This year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona is entering its final three hours. Consider a standard IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race is less than that – only two hours and 40 minutes- and consider that with that distance still to go at Daytona, you have already been racing for 21 hours and 20 minutes.
How do you find that last little bit to be amped up most, when the race is reaching its zenith and its greatest level of importance?
Pushing through the fatigue and ignoring the fact you’ve likely been up for parts of 30-plus hours is key to success.
Some of the GT Le Mans team members explain how hard you have to push when entering the final hours of the race, that so frequently decide the winner.
“You have the fatigue because you’ve been going so long, but you have to forget about it and push through,” says Toni Vilander, who shares the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE.
“That’s the moment when you win or lose, and you have to put aside all the stress from earlier in the race and focus on what’s ahead of you.”
Rick Mayer, Risi’s race engineer, described this in engineering detail.
“A driver’s mental fatigue and any lapse of concentration could easily affect the outcome,” he says. “Your concentration must be high, traffic will be constant, spotters at Daytona are super important. The safety car and wave by rules will ensure a large lead lap car count for each class, as the rules make it easy to make up a small lap deficit. Clearing traffic will be particularly difficult for GTLM as the GTDs have equal or better banking speeds and the GTDs are allowed ABS brakes.”
Corvette Racing’s Mike Rockenfeller, third driver for the No. 3 C7.R, said the frenetic pace and limited caution in this year’s race made concentrating in the night even more critical than normal.
“Obviously in the night it is always crazy here. You need to be really focused. I had two incidents… we didn’t lose any time, and I didn’t touch anyone,” he explained. “It was close; people kept spinning in front of me. That was close, and we were lucky.
“We have only had two yellows, so it’s a bit odd. I was expecting more chaos. There is still plenty of time for something to happen. No one usually wants yellows but I wouldn’t mind a couple to get us closer to the Fords!”
At Porsche, Earl Bamber has the benefit of having already flown almost 24 full hours to get to Daytona. He’s a native New Zealander. So he’s prepared for the finish based on that travel time.
“That’s already a bit of endurance done to get here!” he laughs.
But he knows his task as a factory driver.
“When you drive for Porsche and get to the last three hours, there’s no need to find extra enthusiasm. You stand there on the pit wall, get in, and get going pretty quickly.”
What’s his secret?
“Straight black coffee,” he laughs. “An espresso, and I’m good to go.”
— Porsche Motorsport (@PorscheRaces) January 28, 2018
— CGR SportsCar (@CGRsportscar) January 28, 2018