Tag Archives: Sebring International Raceway

Mazda MX-5: 3,000+ Mile Spring Break Road Trip South in a Miata, from New Jersey to Florida

Question: “Is Mazda MX-5 Miata a good Road Trip car?”

Answer: Yes, absolutely!

I have found first hand how good my little red sports car was for the little Spring Break Road Trip down the Eastern seaboard from NJ to Florida. My goal was to marshal the Grand Prix of St. Pete and Sebring 12 hour, but what I ended up doing was much more than that. I got to visit several more circuits including Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL and Roebling Road in Savannah, Georgia. And I got to enjoy a ton of foodie experiences along the way, which is probably the best way to make a long trip in a Miata really comfortable. The trick is making sufficient stops along the way to not get tired or bored of the drive.

I also kept a little game going trying to play with my fuel mileage and finding most reasonable fuel prices along the way. I relied on an app called Gas Buddy which helped a lot considering the spread for fuel prices for 91-93 octane Premium fuel was vast, from $1.90 in the Northern States to $3,00/gallon in Southern states. I’ve found out that even from the same brand gas station, not all fuels were performing comparatively. I got better gas mileage sometimes from Speedway gas stations than I did from BP, Exxon or Sunoco.

Although not very scientific I created this spreadsheet of all 15 of my fill ups, including price paid, amount of fuel used, and MPG #’s:

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida fuel strategy and gas mileage

But enough about strategy the key attraction for me was sightseeing

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south central florida region scca at sebring

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida sebring international raceway

Sebring was the farthest point South I’ve driven my MX-5 Miata yet, I always wanted to get a shot of the car with the track. Daytona International Speedway was another, I’m happy to accomplish both!

mazda mx-5 day trip to daytona international speedway 2

On the drive back I had some time to kill since my plan was to spend the night in South Carolina at a fellow marshal’s home (who wouldn’t get out of work until about 5’ish which gave me plenty of time to be a tourist while driving up). So I visited Roebling Road in Savannah, GA on the drive up.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida roebling road savannah georgia

And that was as far as racetracks went on the trip. I did drive right past Darlington Motor Speedway (and Raceway, and Dragway) but that was around 5 o’clock in the morning and way too dark to take pictures anyway.

The rest of the trip was devoted to general sightseeing. Every time I’m in that part of Georgia I love visiting Savannah and Tybee Island.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south tybee island savannah georgia

And believe it or not, I have yet to take a single picture of me in my car until now, I offered to take a photo for some tourists at the sign and they returned the favor for me to take this shot :

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south tybee island savannah georgia russ

Of course the main reason to visit Tybee Island is for it’s incredible seafood at The Crab Shack, which is exactly what I did.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south tybee island savannah georgia crab shack

The food wasn’t particularly cheap, and the portions were kind of small, but you couldn’t beat the experience of freshness. Worth it!

Food therefore was a major theme on my Road Trip, and an integral part of keeping me entertained and enthusiastic about the drive (read: not bored!).

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida watering hole sebring

On our very first night in Sebring, Nancy Digh organized a nice marshal welcoming party at the Cowpokes Watering Hole in Sebring. I had a fantastic Brisket Bacon Burger there.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida watering hole sebring brisket burger

But my favorite meal at Sebring (besides what the spectators fed us at turn 13) was at the Palm Diner trying their seafood belly buster:

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida palm diner belly buster

My most favorite meal in Florida thought was in Lake Worth while Couchsurfing. My host took me to a little hole-in-a-wall place called Cherry Pocket Steak & Seafood where I had an awesome meal.

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida cherry pocket steak & seafood fish

The appetizer was really my favorite. We had gator bites while sitting on a patio looking over a lake looking directly at a small alligator sunning itself out of the water. The salad that came with it had the most awesome strawberry flavored sauce, finger licking good!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida cherry pocket steak & seafood gator bites

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south to florida airboats and seaplanes

Only in Florida where you can arrive at the restaurant by car, seaplane or air boat.

