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.