Where can you go to watch seven generations of Corvettes competing on a racetrack on the same day? Sebring International Raceway at the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) – Trans Am event is where. For three days in early March, C1 through C7 Corvettes roar around the historic endurance race track. Bring your earplugs because there won’t be much quiet time. As soon as one group finishes their race, another group starts. This is an action packed event even for those with adult attention deficit disorder. And it’s not just for Vettes, of course.
The variety of marques on the racetrack at the same time is a treat for the eyes and makes you appreciate SVRA’s catch phrase, “Some People Collect Art …We Race It.” Groups 1, 3, and 4 are on the track at the same time, so you see C1 Corvettes go fender to fender with Porsche, MG, Alfa Romeo, Triumph, Lotus and Datsun. When that race is over, Groups 6 and 12 take to the track and you see a Corvette Grand Sport replica mix it up with a Jaguar XKE, a Shelby GT350, a Porsche 911 and a C4 Corvette Challenge car.
Variety also describes the ways spectators can enjoy the action. The 3.74 mile circuit provides 17 turns and plenty of space for you to choose where to get close to the racing. Cars, trucks, campers, and motorhomes can park along the track. Those who want a break from the Florida sun can find it in the long covered grandstand with open seating. There’s so much room. You won’t have to push through crowds or endure jammed seats and long waiting lines at the Sebring SVRA event.
It’s also remarkably easy on the bank account for a motorsports event. After paying the $35.00 admission, your wallet could stay closed for the three days of racing. Spectators can bring in coolers and stay overnight in their vehicle or pitch a tent under a tree or near the track if they choose. For those who don’t want to rough it, a hotel is on the property.
Unlike many other racing events, admission enables access to the paddock and pit road. The range of disposable income of the participants runs the gamut from weekend warriors on a tight budget to others with million dollar motorhomes and custom trailers containing a million dollars’ worth of racecars. Some drivers spend many thousands of dollars for the weekend to have a company transport, prepare and maintain their cars so that they only have to get in and drive. Others racers will be changing tires and flushing brake fluid after each run themselves. And yet the paddock is friendly and welcoming at this event. Nobody cares how big your bank account is. They’re all there for the joy of racing and appreciate others who share their enthusiasm.
In the paddock, spectators can examine the racecars up close, and watch repairs, maintenance and preparation. It’s exciting listening to the sweet sounds of the engines reving from just a few feet away and hear the cars as they take off for the grid. During slack times, spectators can also talk to the teams and drivers. This year’s grand marshal, Al Unser Jr.(winner of two Indy Car championships and twice winner of the Indianapolis 500), talked with fans and posed for photos with them. Reeves Callaway displayed the new C7 GT3 which makes its US racing debut in the GT race at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix. Ford Heacock could be found at the Heacock Classic Car Insurance booth when not racing his Group 3 car.
In addition to the vintage car racing, the fender-bending fury of all-out competition from modern racecars came in the form of International GT and Trans Am racing. Corvettes are well represented in the modern Trans Am series and race against Camaros, Mustangs and Challengers. These are full race cars with custom tube frames and fiberglass bodies. Their 850-875 hp carbureted 350 ci V-8s are a thrill to hear and watch. Also racing in the Trans Am series is the very popular TA2 class; Detroit pony cars with a lower horsepower limit that makes for a very competitive but much more affordable racing season. TA3 features production-based racecars from around the world. TA4 has production based C5-C7s racing with BMW M3s, Porsches, AM, Mustangs, and Challengers all vying for a manufacturer’s championship.
As if that is not enough, there are stationary pleasures too in the form of one of the most enjoyable show fields I’ve seen. The variety here was once again a treat. Generations of Corvettes delighted the eyes, joined by their metal bodied contemporaries. Nearly everything from Porsches to Studebakers and Vipers to Opels was joined by hot rods, vintage motorcycles, antiques and classics. In all aspects, the SVRA Sebring event has something for everyone. Vette
Photography By John Pfanstiehl & Kelly Cisarik