Recently Sunshine MINIs held what we hope will become an annual event at Sebring International Raceway. It was a weekend filled with great instruction, lots of track time, hot laps in the MINI JCW Team’s hot lap car and watching an exciting face off between supercharged R53 race cars and the new twin-scroll F56 race cars, not to mention the chance to meet other motorsport fanatics. Three-time MINI owner, Pedro Tomas, who has track experience at various Florida tracks, started planning this weekend last spring with the help of Jim VanderVliet, head of the Florida Region of the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). They arranged for discounted rates for members of Sunshine MINIs to participate in their track event at Sebring, as well as discounts at the track hotel, Chateau Elan. For many of us, this was our first time on the track except for parade laps, so we looked forward to it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Arrival at Sebring International
Most of us arrived at the track Friday evening and went through the tech inspection before setting up our canopies in what would become our home for the next two days. We joined Randy Smalley and two of his former RSR Team R53 MINIs in our reserved paddock area. We sat around soaking up the track ambiance and sharing our anticipation while Pedro gave us some pointers (I learned to torque my own wheels!) but with the appearance of encroaching storm clouds we hurriedly broke camp. Randy graciously allowed us to store things overnight in his car transporter so we left, leaving just our canopy frames behind to weather the impending storm. Although within walking distance, we chose to motor over to Chateau Elan, the track hotel. If you like auto racing this is the hotel for you! On raceway property, many of the rooms have balconies overlooking the #7 hairpin turn. The common rooms were filled with racing enthusiasts discussing their cars and previous track times, surrounded by beautiful automotive artwork on the walls.