Sunshine MINIs Take Sebring – A Beginner’s Track Experience

Sunshine MINI - SebringOutrunning A Hurricane

Day 2 allowed us an extra half hour of sleep, so by the time we entered the paddock area the sun was already just above the horizon. We quickly unpacked our cars and then ran over to the driver’s meeting. Sunday pretty much followed the same schedule as Saturday’s, but with a little more free time built in somehow. As the sun rose higher in the sky we dragged our chairs over and sat in the shade of the MINI JCW Team car transporter. After one of the hot lap sessions, Luis joined us and entertained us with stories of how he started his racing career at Sebring, after years of competing in autocross in south Florida.

We all decided we must have been driving the track in our sleep because our first time out Sunday morning our instructors all said they saw a vast improvement. I know for me, my driving felt so much smoother and I was really able to ramp up my speed on the track on Sunday. Our instructors were full of praise for us throughout the day. Even better, the track was a lot less crowded on Sunday. Many people seemed to have only come for the Saturday portion, and with the forecast for rain (and the approaching Hurricane Matthew) people started packing up and leaving early so by the afternoon the track seemed almost empty when we were out there. During our last session we were almost racing against the weather. The sky had blackened and a strong wind was gusting, at times pushing against my MINI. I got off the track just in time to throw all my stuff back into my Roadster, get the top up and return my helmet to the office before the rain began in earnest.

MINI Roadster - Sebring

The entire weekend was the most exhilarating experience I’ve ever had! Yes, each time I went out on the track it was with a degree of nervousness, but the fun factor and my new found confidence far outweighed that. It was very hard to leave Sebring Sunday afternoon, primarily because I didn’t want to lose the confidence I’d gained. All of our instructors, both classroom and individual were simply wonderful…very knowledgeable, reassuring and patient. As I’d be listening to what my instructor was telling me on the track I’d tend to revert to “following” the car in front of me so as we’d hit the stretches he would very patiently ask me if my pedal was on the floor. Oops! Each turn has its own challenges and we’d work on each one until I got it right. I honestly think my instructor got more excited than I did when I’d “master” a given turn. And I can’t tell you the number of times I’d be concentrating so hard coming out of Turn #7 that I’d lose power only to look down and see I was redlining. My instructor thought it was hilarious that I was forgetting to shift! (I hate that turn!) But it was all so much fun I simply cannot wait to do it again! Pedro Tomas hopes to make this into a yearly event for Sunshine MINIs and any other MINI owner who would like to join us. Registration for this event began last spring and the limited spaces filled up fast, so keep your eyes and ears open if you’re interested. I highly recommend the HPDE class to anyone who has ever had any interest in racing or just becoming a better driver.

Media Courtesy: Pedro Tomas, Stephen Wisdom, Matthew Toombs, Daria Arcadi, Linda Burton

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Janet jumped headfirst into the MINI community in 2007 after purchasing a 2008 MCS Sidewalk Edition Cabrio. She currently owns 3 MINIs, her original Cabrio, a 2013 S Roadster and a 2016 Cooper Clubman. MINI has provided an outlet for her wanderlust... participating in the Flying Finn Rally of MTTS 2008 and taking her all around the country during MTTS 2010, ’12, ’14 and ’16, Janet also flew to England for MINI’s 50th Birthday celebration at Silverstone during MINI United in 2009. Always interested in MINI’s racing history, she is now testing the waters on the track scene.

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