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Nine hours of racing and just four hours of sleep

india Updated: Jun 19, 2012 01:54 IST
Karun Chandhok

What a weekend that was! I've done hundreds of races in my career in various cars across several countries but nothing can compare with what I experienced over the last 24 hours here at Le Mans. To give you some stats, through the race, I was on track for 9 hours and slept for 4, which isn't a very relaxing ratio I can assure you.

The 24 hour race starts at 3pm on Saturday, and you would imagine the organisers would allow the drivers to have a lie in before the race, but instead, we're up at 7am for a morning warm up session!

The opening ceremony for the race is amazing, where they play the national anthem for every one of the 166 driver's nations represented on the grid, and it was real spine tingling moment to hear our own 'Jana Gana Mana' played out in front of 250,000 people here. That was when I really started to appreciate what a historic moment this was for Indian sport.

We had a bit of tough start to the week with the car set up not quite being right. We had qualified 11th but had sacrificed qualifying to focus our efforts on getting the car right for the race as you really don't want to be manhandling a bad handling car for 24 hours.

Through the race, we rotated the drivers in the order of David Brabham going first, myself next and then Peter Dumbrek. The plan was to keep the order the same so that everyone gets the same amount of rest in between stints in the car. I ended up doing the most running with three shifts of around 3 hours each - which is almost equal to double an F1 race at every shift!

My first stint in the car was from about 5:15 in the evening into twilight, which was good to get some running in daylight. The grave-yard shift from two till five in the morning next and I have to say the last hour of that stint was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my career.

The fatigue really started to set in — by that point I'd been awake for 22 hours apart from a little powernap and it's amazing what an effect that has.

When you're charging along at 320 kmh through a forest in the pitch dark, the mind starts to play tricks on you - you start to see parts of the track that aren't there, hearing noises that don't mean anything or seeing random bits of light which aren't really other cars but people in the grandstands!

Very tired

I was absolutely exhausted after that stint and went straight to bed as soon as I got out for a solid 3 hours, but happy in the knowledge that we were now up into a solid 7th place.

I have to admit that it was a bit of a struggle to wake up but it was bizarre that as soon as I got the call on the radio from team saying "time to get ready", the sleepiness disappeared and the adrenalin kicked in! We were now up to 6th place in a good position to start to save fuel and the brakes and just bring the car home.

At the start of the season I said that with the factory teams of Audi and Toyota being on the grid, a top 6 finish at Le Mans would be a dream result.

To have achieved that on my first time here was fantastic not just for me but for the whole team at JRM Racing who were also making their Le Mans debut. Now, it's time to find stay in bed for the next couple days I think!