Sebring International Raceway is a 3.7-mile road course with 17 official turns. The track is run clockwise.
If you are new to Sebring it helps to remember that all corners in the middle of the lap are slow, late apex right handers (turns 7 through 13), turns 3 and 5 are conservative entry left handers, and the car should hug the walls in the high speed sweepers with the walls adjacent (turns 17 and 1). The higher speed corners (turns 15, 16, 17 and 1) all call for a fairly early entry. Keeping just these four pieces of information in mind will set you up for a decent line and pace around Sebring.
Driving fast at Sebring requires an iteration on all of the above:
- Patience in exit speed corners to get that exit speed up;
- Big vision and aggression in high speed corners to carry maximum momentum;
- Reasoned curb usage as appropriate;
- Trailbraking and left foot braking to shorten braking zones and rotate the car effectively into low speed turns.
Sebring, being flat, I find easier to both learn and drive than three-dimensional tracks like Barber and Road Atlanta.
Turn by Turn
A blind sweeping left, the key in this turn is consistency and confidence. The turn is bumpy; whether the bumpiness is manageable depends on the car. Stiffer cars generally have a harder time in turn 1 but cars with insufficient compression damping for their springs are just as bad.
Turn in point is roughly end of the pit wall on the right. Low power cars will need minimal braking here and may even brake in the turn itself. Cars with more power will have a short braking zone. Low power and high grip cars may forego a downshift in turn 1 and brake with the left foot to get better braking modulation and shorten the braking zone.
It is imperative to get all the way to the inside wall prior to the apex and hug the wall for the middle portion of the turn. High grip cars can go into turn 1 a bit deeper and still make it to the inside wall; medium and low grip cars will need to turn earlier and aim to be at the wall, in the leftmost "lane" on the track, at a point which is visible from the turn in point.
The car should track out to the exit curb at the end of the corner. With more track time it is possible to use the exit curb consistently, and this should be a goal.
This turn should be used to set up for entry into turn 3, meaning the car should be parallel to the right edge of the track past the apex of turn 2. This requires bringing the car track left between turns 1 and 2 - how much depends on the car's power level. Low power cars will need to barely move away from the right edge whereas high power cars will easily be track center between turns 1 and 2.
The slow left, though turn 3 is faster than turn 7. This looks like a slow turn but it is actually rather grippy on the entry and drives somewhat like a medium speed corner. The amount of stick in the braking zone seems to increase quite a bit on R compounds compared to street tires.
In a high grip vehicle one can brake pretty late and trailbrake to get the car rotated into the turn. A medium to low grip vehicle will brake earlier and turn earlier with less lateral Gs.
Overdriving turn 3 will screw up turn 5 and is best avoided.
This is really a transition between turns 3 and 5.
Turn 5 is very similar to turn 3 in how it drives. A good exit from turn 5 is paramount for a good lap time, hence the entry into turn 5 should be conservative. That said it's a rather medium speed corner and carrying momentum into and through it is almost as important as a good exit.
I found that a good entry reference is the right corner of the concrete patch in the turn - right front tire should pass no more than a couple of feet off of it as the car is heading into the turn. Turning in early is common and results in running out of pavement at the exit, or coasting through most of the turn. Low power cars can swing wide right between turns 4 and 5 to get a scandinavian flick type weight transfer going into turn 5, which will help rotate the car and may be sufficient to not brake for turn 5. If braking is needed, go for a slightly later entry which is a straight line and use trailbraking to get the car pointed toward the apex.
Low grip cars may struggle with the asphalt to concrete transition at corner entry.
The apex curb is best avoided, although it should be used in preference to turning away from the corner.
The exit curb, while steep, helps get a couple more miles per hour coming out which is important. The curb looks brutal but there is a way of hitting it in a surprisingly flat fashion. I think the trick is getting almost all of the rotation done prior to the curb and using the curb purely as a pavement extension, not to stop the car sliding off the track. Taken this way, the curb is gentle enough to not present a problem and can be consistently aimed for.
Looking at this photo, the curb is much less steep than what it looks like from inside the car, which is what makes it work. Note that the car has zero steering angle, it is already turning right slightly at that point.
Also known as the Big Bend, this corner is easily taken under full throttle in low and medium power machinery and possibly in high power cars as well.
A slow, late apex right going into a chicane with wide rumble strips on either side. This is the slowest corner on the track. Using both right and left rumble strips straightens the corner enormously and makes up gobs of time on drivers that keep their car to the middle. Trailbraking is crucial in this turn to get the car properly rotated at turn in. This is the only corner on the track where I was using second gear, in large part because the car simply did not rotate enough while in third.
Similarly to turn 3, the pavement going into turn 7 seems to grip a lot more with R compound tires compared to street tires.
Although they are numbered turns, this part of the track is taken under full throttle. High power cars will be tracking out to mid track either between turns 8 and 9 or between turns 9 and 10; low power cars can hug the left edge of the track.
