Conquering the bumpy and blind Sebring International Raceway takes courage, precision, and commitment. For some insight on this process, we’ve found an eye-opening video of Christian Cabangca on a near-perfect run. I raced with Cabangca several years ago in karts, and then he went on to race in Skip Barber before the Lucas Oil School of Racing in 2017. There, he’s been able to stack up three wins and currently holds the series’ lap record at Palm Beach International Raceway.
The competition is made more fierce by the quality of the equipment in their hands. The Ray GR11 car is modern but simple. This spaceframe car lacks wings, only runs semi-slick tires, and is powered by a 2-liter Mazda MZR engine. The MZR produces 140 horsepower, which is sent to a Sadev sequential gearbox controlled via a Performance Electronics ECU paired to a Pro Shift paddle-shifter system outfitted with rev matching. It does have a clutch pedal, but that’s only needed for starting and stopping.
The ECU and shifting system work in conjunction with the AiM Formula Dash 2 data acquisition and SmartyCam video systems. Therefore, young drivers don’t have to confuse themselves with the requirements of a typical H-pattern gearbox like so many moving up the ladder once did. Additionally, they get introduced to telemetry and learn to assess their racecraft on a very specific level.
One thing which Cabangca had to adjust to was the rate of steering a formula car like this requires. He could fling a kart around with some fairly abrupt steering movements, but handling a formula car on these tires takes a slightly smoother approach. Note the way he dials in a slight amount of opposite lock often; he coaxes the car into the corner without forcing it. When suspension is involved, the car takes a slightly longer time to do what’s asked of it, and it can’t be hurried.
His braking and steering are coordinated so beautifully that he’s able to get the car to yaw into the corner with little effort. Trail braking, zero-steering, and attacking the apex with the least amount of steering lock possible, he’s able to take full advantage of the underpowered motor to fire down some of Sebring’s straighter portions. Without enough grunt to spin the tires, except in the slowest corners or in the rain, this car needs to be adjusted properly come corner exit. Fortunately, this car runs an open rear-differential and allow for brake-bias adjustment, so they turn in beautifully, neatly, and progressively under braking (0:33).
Ever the perfectionist, Cabangca’s studied this footage carefully and found a few errors. “In terms of where I could’ve braked later, I think it was the last corner. Everyone else goes into the corner deep and stays in fourth gear. I shift down to third gear,” he adds. This hyper-challenging corner and its peculiar approach is discussed in greater detail here, but for the moment, enjoy this a lap which shows a driver operating at that narrow junction between youthful aggression and conservative precision.