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Old 02-21-2005
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sydude sydude is offline
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Talking Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

This weekend, 75 racers from the Southern, Western, Master's Nationals and Eastern Series descended upon the town of Sebring FL and created the biggest Skippy weekend in 3+ years. In return, Sebring brought us all the most glorious weather and Skip Barber delivered the best racing experience anywhere.

Todd, Steve and all of the Skippy guys did an amazing job handling so many groups and so many races, especially considering how many cars we wrecked (ahem..). Thank you for everything you guys do. It was also great to see so many new racers there, and to see how much fun they had. I think Skippy just found itself a whole bunch of newly addicted customers.

And for me, personally, this was an incredibly enjoyable and gratifying weekend. I had the most ridiculously fun lapping sessions ever (thank you to Matt F. and Peter), I laughed my ass off all weekend to the comedic genius of Matt V., we survived (barely!) the culinary disaster of Zeno's, I had 3 great races, and best of all, I got to do all of these with so many great friends.

Can't wait to do it again. Thank you Skippy.

S

Last edited by sydude; 02-21-2005 at 11:51 PM.
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Old 02-21-2005
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kwlorentzen kwlorentzen is offline
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Thanks for the Synopsis SY! I'll be looking for those pictures and videos so those of us who couldn't go can share in the fun
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Old 02-22-2005
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Sy:
A great week-end indeed. Most impressive to me was: [1] SBRS ability to handle so many racers almost flawlessly on a track that is obviously murder on the cars [extra kudos to Ryan’s boys]; [2] The very high number of high caliber drivers [that makes the whole event more exciting and worthwhile]. By the way, I have a video that proves one can be 3 second a lap slower and still lead a race [just long enough to take a deep breath]. How do I post to the site? Dom.
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Old 02-22-2005
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JonMiller JonMiller is offline
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Sebring was an absloute BLAST! I struggled on what I consider my "home" track, but it was a learning experience for me, and the Memorial made up for my tough race weekend. That was my first memorial race and it was so much fun, who knows why I waited until now to run one. Who's coming back down for the 12 hours? I'll be back at Sebring this weekend doing an SCCA event in a Spec Racer Ford... can't get enough. Heh.
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Old 02-22-2005
NickS NickS is offline
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

It was a great weekend - hats off to all the Skippy guys - especially the mechanics!!!

However given my performance I was thinking about switching sports and joining the 24-hour bike crew (for those not at Sebring there was a 24-hour bike ride there that started and finished at the track at 6.30 am!!) - but on the other hand I will probably suck at that as well - so see you in Daytona!!
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Old 02-23-2005
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

I never thought I’d get bounced around so much in a race car – the charm of Sebring. Indeed, until recently I never imagined that such an experience existed. And now I’m compelled to find my way back to Sebring to race again. I can’t wait, but I said the same thing about Laguna. Is this a trend? I hope… yes!

I learned a lot about racing this weekend, including that starting from the back at Skippy can be a good thing, “Why are all the other cars going so slow?” Held P3 for about 45 seconds as podium dreams entered and existed my mind faster than my spinning car in 17. I should have known better. Next time. Next time. Next time. Really, next time!

Thanks to Sy for advice that shaved seconds off my lap times. Well worth the beers that I owe you!
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Old 02-23-2005
SteveOrlando SteveOrlando is offline
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Hi Guys,
I had a great weekend - my first time in a Skippy Car in two years. Thanks for the warm reception. Dom and John, my two mentors, did a spectacular job of making sure that I missed very little (except for the apex at T3).

See you again soon...

Steven Piantieri
P. S. Zenos sucks.
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Old 02-23-2005
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Deffinitely my best weekend. Can't really ask for more than you first win to fall on your birthday! Now I just need to figure out how to make the top step of the podium a regular destination...
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Old 02-24-2005
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Other than finding my life partner (Vicki) and witnessing the birth of our daughter Julia, I doubt I’ve enjoyed anything on the planet more than I enjoyed our racing at Sebring this past week. A standing ovation for the entire Skippy team as they really worked their tails off to make it a success.

The learning curve was steep, the coaching and feedback outstanding, and the Skippy mechanics were Herculean.

Pit lane coordinator, Saab lover, gentle giant racer and designated javelin catcher, Steve DeBrecht pushed and prodded us through the pit lane process with just the right balance of whip, humor and fairness, resulting in the vast majority of those 75 drivers being in cars and on track exactly when they were supposed to be!

