Sebring International Raceway is one of the flattest tracks you will ever drive, but it has as much character as Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Mosport, or any other track with massive amounts of elevation. What gives this track character is the ancient tarmac runway, concrete slabs, asphalt slabs, all intertwined resulting in different grip levels, small camber changes, and midcorner surface changes. Knowing where these changes occur and adjusting the attitude of the car accordingly will be crucial to getting the most out of this track at the Eastern States Championships.
I have driven MX-5’s, IMSA Prototype Lites, as well as bigger LMP2 spec cars here and have good grasp of what to do with each type of car around this iconic track. This track feels good when you get it right, but you should know going in that it almost never feels right. It is not easy to connect everything together because certain corners require such precise car placement while other corners are easily intimidating.
For this story, I have added an asterisk to denote the corners that lose grip drastically with heat. Also, you will notice that not all corners are addressed in this tutorial. That’s because turns 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 14 don’t require braking. You should be able to find your own fast line through those turns.
Turn 1 is very fast, with a downshift and a 1 pedal brake application two car lengths before the end of the right wall. There is a reference I like to follow getting to the apex that works well. There is a dark line that curves toward the apex. It’s next to my right mirror in the photo. I put my right-side tires at the point where it starts to curve left quickly. Once you get to this point, you should be able to see the apex and will want to keep the left-side tires underneath this line at the apex. You should begin maintenance throttle at the current placement of the car in the photo, and then commit to power at the apex or just past it. Heavier cars will need to brake much harder and earlier, trailing halfway to the apex.
Turn 1 Apex
This is what the Turn 1 apex sight picture looks like.
Brake with a 7 pedal at the “3” board, going down two gears into third. Brake release occurs just past turn-in. The apex is late in the corner at the pointed portion in the curb. Use slow but early hands here to position the car about one car-width off the curb, three-quarters of the way to the apex. Start applying throttle at this point. Be mindful of when you commit to throttle because you will have to compromise the track-out of Turn 3 to get around Turn 4 and set up for Turn 5.
Use third gear with a brake pedal light enough to help the front turn into the corner, but soft enough to keep the platform stable. This corner is one of the most difficult on this track. There are two ways to get around this corner: 1) high and wide on the entry; or 2) taking a slightly shallower entry. The easier of the two is coming in higher to hit a traditional late apex. The latter uses the surface changes where the concrete slabs begin mid-corner to help the car turn. This corner loses grip as the heat increases, so if you are off the apex at all, there is drastically less grip. Keeping it neat and tidy here is crucial to consistency. There is lots of time to be lost and little to be gained.
Fresh asphalt in the braking zone should allow you to begin braking past the first number board in lighter cars and just before it in heavier cars. It’s much smoother than it was originally. This can be either a first- or second- gear turn. Using the entire apex curb here will further help the car turn at the apex. Let the car roll to the center and commit to power as you unwind your hands.
Brake just between the first and second line, or the “4” and “3” boards. Downshift to second, trailing halfway to the apex. Control the brake release in the brake zone to allow enough entry speed for throttle application to happen at the apex and commit after the apex. Watch for track-out bumps because they upset the car when putting power down. You’ll want to track out to within a car width of the curb in lighter slower cars and compromise the track out more in heavier faster cars to get around Turn 11.
You should be off the curb a couple of car-widths in Turn 12 to set up for a straighter braking zone going into Turn 13. Brake with a 5 pedal just past the end of the curb in Turn 12 and about two to three car lengths before the start of the entry curb in Turn 13. Heavier cars will brake earlier and with a heavier pedal. This is an early release just past turn-in. There is a surface change approaching the apex. Early but slow hands are crucial to keeping the car stable on entry. Throttle application occurs just before the apex, committed at or just after the apex, and using all the curb on track out.
This turn is all about entry speed. Brake one to three car lengths past where the grass starts on the left. Downshift to fourth, or third in heavier cars. Early brake release just past turn-in for lighter cars, or trailing lightly all the way to the apex in heavier cars. Throttle application should not occur until you are at the apex or after it. Track out to within a car width of the exit curb to help get around Turn 15a to setup for Turn 16.
On the entry, try to get yourself over the white line at left to widen the radius and get a good run off the corner. Brake just past the end of the curb in Turn 15a. Throttle application occurs half way to the apex and committed approaching or at the apex. Use all of the track out curb on your way to the longest straightaway on the track.
Turn 17 Braking
Brake just at the start of the last blue barrier approaching the point in the wall. This is conservative, but it allows you to control the brake release better and allow for more rolling speed through the center. In heavier cars, you will brake just prior to turn-in.
Turn 17 Approaching Bridge
The next reference I use is on the ground, like in Turn 1, where there is a dark line. Again, it’s next to my right mirror in the photo. I aim to apex the middle to latter half of this curved dark line, which puts me just right of center under the bridge. Throttle application is a couple of car lengths before this point and committed at or just after the bridge. I like to keep the car a little tighter coming off the corner because it helps reduce risk of smacking the wall on exit, which does come up quick if you are not careful. It also helps put power down in the higher-horsepower cars.
Turn 17 Bridge Sight Picture
The current position of the car in the photo is where the bumps start to get worse. If you are a car width to the left, it is much smoother. I like to come across the bumps narrower because it helps me set the car up for a better exit, and I just deal with the bumpy surface because it does not upset the car a lot.
Now put it all together and do it over and over again.
A Lap with Kenton Koch
NASA American Iron
NASA Spec Miata
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