The dark art of Sebring at night

Sebring, 2018. Image by Levitt/LAT

The dark art of Sebring at night


The dark art of Sebring at night


Coming off the Rolex 24 At Daytona – with half of the race run during the nighttime hours – one would think that drivers would be ready for only three hours of darkness during Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

But that’s not the case. While the Daytona event is run under a state-of-the-art lighting system, the Sebring classic is run under the stars.

“Daytona totally spoils us,” Stephen Simpson said. “Sebring at night is a challenge. Even though they add a few lights every year, it’s tough. On Turn 1 at night you can’t really see much on the exit; you have to be really precise and confident with your turn-in points. Then it seems every year I get tricked out and laugh at myself. Going down to Turn 7 there will be a car on the access road, and I’ll think it’s a car that spun and pointing its headlights at me.

“From a physical point of view from inside the car, Sebring is tougher [than Daytona],” added Simpson, who will co-drive the No. 84 JDC-Miller Motorsports Hi-Tide Boat Lifts/Sabelt/Justice Brothers/Red Line Oil Cadillac DPi-V.R with Simon Trummer and Chris Miller. “It’s not as easy to get by the GT cars. It presents different challenges. Twelve hours at Sebring feels like 12 hours at Daytona. Sebring 12 hours is a tough one. Lots typically happens, and lots is going to happen, especially with some weather coming in that could throw a curve ball into the mix – that I wouldn’t be opposed to. All in all, we’re looking forward to getting down to business and getting on with it.”

The No.84 team is looking to rebound from a tough Daytona. Image by Levitt/LAT

The year started off with disappointment at Daytona for the No. 84 team. The team was running competitively before contact with a GT car in the evening hours led to an early exit. The team finished 43rd overall and 10th in the Prototype class.

“We’re looking forward to getting back in the car after our Daytona weekend,” Simpson said. “We had a good test here two weeks ago, where we learned a lot of things that don’t work on the car – which is very helpful. It’s still early days for us getting familiar with the new Cadillac DPi-V.R. Having Chris (Miller) back in the car is very helpful for Simon and I. We’re looking to be a bit stronger on our one-lap overall pace than we were at Daytona. Our race pace at Daytona was going to be OK, but we were a bit lacking from a one-lap point of view. We’re putting a lot of effort into that department.”

Simpson has had major changes in his life since that recent test. He and his wife Kristy welcomed their first child, Zoey, exactly seven days ago back home in South Africa. After spending a few days adjusting to fatherhood, Simpson arrived in Sebring on Tuesday. He’s looking forward to rejoining Kristy and Zoey on Sunday afternoon – hopefully with a nice trophy for their collection.