A lap of Sebring

J.J. Lehto is no stranger to the streets of Adelaide. The Finish star drove Formula One in Adelaide and will return for Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years on December 31 this year. Lehto kicks of his Le Mans Series title challenge next...

J.J. Lehto is no stranger to the streets of Adelaide. The Finish star drove Formula One in Adelaide and will return for Adelaide's Race of a Thousand Years on December 31 this year.

Lehto kicks of his Le Mans Series title challenge next weekend when he contests the 48th annual Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring as defending champion of the historic event.

Last year Lehto teamed with Tom Kristensen and Jorg Muller to post a 9.207-second victory in their BMW V12 LMR, the closest finish ever at America's oldest road race.

A LAP OF SEBRING ­ by J.J. Lehto

Introduction: In the Le Mans Series, I consider Sebring to be one of the toughest courses on the schedule. Not only as it is very bumpy but it's also very fast in many places. And the massive amount of traffic in a12-hour race keeps you awake and very focused all the time. You know that speed differences are very, very big as are the lap times between the different classes.

Now, a lap of Sebring -- It starts going across the Start/Finish line. Approaching turn 1 (a left-hander) which is a very fast place, you have to find a good braking point over the bumps and downshift to fourth gear before you turn in. It is very difficult because you can't see the exit of the corner due to the inside wall there. Anyway, you just have to take a good shot and open the throttle as soon as possible. You feel like the car is off the ground occasionally while hitting the big bumps. Also, it is very slippery if you run your line a little bit wide. If you get it right,you gain a lot of time there.

Then you have a short straight before coming to turn 2 (a left-hander). Braking is always difficult here because the surface is very slippery. You try to brake hard and at the same time, you turn in to the corner already. You try to carry out a good corner speed so that you can have a nice, smooth acceleration between turns 2 and 3 and carry that smooth driving in turn 3.

Turn 3 (a right/left) is very slippery and bumpy on exit. And exiting is very important to get right there so that you can get good acceleration for the back straight.

Turn 4 (a sweeping left-hander) is just flat in fifth gear, nice and easy. Now, you're approaching turn 5 (a sharp right-hander). Braking from high speed into first gear is always hard and here, you have to do all the stopping before turning in. It's a very slow corner and you use a lot of curbs there to find a straight line to exit.

You go up the gears to fifth going through turn 6 (Fangio Chicane) which is just a fast, flat right-and-left with a little dip in the middle. Then approaching turn 7 (a left/right), you turn in with second gear. After that, what makes the corner difficult is that the surface changes and the front grip is very minimal. You try to keep the car right next to the curb and then get a straight acceleration to turn 8 which is taken in third gear.

Turn 8 (short, sweeping right-hander) is a nice corner where you really need to get the line right so that the car doesn't start to understeer and go wide on line at the exit. Then, there's a little straight taken in fourth gear before entering turn 9.

Turn 9 (right-hander) is very difficult to turn in because there is quite a lot of camber and the tendency is always to have a lot of understeer at turn-in and the middle. And at the exit, the rear end of the car is always a little nervous.

You accelerate towards turn 10 which is a fifth gear, left-hander.It's a very fast and long corner.

Then, there's hard braking down to second gear going into turn 11, a left- and-right-hand combination. You just try to get a straight line out of the corner and then you start to look in to turn 12 already.

At turn 12 (right-hander), you just try to get the car as much to the left as possible before turning in with second gear. It is not a difficult corner but you need to get the exit right because you have the long Ulmann Straight right ahead of you where you need all the speed you can have with sixth gear to be able to overtake cars. This is the easiest place at Sebring to overtake.

Now you come to turn 13 (sweeping right-hander), the last corner It's very long, bumpy and difficult. The turn-in is OK but then with third gear, you hit the bumps and the front end is running away from you. At the same time, you just have to put the power down so that you get a good speed for the Start/Finish.

Sebring is a tough track. After 12 hours of driving over the bumps, you feel pretty beaten. But I like it. And I'm looking forward to seeing all the crazy fans at Green Park (Sebring's version of the top of the mountain at Bathurst) again this year.

-Paul Ryan-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Tom Kristensen , J.J. Lehto , Jorg Muller , Ryan Paul