On Friday, March 14, Freedom Autosport and the rest of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series will be racing at Sebring International Raceway for the first time, but many of the drivers have plenty of history there already. For Randy Pobst and Andrew Carbonell, who co-drive the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5, going to Sebring is something of a homecoming.
Pobst ran his first professional race at Sebring in 1985, driving in the Firestone Firehawk Series, the predecessor of the Continental Tire Series. The start of the race was actually delayed so Pobst could fuel his car—a minor pre-race oversight—and he went on to finish second by a bumper. It is still the closest finish in Pobst’s career.
“It’s perfectly natural. The series should be at Sebring," Pobst said. "I look forward to seeing how our Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5s will line up on that track. I think we’re going to be good in turn 17, which is one of the most important corners at Sebring. It’s the last corner on the track, and cornering speed is important there for a long time, and that’s what our MX-5s are good at.”
Since 1985, Pobst has logged plenty of laps at Sebring. He clinched the 1992 Firestone Firehawk championship there and has a long list of club races at the 3.74-mile circuit.
Carbonell’s history at Sebring began a little differently. The Miami, Florida, resident grew up attending club races at Sebring not as a driver, but as a supporter of his father Alfredo’s racing. Later, Carbonell got his Skip Barber license at Sebring and has since competed in his own club racing there. Lately, he has been doing a lot of driver coaching at Sebring.
“It’s exciting,” Carbonell says of the series debut at Sebring. “It’s a track I’ve always wanted to race with the series, so I finally get to check off racing professionally there! I think it will be great—there are a lot of turns and different surfaces, which will be strong points for the MX-5.”
In addition to the No. 26 Mazda, Freedom Autosport will also field the No. 25 Mazda MX-5 with drivers Mat and Mark Pombo. The ST team will be on the grid for the start of the 2.5-hour race on Friday, March 14 at 1:00 p.m. ET. The race will be broadcast live at IMSA.com. It will later be broadcast on March 19 at 1:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and on March 23 at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 2.
Stay tuned to this column for news and updates from the IMSA garage leading up to the second endurance race of the season, as well as interviews and insights from some of the major players in the sport.
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