar in many places.
Sebring allows you to get very close to the action in a very old-school way. The fences are low and getting a great photo is pretty darned easy to get (right). Stand anywhere on the straights and the speed of the cars will be quite apparent. I never felt in danger at either track.
It’s very easy to watch the LeMans pit action (left) from the grandstands. Sebring not so much but you can tour the paddock easily in a way not possible in France. I am almost proud to say that Alan McNish just about hit me at speed as he raced into the paddock for repairs in his nearly silent Audi diesel LMP1. Never heard him coming while walking well off to the side. It will be something I’ll never forget.
You can see WEC-spec race cars at the LeMans 24 Hours. The doubleheader of WEC and IMSA at the Sebring 12 hour race gives you both flavors of endurance vehicles. It will be even better in a couple of years when convergence of the rules will pair up WEC and IMSA in the same races at the same time.
Make your plans now. Let’s hope masks and/or hazmat suits won’t be necessary at either race track.