Driving further north my buddy Ben took me to Redbone Alley  serving an amazing dish of Grits and Catfish… very southern!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south grits and catfish florence south carolina

Even chain food in North Carolina was delicious, Bojangle’s famous biscuit and gravy, cajun chicken and sweet tea were sooooo good!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south biscuit and gravy cajun chicken sweet tea bojangles

Virginia and Pennsylvania welcomed me with an even faster fast-food option right at the gas station: Sheetz and their delicious sliderz and chicken strips tossed in Dr.Pepper BBQ sauce… Yum!

Long story short, the Road Trip in a Miata becomes not just bearable but extremely enjoyable when you take your time and enjoy the sites, try the local foods and enjoy yourself when you can.

After making it home I went ahead and swapped my Winter BFG’s that now have about 4.5k miles on them for Summer BFG’s with 0 miles on them and am looking forward to taking another Road Trip soon…. stay tuned!

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south wheel swap winter for summer

mazda mx-5 spring break road trip south wheel swap winter for summer bfg

Sebring 12h 2016 Debrief

This year’s Sebring 12 hour was one of my most enjoyable events I’ve done recently. So many things went right I couldn’t believe my luck and certainly took it all in with pleasure.

Sebring was the second stop on my trip to Florida following the GP of St. Pete. I wasn’t in a particular rush to drive down to Sebring as the weather in St. Petersburg was amazing and me and my CouchSurfing host went to the beach enjoying the sun. But after arriving and setting up my tent (I dread camping whenever I have to) it wasn’t half bad. I was surrounded by friends and we took advantage of the opportunity to spend time together, go out for some drinks and dinners and generally have a good time.

The weather cooperated nicely for the start of the event right until race day. But even then I was very much prepared having packed all my weather gear and having a few pairs of shoes to change into in case it got to that point, luckily I stayed very dry. I’m also happy they red flagged the race for lightning because I definitely saw a few bolts connecting, looking out from our station towards the airport.

So all in all a great time. My corner captain Larry Joseph Morgan or Captain Morgan for short, was really amazing. I enjoy his management style and working with him and the whole team was a breeze, natural and enjoyable. Nobody was budding heads, nobody arguing, things went smoothly and efficiently. Like they should.

I had a few opportunities to make it down to the paddock and even check out the pits during the IMSA feature group’s practice session, which was amazing. One of the Mazda crew invited me to take a closer look and take some shots of the Mazda LMP2 pit stop… I truly enjoyed that opportunity. I’ll definitely keep Sebring on my to-do list for the future. In the meantime, enjoy the pix:

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 blue and yellow flags

Turn 13 while pretty straight forward was quite challenging for a number of race groups, especially the Porsche GT3 Cup, we had a number of cars spin, slide off and bury it into the tire wall.

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 don't feed the monkeys

Some interesting signage from previous year’s race, which we modified slightly:

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 monkey sign modified

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 feed the monkeys

And luckily the spectators camping besides our station were happy to oblige. We got fed by multiple groups of spectators which was especially awesome. Some delicious food to be sure. The BBQ pork and ribs were especially appetizing.

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 spectators feeding marshals bbq

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 spectator bbq

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 amazing food

Certainly beat the lunches we were provided by track services.

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 scca number signaling cheatsheet

The SCCA number signaling system which I had confused in a bad way for St. Pete by switching where the location for #1 and #3 signals are. Luckily Nancy Digh corrected me (but I still found myself struggling to remember it when it counted).

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 flooded apex rain storm lightning

The race got a little dicey with water collecting in our apex, but NASCAR did a great job blowing it off the track.

sebring 12h 2016 turn 13 flooded apex rain storm lightning ford gtlm

Best part was checking out the paddock:

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk mazda lmp2 paddock

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk mazda lmp2 1 paddock

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk patron esm lmp2

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk ferrari 488 gtd

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk ford gtlm 1 paddock

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk ford gtlm paddock

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk corvette c7r gtlm

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk bmw m6 gtd paddock

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk bmw m6 gtlm  paddock

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk bmw historics paddock

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk skip barber miata

The dummy grid for the support races:  (lots of Miazda’s!)