Ryan Case & his dedicated crew kept an even strain when the pressure was on and, while we were enjoying our dinner each night, would revive the days dirty broken down mechanical rolling junk piles into shiny, equally performing racecars overnight. They not only had to fix a slew of faulty clutches on top of all the other stuff we broke, but, they also had to constantly check and tighten each car due to Sebring's punishing bumpy track surface. They deserve an extra trailer full of new racecars (with better clutches) as a thank you.

Randy and all the coaches never missed a beat with quality feedback after every session. Beyond the feedback, I was impressed with the simple logistics of coaches rotating to different corners while keeping the car numbers of 75 different drivers straight!

Jim Pace and Gregg Borland probably got more seat time than most Sebring 12 hour participants will get, while testing all those repaired machines we were breaking, crashing and squaring the tires on. It was truly an honor having someone of Jim's racing pedigree leading us into battle with the pace car.

Nick Nick (Nicholson) did his usual masterful job in race control. If you've never seen Nick in action behind the scenes, you can't fully appreciate how closely and carefully our safety is being monitored every second we are on track. The added bonus is Nick's public address blah blah that makes us smile and sends us home as happy boys and girls even when we don't win the race.

To Todd, Courtney, Linda, Ashlei and all the coaches, mechanics and staff I failed to list here, Thank You all big time for going the extra mile to make the magic happen.

As for racing…

Sy's devotion to being among the fastest of the fast continued with a vengeance as he first chased Peter L. around Sebring (Who couldn't stay for the race weekend) before the "King-O-Sebring", Craig D. and Matt V. arrived and upped the ante. In race one on Saturday the affectionately named "Three Muscatel’s" took off nose to tail with Sy nipping at their heels. An early bobble dropped Sy back a few car lengths, and to his credit, without the benefit of the draft on those long straights, he more or less maintained that distance to the end. The "Three Muscatel’s" put on a racing clinic, while pushing and prodding each other, right at the limit, through the entire race. You could have thrown a single wine label over all three as they crossed the finish line less than a second apart. K-O-S first, Craig D. second and Matt V. third. Laura Rowe drove an outstanding race passing David Libby for fourth. Sy finished on the podium in Sunday's race when Matt V went off in turn one. Sy finished with arms pumping right on the heals of the "King"! Great job Sy.

Having never seen the track before, Jim Craige arrived Friday morning and adapted quickly, finishing with a very respectable ninth on Saturday in the toughest field of the weekend, while also setting a personal best lap time in the process. Phobos was his usual shy timid self :-) at dinner each night, but the track and equipment were not being kind to him. He had a car that may have been down on power (confirmed by another fast driver who also couldn’t get it up to speed.) and an up close and personal visit with the turn 17b retaining wall. It was typical of David to be more excited about the on-track battle he'd just been in, than upset over his retaining wall indiscretion. Chris Weldon, who also showed up on Friday with no previous Sebring experience, finished 7th on Saturday in his fast Sportsman field with very good times and only two practice sessions under his belt. And Nick Price got as high as 2nd position in his Sunday race before having a spin (Did I get that right Nick…?)

Quote of the week goes to Dom Bastien and his resonant French accent, as he went down the list to summarize his chances against the formidable racers in his group.

"Tailpipe... Tailpipe... Tailpipe... Tailpipe... (pause...) Won't even see his tailpipe! Tailpipe... Tailpipe... Tailpipe..." :-) I know Dom was very fast through 17 though!

( Late Update: Dom got the last laugh with his performance on Sunday where he reminds me in the post after this one, "By the way, in race 2, I went from P11 to P1 at the start/finish, so everyone got to see my tailpipe, if only for a fleeting moment.") Standing O Dom. Sorry for the oversight.

Hats off to anyone who arrived on Friday having never seen the track and managed to both learn it and race well after only one day of practice.

My history in qualifying had been problematic. Two race weekends, two spins in qualifying, two starts from the back of the field. At dinner on Friday, out of the blue, Dom turned to me and said, "What is your first priority during qualifying tomorrow?!" I knew exactly what he was getting at and smiled, "Have a clean session!" and we laughed. This time I kept it clean and did manage my first spin-less qualifying session. Turned out to be good enough for second place in Sportsman group one. Jim Pace was also very helpful with qualifying strategy.

