Colin's Corner: What is a 24 hour race like for a driver?

Colin's Corner: What is a 24 hour race like for a driver?

Colin Braun drives, the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 Prototype Challenge (PC) car, in the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. Having won multiple championships and countless races and poles, Colin is the youngest driver to podium at Le Mans and is considered the crème of the crop among sports car drivers. He will be writing a series of blogs for us this year to highlight the driver’s perspective on a variety of topics.

I have been asked to write a blog about what a driver goes through at the Daytona 24 Hour race.  We all know that the driver drives the car (not for the entire 24 hours, I always get that question from fans - you don't drive the entire 24 hours - no we don't, I would like to try it though!).  But I think what fans may not realize is all the other things that go along with being prepared to drive the car each time you get in throughout the event.  I am going to talk about four main things that drivers do during the event to give you an idea of what we go through from the time we get done driving a shift, to driving our next one.

Drive the Car

This one is obvious!  And probably the most fun aspect of doing our jobs.  Who doesn't love going fast and getting to drive some of the coolest and fastest cars? From Prototype's to GT cars, in the world for 24 grueling hours.  We have co-drivers who we get to share the car with, so we can have a chance to rest and recover between stints.  I tend to use my own heart rate (HR) monitor during race stints when I drive so I can track my HR and use it for training outside the race car. I can tell you from my own experience that our heart rate's as drivers during a stint are anywhere from 140 beats a minute to 170 beats a minute - and we will typically drive a 2.5-hour to 4-hour shift during the 24 Hour race (that gives the other drivers enough time off to rest).  So to those of you that don't think race car drivers are athletes, try keeping your heart rate in that zone. With a crazy amount of mental concentration; 3 G’s of cornering and braking force; and then for some of us (my friends in closed cock pit cars), with ambient temps in the 100+ degree Fahrenheit range inside the car!  

Physio

So you come out of the car after your first shift (2.5 to 4 hours long), tired, hungry, thirsty, sweaty, muscles tight, all amped up from driving on the limit, and maybe happy or sad depending on how your shift went.  Now it's time for a quick debrief with the engineer to fill him in on how the car is performing and what may be mechanically changing with the car (brakes fading, shifting not smooth, damage from a bit of contact, etc...).  Then it's usually a golf kart ride to the motorhome, during this time frame you will typically give your PR rep some quotes about how it is going and how you are feeling.  Each team will rent for its drivers a nice motorhome to use, so we can shower, relax, and have a warm place to get some rest.  So once you’re back in the motorhome, it is a quick shower which feels refreshing after a hard stint!  Once you are cleaned up then it is over to the physio to get your body worked on and anything that is tight, loosened back up!  Pretty much every team has hired a chiropractor or massage person to come in and take care of the drivers, ahh the perks of the job!

Food

Yes my favorite part.  It amazes me how many calories we burn during a driving shift.  So you have to re-charge and re-fuel.  We have this wonderful food service business that does the catering at the race tracks for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series called Marion's.  Marion's is basically a buffet style affair, where you can always get great hot and tasty food, no matter the time.  She will even have a specific area of pasta's and chicken for the drivers at all times so we can always grab something.  I tend to try and eat as much as I can so I am always fueled up and ready to drive - I like a mix of chicken and pasta with salads and fruit.  Sometimes it is fun to grab a scoop of ice cream and a brownie in the early hours of the night too!  It's not like you aren't going to burn it back off in the race car! 

Sleep

Maybe my second favorite part!  Now this is an area where many different drivers will do different things.  Some of us like to sleep and have no problem turning the brain off and just getting some shut eye.  While others may not be able to turn their brains off enough to be able to rest and get any useful sleep.  It's not easy to be in the middle of the race and hear all the race cars running around (and in the back of your mind wondering about your own car; is it going ok, is the next driver doing a good job, what is that yellow flag for?, we didn't just crash did we?, our engine didn't blow up did it?, etc...).  I have always found myself in the category of being able to sleep with no issues.  Part of that is probably because I have some of the best co-drivers in the business at CORE Autosport and I know that whether I am sleeping or not if something is going to happen when I am "off duty" it won't matter whether I am up or sleeping!  

So after all of that, you are resting away peacefully - then this loud knock and entrance by our PR rep comes on the side of the motorhome and it's time to get ready to go back on duty and drive your next shift.  Then the cycle starts all over again.  Man those 3:00 a.m. wake up calls are tough to get the eyes open, but 45 minutes and you are hauling butt around Daytona International Speedway again, trying to burn up a set of Continental race tires and it’s all worth it!