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk false grid miata freedom autosport

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk false grid miata trumpf

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk false grid miata

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk gt3 cup porsche 911

HSR group brought some neat cars like ex-DTM Audi, and a fire-breathing Porsche turbo:

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk historics audi a4 dtm

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk historics porsche turbo

Of course checking out pit lane during practice was incredible:

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk deltawing elan

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk ford gtlm

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk ferrari 458 and pc

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk lamborghini huracan chevy corvette c7r

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk mazda lmp2

This year’s Sebring 12 hour was a blast, to be sure!

sebring 12h 2016 pit lane walk sebring

Expanding my Wish List This Year to Marshal the St. Pete GP & Sebring 12h

I am seriously considering registering as a marshal to volunteer this year’s St. Petersburg Grand Prix followed immediately by the Sebring 12 hour in Florida. Best events to marshal are those that you can do back-to-back and it doesn’t get better than this schedule in March including a street race in a beautiful Gulf Coast Florida town overlooking Tampa Bay as well as one of the most iconic endurance races in the US that is Sebring 12 hours of IMSA racing.

The last time I marshaled in Florida I had less than great time, especially the time before the last time. This involved getting kicked out of my station during the Daytona 24 hours in January of 2013. But I’m over it now and if they let me come back – that is the CFR – Central Florida Region SCCA club that staffs both of these pro-races including IndyCar at St. Pete and IMSA at Sebring, I’d be happy to return.

I would love to actually drive down for this event and do a little bit of recon work to see if I could make the move to Florida in 2016. I realize waiting and hoping for something to happen will actually never make anything happen, so this would be a good opportunity to take the first step towards this move.

Well, fingers crossed!

How I would go about compiling a “Pro” Marshal’s Handbook

The SCCA Marshal Handbook is 30 pages long. It covers most of the basic rules for club racing, but does little to help a marshal working a “Pro” event especially one sanctioned by the FIA, IMSA, IndyCar, etc.

So to supplement the current lack of actual pre-event training (if you work club events you get really good with club rules which are different than individual series rules) I will compile a Handbook to help those marshals interested in working “Pro” events.

First I must identify what pro events there are on 2015 calendar.

They are:

F1 – Circuit of the Americas, TX (10/25)
MotoGP – Circuit of the Americas, TX (4/12)
MotoGP – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IN (8/9)
WEC – Circuit of the Americas, TX (9/19)
SBK – Laguna Seca, CA (7/19)
Formual E – Miami, FL – 3/14
Formula E – Long Beach, CA – 4/4

IndyCar – St Petersburg, FL (3/29)
IndyCar – NOLA Motorsports Park, LA (4/12)
IndyCar – Barber Motorsports Park, AL (4/26)
IndyCar – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IN (5/9)
IndyCar – Detroit Belle Isle, MI (5/31)
IndyCar – Toronto, ON (6/14)
IndyCar – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, OH (8/2)
IndyCar – Sonoma Raceway, CA (8/30)

TUSC – Daytona International Speedway, FL (1/24)
TUSC – Sebring International Raceway, FL (3/21)
TUSC – Long Beach, CA (4/18)
TUSC – Laguna Seca, CA (5/3)
TUSC – Belle Isle, MI (5/30)
TUSC – Watkins Glen International, NY (6/28)
TUSC – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, ON (7/12)
TUSC – Lime Rock Park (7/25)
TUSC – Road America, WI (8/9)
TUSC – Virginia International Raceway, VA (8/23)
TUSC – Circuit of the Americas, TX (9/19)
TUSC – Road Atlanta, GA (10/3)

