First off – hope everyone had a great Holidays season! I personally enjoy this time of year personally, as much as I love racing, staying busy and always on the go professionally, it is nice to have some down time to relax and re-charge for the following year. Our racing season in IMSA is a long one. We start up in January and don’t finish until October. Sure, you could say we have only 12 races a year but let’s look at some of the details here from not only a driver’s stand point but the rest of the team.
Our season officially starts with the Daytona 24 Hour event in late January every year and then ends in early October in Road Atlanta with the Petit LeMans event. On paper this seems like we have a nice “off-season” from early October to late January! Now let’s add in the “Official” series test, that IMSA has during the off season, basically 1 every month – all in Daytona! So, we test in November, December, then the big ROAR test event in early January… Ok you are thinking well this isn’t so bad – “not that busy” – a few days of testing every month during the off season – “no big deal”. Now throw in Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year and your off season starts to diminish darn quick! Now to be clear from a drivers stand point I am certainly not complaining, there is nothing I love more than to be driving race cars all the time. I am so fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love to do, but with that being said I think us drivers have the easiest jobs on the team when it comes to the schedules…
I want to talk about the mechanics, truck drivers, managers, engineers, and the folks in the shop that make all this work. Those are the guys who I look up to when they are working to prepare these cars for each and every event. For us drivers we show up the day before the event and then do our jobs during the weekend or test days and then fly home the following day! The guys who maintain these cars are the ones who have poured so much time and effort in over the course of the weeks and months prior to these events to maintain and prepare these cars. I don’t think people on the outside understand how much work goes into these race cars and how far the mechanics take the cars apart between races and tests to service them. I would say a standard between event service is all 4 corners of the cars suspension taken apart, inspected and cleaned, the gearbox and engine removed, serviced and cleaned, and then a thorough inspection of the fuel cell area and then re-assembly of everything! Not to mention the servicing and maintaining of the tractor trailer we haul all the stuff in, someone must keep up with the parts we used up at the last event, the food we ate, the drinks we drank, the consumables we used up, etc… That is all the standard between events stuff that goes on!
Now let’s talk about the “off-season” prep that needs to be done! Every team will pretty much strip their cars down to the chassis / tubs every off season and inspect and replace a bunch of parts. Build all their spare parts for the following year and refurbish everything back up. This is to only maintain what we had from the prior year. Now every team’s engineers and drivers always come up with things that we would like to do to make the cars more comfortable, lighter, faster, more efficient over the course of the year. Some of these may be small projects and some of these are larger projects that we don’t have time to tackle during the season – so we put these on the “off-season” project list… So, the guys need time to tackle that list as well as the normal off season rebuild and you can bet your last dollar there is a similar list of projects for the tractor trailer hauler as well! And for a team like CORE Autosport this year we are switching out classes and cars – from a prototype car to a GT car! So, we need to setup and get fluid with a new car, new setup equipment, new fueling equipment, make the car as comfortable as our old car was for us picky drivers! Whew – I am sure glad we have a great group behind us!
So let’s take another look at the “off-season” – we get done early October at Petit. Everyone takes a bit of time off and relaxes before starting up again soon. So we have a few weeks to prep for the November Daytona test (remember you car ran for 10hrs at Petit and is pretty well trashed so it needs a lot of prep work)! Then we get done with the November test and you have a week for Thanksgiving. Then in 3 weeks we head to Daytona to test again! After we get back from that we have about 2 weeks, then Christmas and New Years and then a week later we have to be in Daytona for the ROAR January test! And you can be sure that when we show up in January for the ROAR test the engineer is excited to see what progress, changes and improvements we have for the new season (i.e – the list better have been finished – haha) – along with the drivers… Whew race mechanics and racing people are some of the hardest working folks I know. Thank you to all of them and their families for making this sport work!