Sebring Track Guide
Published: February 22, 2017; updated: February 9, 2018
Sebring International Raceway is a 3.7-mile road course with 17 official turns. The track is run clockwise.
If you are new to Sebring it helps to remember that all corners in the middle of the lap are slow, late apex right handers (turns 7 through 13), turns 3 and 5 are conservative entry left handers, and the car should hug the walls in the high speed sweepers with the walls adjacent (turns 17 and 1). The higher speed corners (turns 15, 16, 17 and 1) all call for a fairly early entry. Keeping just these four pieces of information in mind will set you up for a decent line and pace around Sebring.
Driving fast at Sebring requires an iteration on all of the above:
- Patience in exit speed corners to get that exit speed up;
- Big vision and aggression in high speed corners to carry maximum momentum;
- Reasoned curb usage as appropriate;
- Trailbraking and left foot braking to shorten braking zones and rotate the car effectively into low speed turns.
Sebring, being flat, I find easier to both learn and drive than three-dimensional tracks like Barber and Road Atlanta. Sebring is made challenging by its frequent transitions and, in medium to high power cars, by a multitude of corners which require all of the vision, planning, smoothness and car control that the driver is able to muster.
Turn by Turn
A blind sweeping left, the key in this turn is consistency and confidence. The turn is bumpy; whether the bumpiness is manageable depends on the car. Stiffer cars generally have a harder time in turn 1 but cars with insufficient compression damping for their springs will also behave poorly here.
Turn in point is roughly the end of the pit wall on the right. Low power cars will need minimal braking for turn 1 and may start to brake past the turn in point, as they cross the track width toward the apex. Cars with more power will have a short braking zone prior to the turn in point and will carry some of that braking into the corner. Lower power cars may forego a downshift in turn 1 and brake with the left foot to get better braking modulation and shorten the braking zone.
It is imperative to get all the way to the inside wall prior to the apex and hug the wall for the middle portion of the turn. High grip cars can go into turn 1 a bit deeper and still make it to the inside wall; medium and low grip cars will need to turn earlier and aim to be at the wall, in the leftmost "lane" on the track, at a point which is visible from the turn in point.
The car should track out to the exit curb at the end of the corner. With more track time it is possible to use the exit curb consistently, and this should be a goal.
High power line has a deeper entry, later apex and flatter exit trajectory. Low power line tracks out to the beginning of the curb, high power line tracks out to the end of the curb. High power cars would typically begin braking earlier and finish braking later than low power cars.
This turn should be used to set up for entry into turn 3, meaning the car should be parallel to the right edge of the track past the apex of turn 2. This requires bringing the car mid track between turns 1 and 2 - how much depends on the car's power level. Low power cars will need to barely move away from the right edge whereas high power cars will be track center between turns 1 and 2.
A slow left, though turn 3 is faster than turn 7. This looks like a slow turn but it is actually rather grippy on the entry and drives somewhat like a medium speed corner. The amount of stick in the braking zone seems to increase quite a bit on R compounds compared to street tires.
Drivers new to Sebring should start by treating turn 3 like a standard 90 degree corner, braking pretty deep on the right edge of the track. More experienced drivers should aim to trailbrake into turn 3 and use the forward weight transfer to swing the rear of the car around the corner with the goal of arriving at the apex still facing roughly 90 degrees left from the entry but with a much earlier turn in and a correspondingly higher entry speed.
Overdriving turn 3 will screw up turns 4 and 5 and is best avoided.
Entries into turn 3 are similar with high power cars going deeper into the braking zone and turning harder, at a sightly lower speed. High power cars go deeper into turn 5, have a significantly later apex in turn 5 and come out at a much shallower trajectory.
This is really a transition between turns 3 and 5. Try to start as close as possible to the apex of turn 3, get the car around the apex of turn 4 and bring it back to the right edge of the track for the deep entry into turn 5.
Turn 5 is long, low to medium speed late apex left. A good exit from turn 5 is paramount for a good lap time, hence the entry into turn 5 should be conservative. That said, carrying momentum into and through turn 5 especially in low power cars is almost as important as getting a good exit.
A good entry reference for most cars is the dark line running across the track. The car should be on the right edge of the track approaching this line. Brake once the car passes the line, then turn left once the car reaches or passes the beginning of the light gray patch on the left side of the track. The goal should be to apply throttle prior to the left apex and ideally be full throttle at that apex.
Low power, high grip cars may find that entering a bit off the right edge of the track and turning earlier at a higher speed produces the same exit trajectory but saves time on entry. Low power, high grip cars can also try a scandinavian flick type movement on entry to replace straight line braking that higher power cars must do.
Many drivers stay on the left half of the track going into turn 5 and this is a mistake as they end up coasting through the entire corner and only applying throttle once they have tracked out.
The apex curb is best avoided, although it should be used in preference to turning away from the corner.