PWC – Circuit of the Americas, TX (3/8)
PWC – St Petersburg, FL (3/29)
PWC – Long Beach, CA (4/19)
PWC – Barber Motorsports Park, AL (4/26)
PWC – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, ON (5/17)
PWC – Road America, WI (6/28)
PWC – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, OH (8/2)
PWC – Miller Motorsports Park, UT (8/23)
PwC – Sonoma Raceway, CA (8/30)
PWC – Laguna Seca, CA (9/13)

AMA – Circuit of the Americas, TX (4/12)
AMA – Road Atlanta, GA (4/19)
AMA – Virginia International Raceway, VA (5/17)
AMA – Road America, WI (5/31)
AMA – Barber Motorsports Park, AL (6/14)
AMA – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IN (8/9)
AMA – NJMP, NJ (9/13)
AMA – Laguna Seca, CA (7/19)

NASCAR – Sonoma Raceway, CA (6/28)
NASCAR – Watkins Glen International, NY (8/9)
NASCAR – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, OH (8/15)
NASCAR – Road America, WI (8/29)
NASCAR – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, ON (8/30)

Trans Am – Sebring International Raceway, FL (3/1)
Trans Am – Homestead-Miami Speedway, FL (4/12)
Trans Am – Road Atlanta, GA (5/9)
Trans Am – Lime Rock Park, CT (5/23)
Trans Am – NJMP, NJ (6/14)
Trans Am – Brainerd International Raceway (9/27)
Trans Am – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, OH (8/15)
Trans Am – Road America, WI (8/29)
Trans Am – Virginia International Raceway, VA (9/27)
Trans Am – NOLA Motorsport Park, LA (10/11)
Trans Am – Circuit of the Americas, TX (11/8)
Trans Am – Daytona International Speedway, FL (11/14)

Ferrari Challenge – Daytona International Speedway, FL (1/25)
Ferrari Challenge – Homestead-Miami Speedway, FL (3/8)
Ferrari Challenge – Sonoma Raceway, CA (4/26)
Ferrari Challenge – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, QC (6/7)
Ferrari Challenge – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, ON (7/26)
Ferrari Challenge – Mont Tremblant, QC (9/13)
Ferrari Challenge – Laguna Seca, CA (11/1)

Lamborghini Super Trofeo – Laguna Seca, CA (5/1)
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – Watkins Glen International, NY (6/26)
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – Virginia Int’l Raceway, VA (8/21)
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – Circuit of the Americas, TX (9/17)
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – Road Atlanta, GA (10/1)
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – Sebring Int’l Raceway, FL (11/19)

Seems like a lot of stuff going on, but if you narrow it down by circuits you only get 20 circuits, 17 in the US and 3 in Canada:

Circuit of the Americas, TX
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IN
Laguna Seca, CA
Sonoma Raceway, CA
NOLA Motorsports Park, LA
Barber Motorsports Park, AL
Mid-Ohio Sporst Car Course, OH
Homestead-Miami Speedway, FL
Daytona International Speedway, FL
Sebring International Raceway, FL
Virginia International Raceway, VA
Road America, WI
Road Atlanta, GA
Miller Motorsports Park, UT
Watkins Glen International, NY
Lime Rock Park, CT
New Jersey Motorsports Park, NJ
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, ON
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, QC
Mont Tremblant, QC

And 5 temporary or street circuits, of which 4 are in the US and 1 in Canada:

St, Petersburg, FL
Miami, FL
Long Beach, CA
Detroit Belle Isle, MI
Toronto, ON

Once you take into consideration that many “Pro” events act as support races for other “Pro” events on the same weekend at the same track, the calendar is reduced even further. Therefore further simplification and narrowing down is required.

Second I would use event information to identify the organizers:

They are:

Circuit of the Americas, TX
Virginia International Raceway, VA
Miller Motorsports Park, UT

…and possibly other clubs or tracks that organize their own marshals.

Third I would compile procedural information for each series.

This information includes:

Flag Rules including Light Panel Instructions/Procedures
Full Course Yellow Procedure and Restarts
Communication Guidelines
Response Rules, including vehicle specific info like Hybrid systems kill switches, extinguisher switches, tow procedure, lifting of vehicle, and general differences between open wheel, sports car, or moto events.

