There really is no event like Sebring. Where else can you find Central Florida’s finest lifted pickup trucks next to the fastest GT and Prototype racers in the world?
Daytona may be the season opener for the TUDOR guys, but Sebring is the opener for my series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.
I absolutely love starting the season at Sebring. The Woodstock-esque feel of Green Park coupled with the Tower Turn and Sunset Bend brings an event that reminds us all why we race.
The 2015 Sebring Twelve-Hour weekend would be my fourth consecutive time at this event but would be far different than the previous three.
I was no longer wearing a Mazda logo on my shirt but that of Porsche. I have dreamed of wearing the German company’s signage since I was a very young boy.
This was a special weekend as my first in a 991 Cup car, but I had to tread lightly as this is Sebring. If a mistake is made, Sebring will bite hard.
Luckily I had the help of the whole Wright Motorsports team and their two coaches, Patrick Long and Jan Heylen.
Over the two practice days, these gents taught me metric tons about the 991, and I felt ready for the qualifying and race the next day.
Thursday morning was nice and cool, a prime condition for a fast lap. As I started my hot laps, I started to really feel comfortable in the car and at the limit. The second lap was quick, but I was told it was three-tenths off pole, and I wanted pole.
I buckled down and went for a third lap. I entered Sunset Bend two-tenths faster but left four-tenths faster. As I crossed the line, I was told I had pole by a slim 0.005. What a feeling of relief that was! I now knew I was ready to fight for the win that afternoon.
The first race was both special and uneventful. I did lead the first four or five laps, which was a very special feeling to lead my first Porsche event. As the race continued, the setup was not ideal for a long run, and I slipped to second and settled into that spot to the finish.
Each lap I learned a massive amount and was armed with knowledge for changes prior to the second race.
The second race was a bit like the first early on. Both Jesse Lazare and I were saving a bit of our Yokohama tires, but as a caution came out with three laps to go, we both knew this race had turned into a frantic dash to the line.
We went green and quickly put a gap to third, good insurance knowing the worst position would be a second minus any contact.
I planned a move with two laps to go and executed on the final lap. As Jesse defended into Turn 1, I crossed him over into Turn 3.
It was tight into 3, but Jesse came out ahead, and a drag race to the line ended with me claiming second by a mere tenth of a second.
As the race ended and the final team debrief was concluded, I was slightly disappointed to not win at America’s most historic road course, but great points were in the bag and the car was absolutely spotless.
Every checkbox had a red dash through it, and the weekend was a massive success. I now was able to relax a bit and settle into becoming a superfan for the 12-hour fight.
I was lucky enough to spend the weekend cheering on the Brumos Porsche in GT Daytona and spending loads of time with one of my greatest heroes, Hurley Haywood.
Hearing the stories of the 1973 win just sent shivers down my spine — sometimes I believe I was born in the wrong generation!
The day soon turned to night, and the darkness fell onto some of the top Porsche teams, which was quite the heartbreak.
But the next day was the ultimate ending to an amazing week, Patrick Long’s Karts4Kids Charity Kart Enduro.
Twenty teams of pro and amateur drivers bashing for two hours for charity, what’s not to love there?
As the last race of the weekend ended, $67,500 was raised for All Children’s Hospital, and each driver left Central Florida with a smile on their face.
My first week in a Porsche 991 Cup car in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama was an amazing learning curve.
Sebring week is always a highlight of the year, and 2015 was no exception.
I’ll always look back on my first Porsche weekend with 100 percent positivity, but now is the time to look forward to the next seven race weeks, and the championship that lies ahead.