The exit curb, while steep, helps get a couple more miles per hour coming out which is important. The curb looks brutal but there is a way of hitting it in a surprisingly flat fashion. I think the trick is getting almost all of the rotation done prior to the curb and using the curb purely as a pavement extension, not to stop the car sliding off the track. Taken this way, the curb is gentle enough to not present a problem and can be consistently aimed for.
Looking at this photo, the curb is much less steep than what it looks like from inside the car, which is what makes it work. Note that the car has zero steering angle, it is already turning right slightly at that point.
Also known as the Big Bend, this corner is easily taken under full throttle in low and medium power machinery and possibly in high power cars as well. Keep the car on the right edge of the track through most of the bend and track out aiming at the left Mobil 1 sign on the bridge between turns 6 and 7.
A slow, late apex right going into a chicane with wide rumble strips on either side. This is the slowest corner on the track. Using both right and left rumble strips straightens the corner enormously and makes up gobs of time on drivers that keep their car to the middle. Trailbraking is crucial in this turn to get the car properly rotated at turn in. This is the only corner on the track where I was using second gear, in large part because the car simply did not rotate enough while in third.
Similarly to turn 3, the pavement going into turn 7 seems to grip a lot more with R compound tires compared to street tires.
The lines are similar, high power cars need to go deeper into the braking zone and turn harder at a lower speed to attain a flatter mid-corner/exit trajectory.
Although they are numbered turns, this part of the track is taken under full throttle. High power cars will be tracking out to mid track either between turns 8 and 9 or between turns 9 and 10; low power cars can hug the left edge of the track.
This is somewhat of a rehash of turn 7 but with more speed. In low power cars turn 10 drives like a medium speed corner, with the key to it being to use all of the track at the exit. A low power car can track out all the way left to the curb out of turn 10 and still fit into the track through turns 11 and 12. Medium power, high grip cars can probably do the same. Medium power, grip limited cars and high power cars will need to compromise the exit of turn 10 somewhat to stay on the track through turns 11 and 12, which means going into turn 10 slower and coming out of turn 10 maybe 2/3 track left.
Like in turns 3 and 7, the entry in turn 10 tends to be slippery on street tires and improves significantly on R compounds. Track time is the easiest way to get comfortable carrying speed into and through this turn; as you are getting faster, keep in mind that turning in late generally results in missed apex which is bad. Turn 10 at the proper entry speed is a rather early entry corner.
High power cars won't be using full track width coming out of turn 10, thus they need to enter deeper and slower and rotate more at the turn in point. Note the difference in turn 11 - high power cars will be using entire track width there, low power cars can almost hug the left edge of the track.
This curve is a non-event in low power cars and a challenge in medium to high power cars.
Low power cars should hit the apex in turn 11 and then come as far right in turn 12 as they need to not force the car and cause tire scrub, but no further.
The key for high power cars is committing to throttle, and to full throttle, as early as possible. As mentioned this requires coming out of turn 10 toward the middle of the track rather than track left. Swing as far right as needed early in turn 11 - this is done under throttle - to fit into the track through turn 12.
Higher power cars will also be challenged to get all the way track left prior to the braking zone for turn 13. It's worth it to get the car toward the left edge of the track earlier to get a solid entry into, and run through, turn 13.
This turn may feel similar to turn 10 at first, but there is an important difference: camber. The banking in turn 13 permits higher entry speed - if done on the correct line - and higher mid-corner speed, about 5 mph higher for a Miata. Getting this extra speed is crucial in low power cars as these cars are full throttle from turn 13 to turn 15 which is a pretty long stretch. High power cars also benefit from the higher potential speed through turn 13 but, because they often lift or brake through turn 14, the difference is not as large.
To make use of the banking in turn 13 the entry needs to be earlier than if the corner was flat. It is also absolutely necessary to have the right front wheel be adjacent to the apex curb at the apex. Fortunately, the banking in the corner makes it easier to hit the apex with that kind of precision. Use the exit curb if necessary.
A sloppy, or late, entry into turn 13 tends to be quite costly in terms of lap time. It pays to be conservative with the entry, just like in turns 7 and 10.
End of the curb on the left is a good initial turn in point.
Conceptually low power and high power lines are the same, high power cars will enter a bit deeper to have less steering through corner exit.
This is a kink that, again, is a non-event in low power cars and challenges medium to high power cars.
The line in a low power car is to stay on the pavement off the curbs the entire way through under full throttle. If being passed, I prefer taking the entire apex curb and hugging the left edge of the track which gives the high power car doing the passing most of their usual line through this section.
Medium and high power cars will need to use the apex curb to straighten the line enough to maintain throttle input through the kink. There is a dip at the very edge of the curb where the curb meets the pavement; just putting a tire on the curb thus upsets the car the most. Taking the whole curb and aiming to put the tire on the left edge of the curb produces the flattest line, and should be the line used in a high power car.
The kink can be taken at speed as long as the car is in steady state when it hits the curb. Good practice for obtaining this steady state is using the apex curb in turn 16.
Track out as much as necessary based on the car's power level and bring the car back left to set up for turn 15.
