Friday, March 16, 2007

Sebring Notes, Part 3.

Thursday night practice was rain delayed. Now, in road racing it's not like NASCAR - if it rains, so what, you maybe put on rain tires, perhaps engage the wiper(s), and go on racing. This is what separates the men from the boy-racers. Racing in inclement weather has always been some of the most exciting stuff for me - and as a colleague put it, "there's two kinds of sports: Motorsports, and minor sports." Rain is one occasion that makes racing truly special - any sport you can't engage in the rain, is for the weak (and thus, isn't a sport).

However, yesterday's rain was classic Florida rain - so strong was the downpour, I couldn't see past 30 or 40 feet. From my spot in the office, the flag stand is maybe 120' away - and it was completely invisible. The amount of water on the track - on the front-stretch right in front of me - was so deep, the wind was actually making WAVES in it. The only suitable racing at that moment, would've been a Jet-ski race.

So, the traditional Thursday night practice session was delayed by almost an hour, as the safety boffins made drivers and teams (and fans) wait and wait... for 45 minutes, before they set the cars loose on the track. It was a combined practice session, meaning all four classes of cars were out at once. One car, the Konrad Porsche 911 GT3 RS, either had the most dreadful brakes ever, or a driver who was scared shitless. My bet is the latter, as the driver kept locking the brakes entering the hairpin at Turn 7 - a spot where I was shooting still images (and a little bit of motion video) for the first time at night.

One of the coolest things about endurance racing in this country is the fact that you have to have some of the racing - almost certainly the finish in most cases - at night. Shorter 3-4 hour races *can* be started in late afternoon and drift into evening, but it all seems so staged. With a 10-12 hour race, it's a war of attrition and survival of the fittest -- nobody talks about who won the 3-hour race a few years ago; it's always Le Mans, Sebring, Petit, or sometimes Daytona 24. Watching these cars split the darkness with high-powered headlights in white and amber hues, never gets old on me.

Hanging out with PMD yesterday was quite cool. That's the only word I can apply to it: Cool. He's got at least one major manufacturer in the chamber and ready to go with the hydrogen program - and at least one other manufacturer looking to hedge their bets. It's exciting to see all of this coming together right now - and while I can't say too much right now, I can say with some degree of certainty that the future of motorsports will look something like what Peter is working on right now.

He hadn't been to this track in many years - so far back, in fact, that he had to ask me where he would find the Media office. Many of the historic photos on the wall in here, from back in the days of "Le Mans-style" running starts, he was right there with his brother Tony (who was a driver for the Corvette team back then)... he had lots of great memories to share - from a different day, one we'll never quite see in the same way again.

It's now about 09:56 EDT here, and I've got a nice freshly-minted representative from Highcroft Racing begging my attention. Since David Brabham is with the team now, I really should talk with her a bit...

No comments: