With the 61st Annual 12 Hours at Sebring around the corner, racers and race fans alike are eagerly counting down the days until the flag drops for this exciting event. Last year, we had an opportunity to speak with some bodacious bovines about their annual pilgrimage to the historic Florida race (read our interview with the Sebring Cows). We thought it was only fitting to speak with another dedicated group you may have seen wandering the paddock, invoking blessings of beer and good fortune to all they pass. The Drunk Monks of Sebring have a passion for good beer, good friends, racing, beer, food, racing, beer – do you see the pattern?
I spoke with Brother Andrew about the monks. By day, Andrew is a Federal IT expert in the DC area, with two sons and a very tolerant wife. Like beer in an unsteady hand, Andrew’s passion for motorsports has sloshed about the rest of his life: his sons, both in scouts, always seem to have pinewood derby cars that look like LMP and GT racers. One son’s middle name is, “Enzo.” Did I mention the tolerant wife? Brother Andrew shed some light on this brotherhood that puts the “spirit” in “spiritual”:
PP: When did this all start -- and more importantly, why monks?
A: The first gathering of monks started at the 2009, the years blend together so I will use that as a starting point. It was started by Turn 1 mainstays, Chris and Elizabeth of Boca Raton.
Why monks? I’m not sure. Perhaps because of the diverse, international, and scattered about the globe nature of this group. The 12 hours of Sebring is truly a pilgrimage, and the love of camaraderie, beer and racing is something we hold as sacred. While the core of the Monks call South Florida home, we have members from the Netherlands, including our tallest monk Brother Marius, and our foil, Julian. Sister Doris joins us from New Zealand, she happens to be a vintner, which is always a plus. We have the faithful Brothers from England, Mark and Rick, whom we like to be our voice in paddock interviews (their accents give us a sense of gravitas and class).
We are from diverse backgrounds, in addition to the aforementioned vintner, we have a good contingent of computer geeks, photographers, artists, therapists (God knows we need them), teachers, master gardeners, printers, artists, doctors, lawyers and maybe an Indian chief too.
It’s like the Village People but we all wear the same outfit.
PP: How many years had you been to Sebring prior to forming this motorsports monastery of sorts?
A: Personally, I have been to about a ten races. Brother Chris got me hooked on this event during our college days at Florida State. He hasn’t missed a race since he was no taller than a GT40. I believe this may make 36 consecutive years. But since we are an inclusive group, the cumulative years adds up every March.
PP: Do the monks have a particular marque or team that they favor?
A: While we all have our various favorites, I was a big fan of the Spyker Squadron and Panoz LMP. I seem to always pull for the oddity. The Cadillac LMP was a beautiful, but flawed piece of machinery. We all have love for the mainstays: Audi, Porsche, Ferrari, and Corvette. Bentley is growing on me, and the Aston Martin is a feast for the eyes and ears.
But we all seem to be galvanized in our disdain for the Peugot. We don’t like the Pugs.
PP: How does one join the brotherhood – er, sisterhood? You have sisters, too, right?
A: We are co-ed. Yes, our order has females, beautiful, fun, crazy ladies that keep up, and often, out drink the burliest of monk. There are three things you need to join the order. First, have a robe. We are BYOR more than BYOB. You will also need to be conscious, at least to start. You will need to recite an the following sacred oath:
The Drunk Monks of Sebring Sacred Oath
Which art in barrels,
Hallowed be thy drink,
Thy will be drunk,
(I will be drunk)
At home as in the tavern.
Give us this our foamy head,
And forgive us our spillages,
As we forgive those who spill against us,
And lead us not to incarceration,
But deliver us from hangovers.
For thine is the beer,
And the lager,
Forever and ever
Other Requirements to Join the Order of the Drunk Monks of Sebring
Everyone must also contribute to the beer reserves. We are socialists when it comes to beer. If you contribute, you shall also receive. You will also need to be punctual in order to meet up for Monk walks. We are still working on that last one.
PP: Do you have a secret handshake?
A: No. You do not need to know math. There are no vows of silence.
PP: Is there a favored brew amongst the monks? And, is it home brew?! I'm a bit of a beer geek as well as a Porsche enthusiast!
A: Since Monk walks tend to be long, quantity usually overrides quality. You will find PBR, Miller, Yuengling, Corona, etc. While we are mostly indiscriminate in our libations, we tend to go for the good stuff while watching the race, eating, eating, and eating. Did I mention eating? I do want to thank Brother Marius for introducing us to La Chouffe (troll beer from Germany).