This is somewhat of a rehash of turn 7 but with more speed. It is most definitely a medium speed corner, with the exit being wide enough to allow for quite a bit of speed through the turn. Most DE drivers take turn 10 way too slowly.
Like in turns 3 and 7, the entry in turn 10 tends to be slippery on street tires and improves significantly on R compounds. Track time is the easiest way to get comfortable carrying speed into and through this turn; as you are getting faster, keep in mind that turning in late generally results in missed apex which is bad. Turn 10 at the proper entry speed is a rather early entry corner.
The car should track out all the way to the curb on the left at the exit, which is also almost the apex of turn 11. Low power cars can then use the track width between turn 11 apex and turn 12 to do the turn 11; medium and high power cars may need to lift to get the car oriented toward the turn 12-13 straight depending on the car's grip level.
This turn in my opinion requires the most precision of the entire lap. It's a late apex turn that feels slow but is really not - minimum speed in turn 13 is about 5 mph higher than in turn 10 and 15 mph higher than in turn 7. The challenge is that the apex curb is way too steep to use even for cars that can crush most curbs without too much drama, which my car is certainly capable of.
Exit speed is crucial so a sloppy entry is disastrous, but being overly conservative ruins the lap time just as easily. End of the curb on the left is a good initial turn in point.
This and turn 15 are the only turns with camber to them in the whole lap. The camber eases the turn in and contributes to making the turn faster. It also tends to steer the car over the apex curb, which is best avoided.
Use the exit curb for the extra couple of feet of track width.
A quick blind exit sweeper, this turn has mountains of potential. Confidence and consistency along with vision are again key. The entry is slippery especially if executing a later entry, double so for an unintentionally late entry. Trying to stuff the car into the turn after missing the fairly early turn in point consistently resulted in the rear end stepping out for quality drifting action. I suspect that because of this Miatas - which typically turn in earlier and at higher speeds than higher power cars - obliterate higher power machinery in this corner.
Using the apex curbing can be a good idea, and when taken properly the car should track out all the way to exit curbing on the left. Going over the exit curbing is probably not a wise idea unless the dampers in the car are really good, I would force the car to stay on the pavement instead. Fastest lines through turn 15 make setup for turn 16 challenging but doable. Miatas have minimal power hence they can be muscled around between 15 and 16.
This turn is quite similar to turn 15 in that a very fast entry is possible. Unlike turn 15 this is an exit speed turn, hence the entry should be a little more conservative than that in turn 15. Fortunately there is no track boundary on the left going into turn 16 meaning an ambitious driver can widen turn 16 to match the desired entry and exit speeds.
Low power, high grip cars can take turn 16 without brakes at all by swinging even wider before entry. Medium power cars will be brushing the brakes to lose some speed and settle the front end for the turn.
Exit curb in turn 16 is about 2/3 of a car width and should be used by advanced drivers.
Easily the signature turn of Sebring, this corner is the most difficult one to figure out as well as to execute. There are enormous bumps on the ideal line which cost time as the tires slide sideways plus provide ample opportunities for unwanted oversteer. The best line I've managed is running a diagonal from turn in point through the right edge of the track, starting to brake on this diagonal, allowing the car to come track left to about middle of what other cars are doing, then turning in toward the apex which is adjacent to the wall, hugging the wall for a few car lengths, then tracking out all the way to the wall on the left prior to the main straight beginning. This is a very similar approach to turn 1 except the car goes wide between turn in and apex because the turn is so long.
Wider lines I've tried were all slower although in the earlier sessions I've had other Miatas pull me on the main straight with a wider swing in the middle of turn 17. I was side by side with them through turn 17 though which brings into question whether they were actually faster than me had we both been on clear track.
A faster line through turn 17 would avoid more of the bumps and maintain tires on the pavement for longer. I'm quite certain the speed I lose is due to the car bouncing and sliding sideways as a result around 3/4 of the way into the turn.
Looking at this photo (which I think is an awesome shot by the way), the car is still a good ways off the apex wall and it looks like it's about to fall into the dip. A deeper entry that puts the car another foot inward at the apex should be flatter topographically and therefore faster.
Even though Sebring gets quite slippery in rain I found that dry lines were on the balance best in wet conditions. The added grip from being off the dry lines was not sufficient to cover the reduction of corner radii.
In particular I ran dry lines in turns 7, 10 and 13. Offsetting a car about half a car width in the braking zones for these corners may work, or may be a wash.
The remaining corners I ran with the same lines as in the dry, just slower.
Surprisingly for a track that is famous for its endurance races, Sebring has no fixed showers on the property. Apparently the showers are in trailers that are brought in for individual events.
Apparently the track has no compressed air either although I am not 100% sure on this.
Sebring has a gas station with several grades of fuel available. The closest off-track gas station is about 15 minutes away at the intersection of US-98 and US-27.