Davey Euwema is a 23-year-old writer and motorsport enthusiast based out of Rotterdam, the Netherlands and the Sportscar Editor at MotorsportWeek.com and Motorsport Monday. In this first installment of a new column series, he shares his thoughts, stories and experiences from the world of sportscar racing.
The Twelve Hours of Sebring took place this past weekend, as I am sure you’ve noticed. It’s one of my favorite annual events on the endurance racing calendar and has a rightful spot on the Triple Crown of Endurance Racing.
The unforgiving Sebring International Raceway always throws up something special, and this year’s race was no different, with a landmark victory for Mustang Sampling Racing that I have to admit I did not see coming after the team went two laps down following multiple incidents.
While the race was another gem, further underlining why I think the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship is currently the best thing going in sportscar racing, looking at Sebring still brings with it a certain feeling of ‘what could have been’ given what happened last year.
You see, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the plan was that I was supposed to attend the endurance classic for the first time, and those plans being derailed was undoubtedly one of the harshest moments I had experienced in sportscar racing up to that point.
It was a trip I was incredibly excited about. I had only visited the United States once before, during a family vacation to New York and Canada in the summer of 2018.
While that was a great experience, it featured surprisingly little racing-related activities apart from a blitz visit to Watkins Glen International on our journey back from Niagara Falls to the Big Apple.
Truth is that I had been longing for a return to America since that trip, and a visit to what was then the Super Sebring event in March of 2020 was looking like a great opportunity to do it.
Not only would it mark a return to America and another weekend in the paddock in the FIA World Endurance Championship (which effectively serves as my main series to cover since joining MotorsportWeek.com in 2019 and had seen me active in the paddock on multiple occasions), but it would also be the first time I would attend an IMSA event in person.
I hold the American series in extremely high regard and it was something I was very much looking forward to, not in the last place because it would also offer me the opportunity to meet some of the American colleagues I had come to know since 2019.
However, little did I know it when I left Bahrain following the conclusion of the WEC’s 2018/19 season, but it would be the last visit to a paddock I would make for a nearly a year…
We all know the reason why the trip to Florida ultimately never took place, and in hindsight, it was for the best and I honestly can not see how it possibly could have gone ahead. But the thing I remember most is how quickly it all came crashing down.
In the weeks leading up to the event, while making my affairs in order for the journey across the Atlantic, I had watched as the COVID-19 situation escalated from a worrying development in China to an emerging threat in Europe before ultimately ballooning to something much, much more serious.
And yet, perhaps rather naively in hindsight, preparations pressed on as normal. I got my media credentials from both WEC and IMSA, got my travel documentation for the United States in order and began building anticipation as the event drew closer.
I did have discussions with my family and coworkers at the time, whether it was wise to press on as the virus became more omnipresent and crucially, also begun to spread in the United States. I determined that it would be safe to carry on until further notice, and proceeded with my plans.
I remember the moment the whole thing came crashing down extremely well. I had literally just discussed flight plans with my editor-in-chief. I would fly from Amsterdam to Philadelphia, enjoy an overnight stay there and then catch another flight the following morning from Philadelphia to Orlando.
I recall being surprised that the second leg, Philadelphia to Orlando, would be only a few hours in length, the equivalent of flying from Amsterdam to France or Spain. In my mind, flying from Pennsylvania down to Florida would take a fair bit longer, but I was happy to be proven wrong.
And so, seemingly, it was set. I had my credentials, my travel documents and my flights. I would fly down to Orlando on Thursday, meet my editor-in-chief there and spend the weekend at one of sportscar racing’s crown jewels. I put the flight details in my phone as a reminder and opted to go to sleep.
For some reason, I could not sleep very well that night and did what I usually do when I can’t sleep: grab my phone and browse social media (bad habit, I know). Instead, I saw a push notification from a news app that brought all of my travel plans crashing down upon me:
United States halts all commercial flights from Europe for 30 days.
The next thing I saw was a message from my editor-in-chief, with whom I had literally just nailed down my flight plans. While the exact wording of the message is lost on me, it was something along the lines of ‘it seems like you are not going to Sebring’, to which I replied ‘no, I don’t think so.’
After that, things moved incredibly quickly. The WEC, to their credit, acted swiftly and cancelled their event, with IMSA following suit not much later and postponing the Twelve Hours to November. Just like that, Super Sebring was gone.
The Netherlands implemented an effective lockdown to combat spiraling infection rates not much later and soon, any hope of attending another sportscar event in the first half of the year was gone completely.
The next few months were strange, and unusual, with everybody taking to esports as nobody had anything else to do. For me personally, it would take until September before I had the chance to return to a paddock, attending the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The next trip after that was to the 8 Hours of Bahrain in November, which just happened to take place on the same weekend as the postponed Twelve Hours of Sebring, the latter of which turned out to be an instant classic.
Looking back at the whole ordeal, with the virus spreading quickly around the world, I don’t think I could have seen it go any other way. That’s the power of hindsight and upon reflection I am sort of glad I did not make the journey across.
Who knows what would have happened if I did. Would I have gotten stuck in Florida as the world panicked to respond to the pandemic? Given what we’ve heard over the past twelve months, it seems like a real possibility.
Will I get to return to the United States again someday to have another stab at covering IMSA from the paddock? The eternal optimist in me says yes, although I know that it will likely take a while.
Infection rates in the United States are still not good, and until we get it under control, travelling across the Atlantic just seems like a bit of a bad idea.
I suppose I can pull inspiration from one of Britain’s most enduring songs:
We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day…