There’s No Race Quite Like Sebring for Weird and Wonderful Traditions
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

First-time visitors to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts usually discover it around the time of Friday’s driver autograph session in the Sebring International Raceway paddock, if not before: this race and this place are a little bit … different.

Your first clue is when you see grown men walking around dressed up like cows. A little while later, you find another group of guys dressed like monks. Then it’s a group of Vikings and several other things that reinforce, once and for all, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

“My wife is from Sebring, but wasn’t allowed to go as a kid ‘cause it was too wild,” said No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi Driver Ryan Dalziel. “Her first time there was after she met me.”

This year’s Twelve Hours will be the 66th running of North America’s oldest endurance race. And when you’ve been around that long, traditions are established and take on a life of their own. These traditions are a big part of what makes Sebring, Sebring – and the competitors wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take, for example, the crowd that gathers well inside Sebring’s famed “Green Park.” The party starts just a few minutes after the first camper pulls in Wednesday morning – after weeks of waiting in line to score prime infield real estate. Green Park, which encapsulates the infield area from Turn 5 to Turn 10 is etched in motorsport lore.

“There’s a lot of crazy people and things going on all around the race track,” said defending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring champion Jordan Taylor, who drives the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. “I think everyone needs to walk through Green Park at least once in their life. It is known all around the racing community, and whether you’re a competitor or fan, I think it’s something you need to experience. That’s the real heart of the Sebring 12-hour.”

“Usually in the race, you’ll come down to the Hairpin (Turn 7), and someone has set something on fire,” adds No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R driver Oliver Gavin, a six-time Sebring class winner. “That could be anything from a car to a couch. You see all kinds of vehicles pulling all kinds of trailers behind.”

And while it’s definitely a festive environment, the fans are dedicated, and the drivers have gotten to know some of them over the years. One loyal group some have grown particularly fond of are the fans – young and old – who set up camp each year in Turn 10.

“We usually go out to Turn 10 every year during qualifying,” says No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R driver Jan Magnussen, defending GTLM winner who has five career Sebring victories and is making his 20th start this year. “That’s the most ‘Sebring’ think I experience every year. It’s a great group of people who hang out together each year and have a good time.

“They’re there for the racing and there for the socializing. They even have water fights with our kids, so it’s a great time. I’m looking forward to it again. You see a lot of the same people every year, but you also meet lots of new people.”

“Every year that I’ve raced in the Twelve Hours, I’ve made the trip over to Turn 10 to see the group that sets up there every year,” Taylor adds. “They have a great view from the exit of Turn 7 all the way to the entry of Turn 13, and have this giant scaffolding built so they can all stand and have a better vantage point.

“The group comes from all around the world, so it’s cool to stop by every year and catch up – and of course – collect their new year’s key ring. I’ve had some different teammates over the years, so I now try and bring my new teammates over to really let them experience what Sebring is all about.”

While Green Park may be party headquarters at Sebring, the inhabitants tend to get out and about during race week. The previously mentioned autograph session, which this year takes place in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddock at 11 a.m. Friday, March 16, is one such occasion.

“They’re all great,” said Gavin. “There are cows, monks, and who knows what else?”

“The monks and the cows are cool, but my favorite are the Vikings,” said 2017 GT Daytona (GTD) class winner Ben Keating, who returns this year in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3. “I mean, Vikings are warriors. Sebring is a battle. I feel like the Vikings represent the Sebring culture best of all.”

“My personal favorite Sebring tradition, however, is the giant race car with stadium seating that cruises around the infield. I am pretty certain they took the box off an old RV or something, installed the stadium seating, and put a giant rendering of a race car on both sides. I think this is the ultimate fan transportation and represents the love of Sebring fans.”

That giant race car has a name.

“La Bomba!” exclaims Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan, who was deeply moved the year he saw it festooned in Velocity Yellow and full Corvette C7.R regalia. “La Bomba was any number of things, but when La Bomba rode by and it was the yellow C7 Corvette race car, we realized that we had reached the pinnacle of success at Sebring.

“When you can get recognized by La Bomba, that’s as good as it gets. That’s probably more important than winning the race.”

It’s a feeling that Keating wants to experience himself.

“I don’t know what race car it will be this year, but I think having the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 represented on this rig would be the pinnacle of awesomeness,” he said. “Hint, hint: I would even participate!”

To see this year’s “livery” on “La Bomba,” or visit with the cows, monks, Vikings or any other Sebring fans, tickets are available now at If you can’t make it in person, live FOX Sports television coverage begins Saturday, March 17 at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1.