Sebring: the WEC’s American home
The pride and passion of the WEC’s American hosts make Sebring an experience to savour
Within five minutes of arriving at Sebring International Raceway, you are left in no doubt about the passion and pride that this historic venue instils in everyone who works at the venue or lives in the nearby area.
It is now more than 70 years since the former Hendricks Army Field, a training base for strategic bomber crews during World War 2, was repurposed by aviation engineer Alec Ullman as a civilian airfield and racetrack.
The first race meeting at Sebring was held over six hours on the last day of 1950 and, on March 15 1952, this pioneering event was followed by the first ever 12 Hours of Sebring. Fast forward to the 1953 and the second edition of the race, held on March 8, hosted the inaugural round of the FIA World Sportscar Championship, the ancestor of today’s FIA WEC.
Then as now, the familiar names of Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche were prominent when World championship endurance racing took place in Florida. Another tradition that has been continued is the presence of the sport’s greatest drivers, with the roll of winners including Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, John Surtees and Mario Andretti among many others.
On March 15 2012, the worldwide sport of endurance racing celebrated the launch of its new flagship series, the FIA WEC, at this storied venue. Victory fell to the Audi R18 TDI of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello to mark another all-star victory in the WEC’s opening chapter.
In 2019, the WEC returned to Sebring with a new race format over a distance of 1000 miles, teaming up with America’s IMSA sportscar series to create the Super Sebring weekend. The first edition brought victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing and its number 8 entry of Sébastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kawuki Nakajima before the Covid pandemic brought a pause in the story.
This year the Super Sebring weekend returns and brings with it the FIA WEC season opener in the series’ tenth anniversary year. Fittingly, the Grand Marshal for the event will be none other than Jacky Ickx, officiating 50 years after his victory at Sebring driving for Ferrari.
He will find the venue as welcoming as ever, with each member of the staff delighted to see the return of their biggest event of the year and going out of their way to make the visitors feel at home.
A packed house of motorsport fans creating and soaking up the unique Sebring atmosphere will provide the finishing touch to what promises to be a fantastic celebration of endurance racing.