All Set to Go to Sebring


I truly envy people who get excited about traveling. When I see somebody post something on social media like, “OMG, I’m leaving for San Francisco in two days and I HAVEN’T EVEN PACKED!” it makes me want to reply something like, “I’m leaving for Paris in the morning, and I’ll be packing approximately an hour before they close the door on the plane.” After traveling the country for work for over seven years, it’s all old hat for me at this point.

I hate it when people ask me, “Where would you like to go in the US that you’ve never been before?” Mostly, it’s because I hate my jaded, world-weary reply to the question. However, it’s completely true. “I’ve been everywhere.” I’ve been to over forty states. I’ve been to 48 of the 50 largest metro areas in the country, and 97 of the top 100. There isn’t much about travel that excites me any more, frankly.

But…next week is totes different. I’m excited. I’m packing my bag early. I’m doublechecking the contents of it. Because next week, I’m going to Sebring to drive the Shelby GT350R.

Virtually every automotive press outlet already has their GT350 story out, because Ford gave journos four shots at driving it. Most of the bigger outlets picked the first option, which was driving at Laguna Seca a little over a month ago—Car and Driver has their Shelby story on the cover this month. I couldn’t make that one due to a scheduling conflict. After that, one could have picked Road America in the middle of September, Lime Rock at the end of September, or Sebring in the middle of October. I was routinely mocked by everybody, including The Smoking Tire podcast crew, for picking Sebring over Lime Rock. I was concerned, however, that I might end up dealing with wet, rainy, and cold Connecticut fall weather.

Guess what? I was right.

Those that picked Lime Rock were treated to three rainy, wet medium pace laps in the base GT350, and no time at all in the GT350R. Whomp whomp. I, on the other hand, will be getting to drive both cars in typically glorious central Florida weather in the morning on Monday. Not only that, I’ll be driving it at one of the world’s most legendary race circuits. Yes, I’m aware that Sebring is a bit of a dump in the middle of nowhere, a fact that was confirmed for me when I attempted to book my hotel this week (for the record, the closest Starwood property is over an hour away). I’m aware that parts of the course are bumpy as hell, due to the concrete being older than the Second World War. But it’s Sebring. Anybody who’s anybody has raced there. It’s got a history that is completely unique. I’ve “driven” dozens of laps on it in Forza 4. I couldn’t think of any other opportunity I’d ever have to drive there, unlike Lime Rock (which hosts an American Endurance Racing event).

A unique twist to this particular presser is that Ford isn’t paying for hotels or flights. They correctly assumed that outlets would gladly foot their own bill to come pilot the newest Shelby at world-class racing circuits. Luckily for me, I have enough SkyMiles and SPG/Marriott points to fly a family of 12 for a month-long vacation in Fiji, so it didn’t faze me at all.

I was fortunate enough to cruise around NCM Motorsports Park behind the wheel of the GT350R for the Boss vs. GT350 PCOTY article on Road and Track , but this time I will hopefully get to drive it in real anger. I don’t recall signing any waivers or anything about being liable if I crunch it (yes, I’m sure I’m completely liable). I don’t think there’s much to hit at Sebring, anyway—it’s basically a big airfield.

So be sure to turn into TTAC on Tuesday. I have a feeling I will have a good story to tell.

27 Replies to “All Set to Go to Sebring”

  1. HankChinaski

    Chin Motorsports does track days there, if that sort of thing will do it for you, but I’m a mere mortal.
    I paid around 350 bucks back in the 90’s for 2 full days there with another club. Good times.

      • Robert

        Bark – as a compleat noob looking for cheap and easy track time, and who thought Chin might be a good place to start…is there anything I should know?


        • Bark M Post author

          They have perhaps the worst safety record of any track day organization. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but I wouldn’t recommend them. Where is your closest track, Robert?

          • HankChinaski

            Yikes indeed. I did one day with them over a decade ago at Sebring but still get their spam so I mentioned them. Good to know.

          • Reese B

            I appreciate this heads up. I considered a Chin event at Palmer MSP but felt it was too expensive when compared to the value of Trackdaze, which in my experience offers good, safe management for an excellent price.

