This weekend the Sebring International Raceway host two races. On Friday the FIA World Endurance Championship hosts its first race of the 2019 year but it is still the ‘extended’ 2018/19 season. They haven’t raced since Shanghai in November and Sebring hosts the sixth round, the 1000 miles of Sebring on Friday (tonight). The race starts at 4pm local time (7am (Sat) NZ time) and finishing 1,000 miles or eight-hours later (around 12:00am local time).
Brendon Hartley will line up in the LMP1 Class racing for SMP Racing alongside Russian team mates Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov. Hartley is replacing Jenson Button in the two upcoming rounds in Sebring and Spa.
On Saturday fans will get to see the annual 12 Hours of Sebring, the second round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The race track lies on the former Hendricks Army Airfield which was a training base for B-17 pilots between the years 1941- 46.
It’s potential as a race track was discovered and developed by an aeronautical engineer Alec Ulmann. On New Years Eve in 1950 the first event got underway with 30 cars from across North American competing in the Sam Collier 6 Hour Memorial race. This was won by Frits Koster and Ralph Deshon in a Crosley Hot Shot.
The first 12-Hour race was then held in 1952 and soon became a major international race.
Sebring has its fare-share of history. It hosted its first Formula One race in 1959 but due to poor attendance and high running cost the next USGP went to Riverside International Raceway in California.
1966 proved to be a year of change after five fatalities in the annual 12 Hour race, including four spectators. This brought about a change in the circuit layout and an upgrading of the track’s facilities. The result was to see no more fatalities until 1980.
Two Kiwi drivers have stood on the top step of the podium. Bruce McLaren along with US driver Mario Andretti won the event in 1967 driving a Ford GT40.
Then in 1994 US based Kiwi driver Steve Millen along with American drivers Johnny O’Connell and John Morton won the race in a Nissan 300ZX.
Millen and his two team mates won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the IMSA GTS class in this red-white-and-blue 800-plus horsepower Clayton Cunningham Racing Z car, as well as finishing fifth overall. They concluded a very successful 1994 taking overall victory in the IMSA GTS Championship.
Millen recalls that year saying, “People might forget that this car was so dominant in 1994 that IMSA banned its twin-turbo V6 engine.”
Earl Bamber will line up on the grid in the #912 Porsche 911 RSR along with team mates Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Mathieu Jaminet (France). Having finished third last year Bamber will be looking to improve on that result.
The race takes off on Saturday, 16 March, at 10.40 hrs local time (3:30am (Sun) NZ time, 16:40 hrs CEST) and can be viewed live outside the USA and Canada on www.imsa.com.