A quick blind exit sweeper with decent camber built into it, this turn can be challenging for less experienced drivers but when correctly executed can yield massive cuts in lap time.
The key to turn 15 is, similarly to turn 13, an early entry due to the banking. Especially in high power cars this requires braking earlier than many drivers start out with. The car should follow the light gray "lane" in the pavement throughout the turn; to accomplish this at speed, the turn in point needs to be earlier still. A common mistake is braking through the beginning of this lane and turning in past it; there is no way to bring the car back on line from such a late entry and the entire corner is wasted at this point.
The second most important aspect of turn 15 is to have the car settled as much as possible through the entry. This means turning in slightly earlier still with a bit less steering angle, to try to keep body roll to a minimum. The pavement seems to be slippery throughout the corner hence being gentle with inputs is very important.
Being late with the turn in usually goes hand in hand with putting in more steering angle which overloads the tires in the corner and tends to result in understeer or oversteer, depending on car setup. If faced with oversteer do mind the wall on the right at the exit and carefully manage the countersteering inputs. It's often to let the car stay in a drift and stabilize than trying to recover as quickly as possible.
If turn 15 is entered at the correct speed and line, the car will need the entire width of the track at the exit all the way to the left curb. If you don't need the entire width of the track you entered too slowly.
Once out of turn 15 flick the car left to go past the marked track boundary to set up for turn 16.
Both types of cars will be running similar lines through turn 15, as dictated by the banking there. High power cars will be braking longer and deeper going into turn 16, and will run a much later turn in point as well as the apex in turn 16.
This turn is quite similar to turn 15 in that a very fast entry is possible. Unlike turn 15 this is an exit speed turn, hence the entry should be a little more conservative than that in turn 15. Fortunately, although there is a painted track boundary on the left, there is nothing preventing the car from going past it by any amount, hence an ambitious driver can widen turn 16 significantly.
Low power, high grip cars can take turn 16 without brakes at all by swinging very wide before entry. Medium power cars will be brushing the brakes to lose some speed and settle the front end for the turn, and possibly downshift.
Do use the apex curb in turn 16 - the car should have enough lateral weight transfer that using the entire curb is not too upsetting. The entire apex curb should be used prior to using any of the exit curb, as the exit curb is upsetting because it appears to be more stepped and the car hits it with the loaded side. That said, high grip cars and advanced drivers can use both apex and exit curb to make the turn arc even flatten.
Easily the signature turn of Sebring, this corner is the most difficult one to figure out as well as to execute. There are enormous bumps on the ideal line which cost time as the tires slide sideways plus provide ample opportunities for unwanted understeer and oversteer, and sometimes both. The best line I've managed is running a diagonal from turn in point through the right edge of the track, starting to brake on this diagonal, allowing the car to come track left to about middle of what other cars are doing, then turning in toward the apex which is adjacent to the wall, hugging the wall for a few car lengths, then tracking out all the way to the wall on the left prior to the main straight beginning. This is a very similar approach to turn 1 except the car goes wide between turn in and apex because the turn is so long.
Wider lines I've tried were all slower although in the earlier sessions I've had other Miatas pull me on the main straight with a wider swing in the middle of turn 17. I was side by side with them through turn 17 though which brings into question whether they were actually faster than me had we both been on clear track.
A faster line through turn 17 would avoid more of the bumps and maintain tires on the pavement for longer. I'm quite certain the speed I lose is due to the car bouncing and sliding sideways as a result around 3/4 of the way into the turn.
Looking at this photo (which I think is an awesome shot by the way), the car is still a good ways off the apex wall and it looks like it's about to fall into the dip. A deeper entry that puts the car another foot inward at the apex should be flatter topographically and therefore faster.
High power cars would run a much later apex, which is the point on track just prior to the last corner station. Right front tire should be right of the painted track boundary at this point. High power cars should already be full throttle by then; they can begin throttle application when they see the final corner station and are properly lined up to hit the apex.
Even though Sebring gets quite slippery in rain I found that dry lines were on the balance best in wet conditions. The added grip from being off the dry lines was not sufficient to cover the reduction of corner radii.
In particular I ran dry lines in turns 7, 10 and 13. Offsetting a car about half a car width in the braking zones for these corners may work, or may be a wash.
The remaining corners I ran with the same lines as in the dry, just slower.
High power, high grip: 991 GT3 lap record
Surprisingly for a track that is famous for its endurance races, Sebring has no fixed showers on the property. Apparently the showers are in trailers that are brought in for individual events.
As far as I could tell the track has no compressed air either.
There is a snack shack next to the media center that is generally open for lunch.
Sebring has a gas station with several grades of fuel available. 93 octane cost a bit over $6/gallon when area gas stations were charging just over $3/gallon. The closest off-track gas station is Circle K about 15 minutes away at the intersection of US-98 and US-27, which is south of the track. Raceway gas station on US-27 about 25 minutes away from the track has slightly cheaper fuel and is the best place to fill up when coming from the North.