As the sun sinks behind race control, flickering rays of light over the start finish straight cast silhouettes into turn one, then reappear for one last hurrah before surrendering itself to the horizon making way for night fall. The scene is as breathtaking as the racing.
Sebring International raceway, home of the famous and gruelling 12 hour race, stretching over a demanding 3.7mile circuit of both tarmac track and concrete runway. Everything about the race weekend captures all of your senses.
It was a race I wanted a slice of; I wanted to chase that sunset scene, to witness the cars throw themselves through turn one, to experience marshalling in another country and tick off another circuit from my bucket list. The story to get there is in no way straightforward.
As I looked on into the final night of the racing I remember the journey I took to get to this stage, to see that sunset and make the friends I did along the way.
They say the best place to start a story is from the beginning, so that’s where we shall head. Funnily enough the beginning is not Manchester Airport, the plane taking off or even the road down to Sebring, it actually starts last year.
I was scrolling through Facebook when I noticed a status saying if any marshals were interested in marshalling at the Sebring 12 hour race and World Endurance Championship (WEC) 8 Hour race in March 2019 they should contact Darren Gunn.
Fully interested in going to the event, I had also noticed that some fellow marshals from Oulton Park were thinking of making the trip Stateside. After a conversation with these marshals I decided to go for it, to make it a trip to remember.
Disaster struck however, the chance that I could go to America was dealt a massive blow as the whole funding would be balanced on whether I had a job at the end of a fixed term contract in November 2018. Sadly it was not to be.
All plans of getting flights, accomodation, RV and planning excursions were put on drastic hold for a more pressing and urgent matter, life! The new plan was to get another job, I mean Sebring could wait a year or two it’s not exactly like the circuit is going anywhere. A new job rated far more important than a holiday.
One job application turned to two, then three, then five then somewhere over twenty with no sign on an interview in sight. I’d still not given up hope on the trip and I filled out my application form for Sebring along with applying for my Blue Card, the equivalent of our Motorsport UK card but, a requirement to marshal in the USA.
7 December 2018
An important date in my life and a pivotal moment in this trip. I woke from bed about four hours earlier than I had been doing, put on a suit, a tie, styled my hair the best way I could out on my game face. I had an interview. Life could be back on track and as a secondary result, Sebring could be back on the cards.
Driving to Crewe there were no thoughts of marshalling or cars and certainly no thoughts of flying to Sebring. This was important. I gave it my best shot and drove home knowing I couldn’t have given anymore, the decision wasn’t in my hands.
Hours ticked by, each time the phone buzzed it made me more nervous than the last, when finally at just after 4pm the phone rang from a number that said ‘Crewe’. Nervously I answered as my whole decision to go to Sebring pivoted on this. As the conversation went on I grew more and more expectant of the words ‘I’m really sorry but, we can’t offer you the job.” I was braced I was ready but, instead what hit me was “We’d like to offer you the role,” I accepted and as soon as the phone was down I gave it the biggest and best impression of Fernando Alonso when he won the 2005 F1 World Championship.
“VAMMMOOSSSSSSSS” convinced I was heard by the entire street with my shouting. I started ringing people, texting people not with “guess who’s got a job” but instead “Guess who’s going to Sebring!”
It was now the plan to get the flights to America sorted, book the excursions that I had so wanted to do and pay my share of the villa. The trip that had been taken a massive blow had actually risen from the ashes and was fully going ahead. Sebring here I come!
So, I will leave part one here, the midpoint in this amazing journey, cruising on the plane on my way to Orlando.
What happens next? Well I’m sure you’ll have to come back for part two.