Fourth I would compile available supplemental info for each series.

That includes:

Spotter Guides
Vehicle Distinguishing Features Info/Class System
Driver List / Number / Names
Team Information
Series Information, etc.

Fifth and final section I would compile pertinent track information.

General description of each Road Course
General description of each Street Course
Specific information unique to each facility.
Any pertinent information for marshals like morning meetings, locations, lunches, where equipment is kept, flags/fire bottles,  etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of information for the “Pro” Marshal’s Handbook, but it is a good outline of where to start. I would envisage that with each year information would be updated as necessary – whether added or deleted. However, all in all it would be a solid point of reference for anyone using the Handbook at any “Pro” event they choose to volunteer without alienating one club over another, one series over another or one circuit over another.

This is also something that does not currently exist.

Tudor United SportsCar – The First Year

2014 has been a good year even though I had drastically cut back on the number of events I participated in previously. I still managed to volunteer six races for the top sports car racing series in America including five Tudor United SportsCar Championship events, all four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship races and six Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, Circuit of the Americas and Road Atlanta.

daytona prototype road america petit le mans

So what can be said about the first year of TUSC. Was it a huge success? A miserable failure? Probably something in the middle. It certainly wasn’t American Le Mans Series (ALMS) or the Grand-Am series that it replaces. The hybrid of both seemed to unfairly favor some and alienate others. Daytona Prototypes vs. Le Mans Prototypes P2 class is an obvious example. But since I know little about classification and enjoy the races from a marshaling perspective I won’t say much more about that. The GT races were outstanding. But unlike previous years where I managed to do up to six ALMS and Grand-Am events each, many close to my home at Lime Rock, NJMP and Baltimore. The most I could scrape together this year was six of the combined series, and it required significant travel. I’m not happy losing local events. But such is life.

My favorite part about the new series was the large fields of cars participating at most events. It’s a sentiment I seem to share with a number of other marshals I have spoken with. Some of the racing was quite good too, especially later on in the season. Though the (Im)Balance of Performance really undermined the authenticity of pure racing.

We really seem to suffer badly from the lack of marshals at each of the six events I’ve done for the series, and I could only blame IMSA for that. Sure the local tracks are responsible for recruiting people, and the local SCCA regions fail to provide sufficient numbers required (to give breaks to workers, especially at long endurance events) it is terribly unsafe and dangerous in my opionion. But I feel it’s up to IMSA to generate interest in motorsport volunteering and just as importantly train the people that participate to live up to the expectations IMSA has. IMSA is very different from SCCA and it’s absolutely silly for them to expect the few people that volunteer to read their corner books (which are distributed to the captains every morning) with the outlined differences between club and IMSA rules and actually follow through with the requirements. Most people volunteering see the spotter guide for the first time, and even those aren’t current until the last day: Race Day! It may cost a little bit of money to recruit and train us as marshals, but for a multi-million dollar industry and as such – international series, it’s a drop in the bucket to make us amateurs look professional at their events. And we need it! I’ve seen some real doozies this season, ridiculous requests like refusing to wear COTA’s blue suits that make all marshals look the same (and therefore professional) vs. mismatched whites, wear what you brung sort of thing which ended up actually happening. Or fundamental undermining of the whole idea to marshal pro events, where experienced marshals and evangelists for club racing promote SCCA club events vs. our top national series, which makes little sense. Everywhere else in the world people strive to volunteer the top events, it gives them a target to work towards. Something to accomplish. In the US the opposite seems to happen, the attitude appears to be: “it’s easier to work club events… wake up later, shorter hours…. free beer”  There’s also the clash of personalities and everyone doing their own thing because that’s what they do at their home region so that’s their way. Instead of pulling together towards a common goal, everyone pulls in a different direction.

I am looking forward to next year’s championship. Though like many of the racers I will probably cut back on my participation and focus on other domestic and international series like Pirelli World Challenge and World Endurance Championship in Europe.