SEBRING, Fla.—The haulers are parked in the paddock, teams are unpacking their equipment and unloading the cars. Support series cars are howling down the front straight. The Tudor United Sportscar Championship’s first assay at North America’s premier sports car endurance race is underway.
TUSC kicked off its tenure as the reigning North American sports car series with a successful Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, but the Sebring 12 Hours is older and even more important to sports cars fans. TUSC has kept what worked at Daytona and tweaked what didn’t—everything from an improved Balance of Performance (P2s and Daytona Prototypes should actually be turning the same lap times) to an upgraded announcing crew on MRN radio.
TUSC understands that this could well be the race by which the success of the series is judged. Some think Daytona was essentially gifted to the Daytona Prototypes—a class of cars essentially devised by series and track owner NASCAR through the Rolex series.) The DPs were a second faster than the P2s at Daytona.
Many fans see Sebring as an ALMS race, which should be won by a P2. Optimally, neither chassis type should have an advantage—and based on BoP adjustments announced after the TUSC Winter Test, the series has the balance almost exactly right.
It had better—sports car fans have generally been wary of the new management and unfriendly towards the DPs. If a DP wins, it had better have run a near-perfect race against very tough competition. If, as at Daytona, the DPs start the race almost assured of victory, TUSC could find itself in a lot of trouble with fans, teams, and sponsors.
There will be plenty going on besides the 12 Hours. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will be racing Friday, and Mazda MX-5, Porsche GT3 Cup, Cooper Prototype Lites, and Lamborghini Super Trofeo race Thursday and Friday, along with HSR Historics (maybe not the fastest but definitely the prettiest cars among all the support series.)
The TUSC cars hit the track Thursday for two daytime sessions plus night practice from 8–9:30 p.m.—worth the price of a day’s admission. TUSC qualifies Friday afternoon and the race starts at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, March 15.