Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Two Accidental Days at the Races

It was a dark and gloomy day last Friday and we were booked to go on an Air Boat Nature Tour. So we consulted with our RV resort neignbours, Jim and Judy, who were coming with us, and decided to cancel until this week.

With an empty day in front of us we decided to drive to Lake Okeechobee and check out the scenery. Frankly it was pretty boring – lots of cattle ranches, sugar cane fields and orange groves on the way and not much action around the lake. Pretty though.

On the way home we came upon the entrance to the Sebring International Raceway. We knew we were staying close to it and I had checked the website but there didn’t appear to be anything happening while we were here. So we had no plans to go there.

But, there we were, right in front of it. So we pulled in to see what it looked like. Arch wanted a picture of the day for his Facebook page.

At the entrance we noticed this ramp to our right with a gate that appeared to have a person in it. We went to check it out.

There we met a man who said “if you want to go in you have to sign a waiver”. Signing would let us see what is on the other side of the ramp. Good spot for a photo. So sure, we signed the waiver, received a small pamphlet and off we went. Over the ramp to see this:

The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) was racing there last weekend. The weekend’s Super Tour event is the top level of the SafeRacer SCCA National Racing Series and the US Majors Tour. The Super Tour consists of six events across the country featuring the best that club racing has to offer.

These races are usually closed to the public but last weekend, for the first time, it was an open paddock, which meant we were free to go wherever we wanted (except the race track itself), get a close-up look at the cars and chat with the pit crews and drivers.

Friday was qualifying day with lots of action in the paddock. We were able to wander around, chat with folks and look at the race cars and their portable garages.
Spec Miatas lining up for qualifying race
Very sophisticated set up
and a little less sophisticated. Room for everyone here
For the love of speed

Returning from the track
On Sunday we went back to watch the races.

Arch went to chat and find out what was happening while Tara and I settled in to watch the action.
There weren't very many people there as the fact that the races were open to the public was not publicized.
Touring, Super Touring and Production categories
There were 8 categories of race cars and several categories raced together. That, combined with the roar of the motors drowning out the announcer's voice, made it a little difficult for the un-informed (that would be us) to know who was in the lead and what was happening at any given time. But we learned a lot about racing never-the-less.
Green flag means GO
Yellow flags alert drivers of an incident ahead
A waving yellow means the incident is on the racing surface, NO PASSING! A blue flag advises drivers to check their rear view mirror for faster cars that may be approaching, red and yellow vertical stripes advises drivers about debris, oil or some other liquid on the race track, white means a slow moving race or safety vehicle is on the racing surface ahead and black usually means you have been bad - report to the pits for a mechanical or behavioural issue.
The Pace Car
The pace car leads cars out to the starting line at the beginning and is then used to control the pace when a yellow flag is out. There were a lot of yellow flags while we were there. Laps run under the yellow flag count and one race finished under a yellow flag. When leading the pack under yellow the light on top of the car flashes and on the final round the light is off, indicating to all that the race is about to start.
An inglorious way to leave the race
An even more inglorious way to leave

Sorry the above photo is blurry. They were a long way off.

At the end of the race the winner in each category receives a checkered flag as they exit the track. There were four to five handed out per race.
Then they were off to the winners' circle:
We met the crew with the car above and were following it. They won their category.

All cars go to the winners' circle - win or lose - but the winners must first go through a check area where the car is examined to be sure it meets the requirements of its category:
Checking the winning cars
In the winners' circle all cars in the race are on display and drivers and pit crews are available to chat with spectators and pose for pictures:
You can see all the winners' circle on the grassy area in this picture.
We assume that under normal racing situations this area would be open to families, media, etc., but not the general public.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is forecast to be sunny and 82F and we are booked for the air boat tour. Really looking forward to that.

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