SEBRING — A group of Special STARS received the royal treatment at Sebring International Raceway, as they were the special guests of Avon Park’s G-Tech Motorsports and Ginetta USA at Sunday’s FARA event. The trip to the racetrack was actually the result of a disappointment several years earlier, but G-Tech Motorsports owner Gary Dunford was determined to make sure the athletes enjoyed themselves.

“We know Gary and his wife Bobbi Jo through the Highlands County Moose Lodge in Avon Park,” said Cindy Marshall, Special STARS coordinator. “They’re really good friends of ours and what happened is back when the Sebring races had the cars downtown at the Circle, I had taken most of this group down there to see the cars. But when we got down there the cars all left. They literally were just seeing the back-ends of the cars as they were leaving.”

Marshall was telling the story to Gary and said “if you ever have a race car you could just bring down and let them take a look at, it that would really make their day.”

Gary said he would keep it in the back of his head and would be sure to let her know.

“Gary called and said ‘I think I have something for you,’ “ Marshall said. “Next thing I know he’s putting our logo on the car, he’s sponsoring it and he said ‘let’s bring lunch out here for them so we can meet-and-greet with them.’ “

Marshall said Sunday’s trip to Sebring International Raceway was much more than she could ever imagine.

“It was way over the edge,” she said. “All I wanted was him to bring a car out so they could see it, but this is all they’ve talked about for the past week, getting a chance to go see the race cars. As soon as we pulled up they had their windows all down so they could listen to the cars roll around the track.

“Most of our guys have some sort of intellectual disabilities or physical disabilities and we have one who is visually impaired, he can see just a little bit of light, but the roar of the engines, it’s exciting.”

In addition to owning G-Tech Motorsports, Dunford does mechanical work for a number of racing teams, with one of those teams being the Ginetta USA team, where he works for Aldopho Rossi, who was all for the idea of bringing the Special STARS to the track.

Dunford said seeing the smiles on the faces of the Special STARS was a great feeling.

“Oh yeah, they were excited,” he said. “Just to do that and let them see the cars in action was great.”

The No. 45 Ginetta G55 had the Special STARS and Coffee News logos on the door and the athletes all posed for photos with the car when the races were over and got autographs from drivers and crew members. Fabio Escorpioni, who drove the No. 55 Ginetta G57 Prototype, was especially gracious, spending time with the athletes, posing for plenty of photos and singing autographs after a hot, humid day at the track that also featured some pretty heavy rain.

“Most of them are car enthusiasts,” Marshall said. “They have collections of cars, they have NASCAR shirts and hats. They’ve never been out to the racetrack so this is kind of neat.”

Marshall said she wanted to thank everybody who made the outing at Sebring International Raceway something that wouldn’t soon be forgotten.

“I want to thank Mr. Rossi, because I know they’re his vehicles, and Gary and his crew for taking the time out to be able to do this,” Marshall said. “It means a lot to our guys. They’re loving it.”

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