To this point I'd only focused on driving the track and racecar properly. Now the strategy of running at or near the front had to be considered as well. It was a nice problem to have. Clean, smooth, fast, relaxed, were all good words to mentally associate with the run… and winning wasn’t a bad thing to think about either. Jack Aten was on pole. He was a bit faster than I was, rock solid and more experienced. At the green flag Jack held the inside line around turn one and I slotted in behind him. Jay Fuchs took a look on the outside into 1 but dropped back in behind me and we stayed in that order in fairly close proximity the entire race. At about lap three the clutch pedal went soft and wouldn't disengage for downshifts. The day before I'd heard someone say they'd done most of qualifying without the clutch so I knew it was possible to continue but I had never practiced it. So for the next lap and a half, I took the self-taught clutch-less shifting crash course (so to speak) while Jay Fuchs swatted at my tailpipe. Jack pulled away a bit but as I became more comfortable and confident with the clutch-less downshift (Didn’t Erica Jong write about that in “Fear of Flying”? ;-) I was able to make up some ground on him. They waved the white flag and I pulled up close to Jack around turn one. At turn three the shift from 4th to 3rd gear went fine but it took three or four tries to get it into 2nd gear. By that time I was late for turn in and lost the rhythm of the left right transition into 4. I was still close to Jack and had hoped to have a run at him down into the hairpin but I was pushing too hard and turned into the carousel too early while trying to get that run. When I realized I was too early with too much power I tried to feather the throttle but the back end started to come around. I went back to throttle but my correction was too late and the back end continued all the way around. The car stopped, high sided on the inside rumble strip facing traffic where I watched Jay, who had been patiently waiting for just such a moment, motor on by into second place. I tried to restart but with no clutch it would only lurch in 2nd gear like a cat with a hairball. I sat there for the longest 25 seconds of my life waiting for the rest of the field to arrive. Wow, this wasn't the way I wanted to find out how big a lead we had built up. Then I had a 2nd opportunity to waive at everyone as they rolled by on their cool down lap. So it goes.

Starting up front, running with the leaders and overcoming the clutch problem was a thrill. The two hardest moments were sitting on the rumble strip realizing all the folk who had been coaching, rooting and advising me all week, would not see me finish, and also during the awards ceremony when Matt Varsha stood in for Jay Fuchs and held up that 2nd place cup in front of the historic Sebring start/finish line. So it went.

After the race I enjoyed sharing my experience with the Skippy coaches who'd all been there, done that, and wore the smiling grimaces of recognition at having a good run go for naught.

Sunday's race was big fun as we started 13th, made it to 8th by the 2nd lap, 5th by the 2nd lap and 4th on the 4th lap. (Thanks to Gerardo and Sy for the starting tips!) On lap 7 I spun and stalled it in 17, losing 4th position to George Ebel. Chris Brassard caught and passed me and we had a wonderful back and forth battle until the last lap when, while leading Chris through 17, I bobbled again and he was able to drive by to take 5th place. It was the polar opposite of the previous day when there hadn't been a single pass the whole race. Chris and I are looking forward to exchanging in-car video's on Sunday's race. Chris also beat me with minimal track time and earns a bow down for that.

I was given the highly dubious honor of starting the Johnny Carson Memorial from the pole. That's like being lead mouse into the snake pit. You know you're going to be eaten; it’s just a question of how long it will take for ‘em to get around to you. Knowing that Sy was starting from the back and wouldn't be waiting for the green flag, I started the field early enough to give Jim Pace windburn as we blew past the pace car. :-) Now, at least I can say I've led a race... across the start finish line. My goal was to preserve that lead for one full lap. Almost made it, ‘till Laura Rowe slipped by into 17 and took the honors for lap one. (Damn she’s quick!) Then I was given a life's lesson in being passed early and often as so many arrived so quickly and demonstrated passing opportunities I never knew existed. I was taking notes however and will put them to good use down the road. Also learned a thing or two about defensive driving, not that I was doing much of it, but I now have a much greater experiential understanding of how to reduce the opportunity for my competitor.

An accident brought things to a stop on the back stretch 3 laps from the end, and when we resumed, the remaining positions not lost by my own slowness were taken away when the clutch pedal once again (different car) went soft and would not disengage. This time the clutch-less downshifts could only be induced by slowing the car to walking speed while working the shifter and gently revving the engine. Alas, the race ended with perfect symmetry. The last went first (Sy won the race) and the first went last. (Of cars still running at the finish).
Learned a ton, made real progress and can’t wait to try it again at LRP in the spring.

