IMSA/WEC double-header pays off for Sebring

Image by LePage/LAT

IMSA/WEC double-header pays off for Sebring


IMSA/WEC double-header pays off for Sebring


Sebring International Raceway president Wayne Estes can’t wait to find out if last weekend’s dual IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship was indeed the biggest event ever held at the 3.7-mile road course. There’s a sneaking suspicion the combined 1000 Miles of Sebring WEC race on Friday and Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve hours of Sebring WeatherTech SportsCar Championship set an all-time record for attendance and income, dating back to the first event held in 1950.

“We’ve not yet tabulated crowd size or dollars, but we are still confident that despite the weather Saturday morning, something special was happening,” Estes told RACER. “I can’t imagine there ever being a greater IMSA event. I spent a lot of time in the most popular areas of the track, and there was no room left.

We got so full that the next people driving in to park were pulling into the [IMSA] paddock and parking next to race cars. We were selling tickets Saturday evening. It was a remarkable weekend. Everyone here is flat exhausted, but there’s a spirit here that speaks to accomplishment.”

Estes says one of Sebring’s missions was to ensure its longtime fans weren’t compromised by the abundance of new fans who packed the facility.

“One of the thing we wanted to do was protect our standing with the veteran Sebring crowd and make sure they still had plenty of room to enjoy themselves, and so far, it’s been 99 percent positive feedback,” he said.

“They loved the Friday race with the WEC, loved the new grandstands, the new big TV monitors to watch, and it’s clear people came here to see this doubleheader. IMSA’s growing, and then to throw a WEC event right on top of that, the fans’ response was more than we could have expected.”

With the first IMSA and WEC mashup adding somewhere between 40 and 50 percent to the audience size, Estes believes the case was made to build on the inaugural ‘Super Sebring’ event and make it an annual tradition.

“There’s just a few business things to work out, but it would be like just building the foundation and only adding the first floor,” he said. “There’s so much more to be built, and it would feel silly to walk away without building more. We learned five years of knowledge in the last 18 months; most of it in the last 10 days. When all of the invoices come in and we tabulate the numbers, I think the track and IMSA and WEC will come together and hope we’ll do this again for 2020 and many years after that.”