America’s oldest and most prestigious road racing track
A legendary 3.7 mile circuit that originated from a World War II airbase called Hendricks Field. Every March, the raceway hosts the Mobil I Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. In 2012, the raceway celebrated the 60th anniversary of the 12-hour classic. The race is now part of the prestigious FIA World Endurance Championship.
The 12-hour classic annually attracts over 150,000 people, including race teams and fans from around the world. Thousands of local residents support this major community event by volunteering their time and expertise, with many civic clubs and groups participating as well. It is not uncommon to see lawyers, bankers, stockbrokers, physicians and others from the community volunteering their services at this major international.
Sebring International Raceway also hosts the Legends of Motorsports event during the first weekend of December, featuring vintage and historic racecars. Other vintage events are held in October and two weeks prior to the 12-hour classic in March. In addition to major racing events, the raceway is busy more than 300 days a year with club events, private testing, racing schools, corporate events, product introductions and various other activities.
The raceway’s Gallery of Legends is operated by the Hall of Fame committee, and is available for rental to organizations and individuals. The Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center, overlooking the track’s famous Hairpin turn, is an independently operated 122 room hotel with meeting facilities and a restaurant.
The first auto race at Sebring was held in 1950, and since that time, some of the greatest cars and drivers in motor racing history have tested, trained and competed at this location. Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Phil Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio and Dan Gurney have all won at Sebring, driving legendary cars built by Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, Maserati, Ford, Nissan, Toyota and others.
The first 12-Hour Race at Sebring, promoted by Alec Ulmann, was held in 1952 and grew in stature, becoming a part of the sports car world championship in 1953. Sebring subsequently became an important venue for automobile manufacturers to test cars and promote their products. In 1959, Sebring International Raceway hosted America’s first Formula One Race, further adding to its international stature in the racing world.
Legendary battles between Ferrari, Porsche, Ford Cobra, Ford GT 40 and the Chevrolet Chaparral occurred in the 1960s, with huge crowds that made these some of racing’s truly great events. The 1970s were a decade of change, with the focus primarily on production cars. The 1980s brought a resurgence of exotic international machinery, with factory involvement returning in full force. A new generation of drivers such as Bobby Rahal, Geoff Brabham and Tom Kristensen rose to prominence with victories at Sebring.
Through it all, Sebring has been “the place” for sports car racing. Celebrities Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, James Brolin, Dick Smothers and Walter Cronkite have driven at Sebring. So have NASCAR legends Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader and Ricky Rudd. Of late, Sebring has become the winter home of Indy Car racing, boasting the most active test facility in North America.
In 1999, Sebring International Raceway was acquired by Don Panoz, owner of the Panoz Motor Sports Organization. Under the Panoz leadership, the Raceway has completed an ambitious expansion program that is unrivaled by any road racing facility in North America. The entire Panoz organization is committed to continuing the Sebring tradition, and to playing an important role in the future development of Sebring and Highlands County. Any trip to Sebring must include a visit to this world-class motor sports complex.
In 2012, Panoz Motor Sports and the ALMS merged with the NASCAR Grand AM Series and we look forward to how it will improve racing in our community and attract an even higher level of competitor to the 12 Hour Classic.