We also tend to sample the harder stuff, from good scotch, Summer Brew, and a wonderful Finnish vodka, Salmiakki, that tastes like salty liquorice.
PP: Besides robes, beer glasses, and a jovial demeanor, what does every monk bring with them to the race?
A: Beer. Liquor, sunblock, food, food, and more food. Monks tend to eat well at Sebring without buying anything from a vendor. Yet there is always a moment of weakness when one needs a corn dog.
PP: What's the craziest thing you've seen a monk do at/during a race?
A: Define crazy? We are dressed in dark robes walking for miles in the hot Florida sun, a few sheets to the wind. Of course that is normal for the Monks, so crazy is a relative term. There is an off-color catch phrase that the monks will repeat, and toast to, when it is shouted at them. If you have witnessed this during an autograph session walkabout in the Paddock area, you have witnessed a unique Sebring moment.
PP: Speaking of unique moments, do you bless racers and/or their cars before the race begins?
A: We have blessed all the Falken tires one year. We have been asked to bless the factory Corvettes, the Alex Job Racing, Level 5, and several drivers, but it’s mostly the mechanics and crew that ask for Benediction. They have the toughest jobs and [we] respect them.
PP: Are any monks racers themselves? Are any monks part of a LeMons team?
A: Brother Chris has dabbled in karts. Last year I brought two of my Mid-Atlantic brothers that both autocross and have several cars at Summit Point in West Virginia. We are planning a LeMons team, but our RV trip from Washington DC to Sebring last year resulted in multiple lost tires and RV repair. Our LeMons budget is exhausted, for now.
PP: I've seen pictures of a "Drunk Monk" T-shirt. If they're related to you, are they for sale? Where do I get one?
A: See Brother Chip in Turn 1. Hand him a pint, you will most likely get a shirt. The Monks are givers.
Other Things to Know About the Drunk Monks of Sebring
PP: What are the perks to being a part of a famous (or infamous) costumed spectator group? Are there adoring fans?
A: I mentioned before the off-color catch phrase of the monks. The very first walk about we told a handful of people of this call and response activity. Three hours later, it seemed everyone was shouting this at us, and giving us beer. We are fans, and we do this for fun and the merriment of other fans. But there exists a little bit of rock-star magic when a world class driver asks to take a picture with us.
PP: Do the monks travel beyond Sebring to other endurance races?
A: Monks have been spotted at LeMans and Spa. I believe there was even a Monk spotted in Atlanta at Petite LeMans. But they are the Sebring Monks, after all. But when you mix endurance racing, fandom, and copious amounts of the grog, it is not surprising to see the brothers and sisters don the robes away from Highlands County. We may assemble at Virginia International Raceway this fall. There is a small contingent of Monks in the Mid-Atlantic. We contemplated the Baltimore Grand Prix last year, but heat, and the no-cooler policy squelched that plan.
PP: Is there a metaphorical "rival dojo" to the Sebring Monks?
A: This is what I love about being a Sebring Monk: We have no rivals. This is not bravado, it is more about inclusion. Sebring is full of established groups, historic camps, and roving merry makers. Many of these groups, have members that have donned the robe and joined the Monks. We have a Brother that is also a Cow (PP see the hyperlink at the start of this interview!). F-Troop is well represented, and Turn 10 has several Monks as part of their camp. And we have had sunset cruises on La Bomba. Last year our Monk walk was over twenty strong, and it will always be inclusive and woven in the fabric of the true Sebring Experience. Holy Sh**!
This post is written by frequent contributor Andrew Granieri. Andrew is a Techncial Writer who lives with his lovely wife in Ohio. His Porsche 944 pulls double-duty as a summer track car as well as a venerable winter weather vehicle. Coincidentally, those are his two favorite driving conditions.
From the Editor: To our readers who plan to attend this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring: if you’re looking for a group of merry men (and women!) to bond with over the roar of the engines and the tipping of glasses, look no further than Turn 1 for the Drunk Monks of Sebring! We had the good fortune to meet the Drunk Monks at the 2011 race (that's where this story idea came from) and became honorary members when they bestowed a "holy towel" upon us. It holds a sacred place amongst our Sebring memorabilia.
Are there other Sebring "Super Fans" we should interview? Let us know who we're missing and we'll make it a point to include them in our growing series.
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