As busy as life can get on the business side of the sport in preparation for a race weekend, it’s the race weekend itself that is by far the busiest time. Not only is there the normal crunch of running your own racing business, which only intensifies on a race weekend, but add to that the fact you need to somehow focus on battling it out on track with a couple of dozen young kids all fighting to make their cars go a few tenths of a second faster…plus you need to add in all the logistics of merely getting to the race circuit in a foreign place which often forfeits all the comforts of home.
A typical race day starts very early in the morning, often needing to wake up by 5:30am so you can take the time to eat a proper breakfast and ensure you will be at the race circuit wide awake and early enough not to rush for your 8:00am qualifying session.
Upon arrival at the race circuit the first thing I do is check in with the race team and say my good mornings to the crew before meeting with my race engineer. We will go over our strategy for the day, make tire choices and examine data information from the previous day’s on-track sessions.
If it is one of the first days of the race weekend then there may also be an early morning drivers briefing where the officials brief all of the drivers on specifics of the race event and provide reminders on certain rules/regulations.
Qualifying is extremely important because it determines your starting position for the race so it’s necessary to take huge risks during the qualifying session. You only have a few laps in which you must post your best lap time so preparation is extremely important. I often sit in the car and visualize the lap, along with each gear change, prior to the session beginning.
After qualifying my engineer will download all of the data information from the car and then we will spend time analyzing all of this data together. This is important because we can look at everything I do in the race car including how much brake pressure I use, the throttle position, steering angle, and dozens of other details. Then we can compare this data in a graph format with data from other drivers, this allows the opportunity for me to examine areas in which I can improve and what I need to do with my driving in order to do so.
The build-up to the race is very straight forward and I make sure to be at my car ready to go at the appropriate time. I exit the pit-lane just prior to the race and drive the car around the circuit towards the start finish line. Normally I use this short period in the car to make sure that everything is operating as it should and that there are no strange vibrations or sounds within the car.
Once I reach the start/finish line I will look for a member from my team who will be waiting at my specific starting position and he will guide me into place. Once I have driven into this position I switch off the engine and wait for the pre-race procedures to begin.
With one minute before the lights go green we fire up the engine and prepare to begin the formation lap. This lap is used to warm up the tires, brakes and all other components of the car. It’s extremely important to try spinning your rear tires and produce as much heat as possible because this is what will give them the grip they need to get you away from the start line as quickly as possible.
At the end of this formation lap it’s simply a matter of driving back into your starting position by the start line and waiting for the lights to go green. Once they do, it’s absolute chaos and you simply react to the 25 other cars around you who are all ducking and weaving to pass each other. It is impossible to plan for the start of the race because it is always unpredictable.
Hopefully during the race we will be able to advance our position from the start and have some good fights with other cars around the track. Once the chequered flag flies and the race is complete there is not much left for me to do. I normally drink lots of water and have a large meal, especially if it’s in celebration of a good result. You might think there is a lot of talking and discussions immediately following the race but the reality is that with tight travel schedules for everyone, more often than not we end up leaving the circuit very quickly in order to catch the next flight home.
A race weekend is normally filled with a flurry of activity from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave, so it’s often an event that you look forward to with anticipation and then look back on with fond memories…but in the moments you are there, it’s simply hard work and concentration throughout.