            Long shot, but as you seem familiar with the Eastern seaboard, have you had any experience with Northeast Track Days?

  2. Brendan McAleer

    Really looking forward to reading this. Were I in the market for a GT350 or GT350R, I’d want your take on it as a somebody who owned and used a Boss in the manner intended.

  3. aoletsgo

    Been to FL too many times to count, but a couple of weeks ago I finished up some work in Jupiter/Stuart and cut across the back roads to see my cuz in Clearwater. I do have to say there is a certain old school charm to Sebring and other central Florida towns that is long gone from both coasts.

  4. Steve Ulfelder

    Sorry about the utter abuse of Comments, but:

    “… but if you are, say, a 45-year-old single elementary-school teacher like every Beetle owner in North America, it’s not a problem …”

    Now THAT’S funny.

    • VolandoBajo

      But what would a 45 year old single lesbian elementary school teacher who wears sensible shoes drive? A Beetle, or a Subaru? Or would she drive the Beetle to school, and the Subaru for camping on the weekends, since she would be a DINK and could afford both?

      Or would she confound the attempts at extrapolation, and drive a fully-tricked out TrailHawk?

  5. VolandoBajo

    It would be “…doesn’t faze me…” not “…doesn’t phase me…” but otherwise, a good pre-trip writeup, and a good choice of events…a good combo of a rational decision with a lot of heart behind it. Yes, Sebring is unique in many ways that Lime Rock will never be. It is living history, and running it in a GT350R will be to become a small part of it.

    And the line about vacationing in Fiji for a month with a family of twelve was a good, funny one.

    But what do you do to amass so many air miles? I imagine something like that George Clooney movie where he flies all over the place doing short term, high dollar, specialized consulting assignments of some sort, not necessarily with a twist like his where he gets paid to inflict misery. Come on, let us have a small look under the hood.

      • VolandoBajo

        You make a good point. Speech to text, plus spell check minus what were once robust grammar checkers, have led to a decline in quality of print output. Though you would think that by now, the pendulum of technology would have swung back to where it could handle such ambiguous homonyms as phase/faze and break/brake. But evidentially, that is not the case.

        But please, don’t dodge the request for a peak into what it is that enables you to rack up all those air miles.

        Otherwise we will all probably think of Clooney, and think that you go around firing people. And I’m fairly sure that what you do is more interesting and valuable than that. But absent info, we can only conjecture. And it is human nature to imagine the worst.

          • VolandoBajo

            Probably the wiser policy.

            But as is said, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back to life.

            But Bark, you baffle; me sometimes. You advocate (rightly, if not totally accurately) that adult males should dress and act like adult males.

            And then we get from you:

            “Next week will be totes different…”

            Urbandictionary’s definition begins with:

            “A shorter more convenient form of the word: totally. This word is most commonly used by teenage girls.”

            Need I say more?

            Though I will still be looking forward to reading your response to your Sebring/GT350 experience, even if I have to brace myself for the occasional phrase from Orange County, CA, in the midst of a car review from an apparently intelligent midwestern adult male.

            To each his own, but it does seem a bit out of left field. Though perhaps it is because I am decades removed from the Midwest…perhaps there is a pocket of the US where the phrase is frequently used by many people from all walks of life, just like some people call a Coke a pop.

            But I doubt it.

          • VolandoBajo

            Right you are. When I am keyboarding rapidly (I can hit 80+ usually without errors), I do have a tendency to occasionally type a homonym of the word I want to use. And I sometimes decide not to proof my writing closely, ergo, peak instead of peek.

            Serves me right for noting Bark’s faze/phase problem.

  6. -Nate

    This sounds a lot of fun ~

    if you wad the car , they must have given you a bad one , or insufficient tire pressure and whatnot , right ? .

    Regardless , we’ll all be here waiting to read all about it .


  7. -Nate

    ” stay out of the wet spots ”

    What about the one in the middle of the bed ? .

    Or the one on the carpet (ew) ? =8-) .



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