Sebring, Florida is orange grove country, but hosts the oldest endurance race in America, and is a precursor each year by a few months to the 24 Hours of LeMans in France, the most prestigious endurance race of them all. It's not unusual for the winner of Sebring to go on and win at Le Mans. The race at the Sebring International Raceway (SIR) is sanctioned by the International Motorsports Association (IMSA) and is part of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
I go to watch the race when I can with the same group of guys since high school. My buddies and I are among the first to arrive during the third weekend of March each year, when the gates open on Wednesday morning, and we're among the last to leave on Sunday morning. The race is twelve hours long and held on Saturday. We first attended together in 1975.
Unfortunately, I was the first and so far only person in the group to miss a race, but I had a good excuse. Back in 1999, I was doing contract work for the National Science Foundation at the South Pole, Antarctica. I was literally stranded at the bottom of the world so the guys said they would cut me some slack for my not making it to the race that year.
I was supposed to bring my z32 to The 12 Hours of Sebring as a spectator for the first time in 2002, but I had a slave cylinder go bad on me the night before I left Pennsylvania, so I took my z31 instead.
2002 turned out to be the year of the "big storm." The scaffolding we erect each year blew over in sixty mile per hour winds. That's my z31 in the right lower corner, which was not damaged. More importantly, no one was hurt.
The top of our flagpole is circled and missed Ken's head by a few feet. He was standing outside in the gale hanging on for dear life to the motor home awning when the scaffolding came crashing down. Everywhere was a mess, but the race went off without a hitch the next day.
In 2003, I was finally able to attend the big race with my z32 for the first time. I used the Amtrak Auto Train to take my Z's down to FL from VA.
The Amtrak Auto Train only runs between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL, non-stop.
I did manage to sneak my car into the historic car parade that went from the race track to downtown Sebring the day before the big race. We hit 120 mph on the highway with a police escort :c)
My friends, Ken (in my Z), Stan and Mike at the historic car parade in downtown Sebring, March 2003.
None of the other cars in the parade were street legal, except mine. Folks would stick their heads in my interior and say, "This car looks like you could drive it on the street . . ." Probably the Alpine stereo and air conditioner gave her away, lol.
This was a great day, all around. I did not try to repeat the experience the next year because I did not want to tarnish a near perfect memory. A few months after these pics, I realized another dream of mine when I was able to track my z32 on the SIR.