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It is three weeks until race week for the 24 Hours of and I am already excited. As I alluded to in my last blog, really is one of the ultimate tracks for a driver. Not only is it one of the world’s fastest, it hosts a 24-hour dog fight where everyone wants bragging rights.
I will be sharing driving duties of the #97 Lowe’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE with my two teammates Darren Turner, from England, and Stefan Mücke, from Germany. They are two very experienced drivers in GTE competition and finished second in the 2011 FIA GT1 World Championship.
It goes without saying that there is a lot of preparation for a 24-hour race. On the team side, there is the preparation of the car, the logistics of moving all of the equipment from Aston Martin’s home base in England to France and the coordination of all the tickets and hospitality for the large numbers of guests that turn out for this event amongst other things.
For the drivers, we need to show up prepared to do our jobs and that means keeping in top physical and mental condition to handle long stints behind the wheel.
Our race week begins with scrutineering or technical checks and this is not your average technical inspection. It is a two-day event on June 10/11 held in downtown Le Mans in front of a beautiful cathedral with fans lining the street. Once passed, you pose for the traditional team photo featuring the car, team members and drivers.
We have one practice session on Wednesday before the start of three qualifying practice sessions to set the grid for the race. All of these take place late in the day with the qualifying practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday scheduled from 10:00 pm to midnight. Needless to say, there are a lot of late nights in the paddock and coffee consumption reaches new highs.
Thankfully, we can sleep in a bit on Friday before some time at the track and then the traditional driver’s parade which again takes place in downtown Le Mans and attracts over 180,000 spectators. The reception from the fans makes this a truly fantastic experience, and one that all the drivers look forward to each year.
Race day on Saturday requires an early wake-up call to make it to the track through all the traffic for a 9:00 am warm-up session. While our race doesn’t start until 3:00 pm, there is plenty to do.
Being such a high-profile event, teams and manufacturers do a lot of first-class entertaining here and some of the hospitality units rival anything in Formula One. Aston Martin Racing’s hospitality, for example, includes a private terrace overlooking the track in addition to a pit suite. Guests can even take helicopter tours of the track.
For drivers, it is all about pacing yourself once the race starts. In between our stints, we have a motorhome where we can go and rest a bit but you never really sleep as most of the time you are listening to your teammates and the team on your headset to keep up with what’s happening.
Le Mans is race of endurance for everyone – mechanics, team personnel, drivers, everyone. I usually feel like I am going to sleep for 24 hours when I get home!
I will be leaving soon for the Le Mans test day on June 3 and will look forward to updating you will our results and thoughts on the race from the competitive side in my next blog.
Until then, thank you for your support.