Two sidebars:
1.) Our hotel room looked out on the #7 hairpin and we were treated to the site of bicycle headlights and taillights eerily floating down into and away from that hairpin in the silent predawn darkness of Saturday morning. (They went off-track to a road course during the day while we raced on track) After our races on Saturday the cyclists returned to run on-track through the night and Sy took a couple of time lapse photos as they made their way through. You’ve got to post 'em Sy!

2.) I had a goose bump moment while walking turn 17 alone at sunrise on Friday. As the sun rose up behind the Ulmann straight that leads to 17, I couldn't help but think of all the legendary drivers who’d roared down that stretch of old runway over the past five decades to find their quickest paths through17 and the rest of the track. Isn't it special that we get to test our skills on the very same pavement that those legends of the sport also raced on? It’s like being invited to play baseball with your friends at Yankee Stadium. (Or whichever stadium is hallowed ground to you) Not many get to do it and for those that do… it’s a special privilege.

Can’t wait to do it again.

Last edited by dalyduo; 02-24-2005 at 09:16 AM.
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  #10  
Old 02-24-2005
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Dom Bastien Dom Bastien is offline
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Pat: Great write-up [as usual]. I am going to practice those clutch-less downshifts [just in case]. By the way, in race 2, I went from P11 to P1 at the start/finish, so everyone got to see my tailpipe, if only for a fleeting moment. Anybody interested in how it's done, send $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Steven: You did great. There is a podium in your immediate future. How about Daytona?

Dom.
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  #11  
Old 02-24-2005
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JonMiller JonMiller is offline
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Great write-up Pat, you summarized an incredible weekend as best as anyone could.

I just want to know where Dom bought his special hemlet visor... you know, the one that lets you see around the turn 17 bridge and isolates and magnifies the color green.

Dom: "P1, whoo hoo!"

Rest of field: "Hey, where's Dom going?"



That was my half assed attempt at a graphical representation of what happened. Hahaha, nice start Dom, even if it only lasted a few glorius seconds. You're #1 in my book.
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Old 02-24-2005
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Jonathan, here’s conclusive proof that my P11 to P1 start was 100% legitimate. Picture #1 says it all:
1. In the foreground, you see Dom-inatrix [Auriemma came up with that one] in car #5 moving his hands from the steering wheel to shift from 1st to 2nd, suggesting perfect timing;
2. To the left there is Mr. Wise-Guy Miller in car 66, picking his nose and debating whether he should be in 4th or 5th gear;
3. Further up, you can see the P2 car having built a substantial gap over the P4 car, a definite clue that a race might be on;
4. Further up on the left [here you need really good eyes], you can see the starter waving the green flag frantically.

Picture #2-Dom-inatrix leads the race! Ok, so Dom-uh, uh, uh, uh, uh was fifth by the hairpin but who cares?
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  #13  
Old 02-24-2005
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kwlorentzen kwlorentzen is offline
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Question Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

WELL......where's the video? I know you have one. C-mon don't hold out on us here! I know I'm suffering from siever withdrawl symptoms anyone else???
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Old 02-25-2005
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dalyduo dalyduo is offline
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

Oopps... Two corrections to the Sebring opus.

1.) Forgot to mention father/son team extaordinaire Steven and Jonathon Miller. Jon is a smart fast driver in a tough crowd (Championship Group 5) who provided impressively rapid "Yee Ha!" transit to The Inn at the Lakes in Dad's 5 series. (With dad grinning in the passenger seat! :-) Steven is the kind of Dad we all wish we had. Kind, great sense of humor, generous and sponsoring both his own and Jonathon's racing... (I've already consulted an adoption lawyer, so the line forms behind me! :-)

2.) I mistakenly credited Matt Franc with the win in race one when, as Matt indicated earlier, Craig Duerson actually made the "King" his "Queen" in both races. Having witnessed both races it's safe to say most of us are just moving chicane "Pawns" in their kingdom.

Here are some pics from the Skippy site including Sy's timelapse shot of bicycle lights on the hairpin. Also included is the Team Juicy Snowman. :-)
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Old 03-02-2005
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Re: Sebring, Sebring, Sebring... Best weekend ever?

I have said many times that if I could only race once year then it would be at Sebring International Raceway. This track has great history, 17 corners, a handful of safe passing opportunities, long straights and a great bar at Inn on the Lakes with cool atmosphere.



I love this place and I can see that I have some new friends that feel the same way I do.



As for food ... Never Go to Zeno's. Stick with Mexican and Chicanes. That is it.




Matt "Queen O Sebring" .... At least till next Year.


I love Skip Barber Race Series!!!
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