Build-up done, now on to the 24-hour ‘marathon’
As a driver, the build-up to Le Mans is unlike any other. Activity starts weeks in advance with simulator work and engineering meetings to ensure that the team and car are competitive straight away. For me, being a rookie, I did a lot of homework watching videos as well to try and learn as much about the circuit as possible.Updated: Jun 17, 2012 00:27 IST
As a driver, the build-up to Le Mans is unlike any other. Activity starts weeks in advance with simulator work and engineering meetings to ensure that the team and car are competitive straight away. For me, being a rookie, I did a lot of homework watching videos as well to try and learn as much about the circuit as possible.
The circus moved into town 3 weeks before the race as the official test happened a full 2 weeks before the big race. We got a week at home before coming back for the race. It’s all a part of tradition here where the cars were paraded through Le Mans town for scrutineering and then the drivers were taken through on a separate parade in front of 100,000 people lining the streets. It's a massive extravaganza here and I've slowly grown to appreciate the enormity of the event.
Fortunately for me, my team-mates David Brabham and Peter Dumbrek have a total Le Mans tally of 23 starts between them so there's plenty of knowledge going around. I asked them all sorts of weird questions all week. Things like when to eat, when to sleep or where to go stretch are all important things in a race like this. The cars here aren't as physically demanding as F1 but mentally I think it is much tougher as you can be in the car for three or 4 hours at a stretch, which is double the distance of an F1 race.
We're staying at the circuit in little mobile homes which is a new experience for me but I have to say it's pretty cool being able to walk to work in 3 minutes — the downside of staying at the track is that you have 250,000 very noisy neighbours all in the campsites around the circuit!
The practice sessions weren't particularly smooth for us with a few niggling issues that cost some time.
I managed to do 4 laps in the dark, however, just to get a feel for the track and I have to say that was one of the coolest experiences of my life!
Driving at top speeds of over 320 kilometres per hour through the forest in pitch dark gives you a huge buzz and the sensation of speed in the dark when you can't see that far up ahead is so much more than in daylight.
You really have to be at one with the car and in a zone around this track, where the average speed can be over 240 kmh.
This year, Audi and Toyota have both entered full factory built cars which in normal circumstances will cover the first 6 places.
We're very realistic in our expectations at JRM and know that in our first year as a privateer team without manufacturer backing, we're fighting to be best of the rest behind the 6 manufacturer cars.
First Published: Jun 17, 2012 00:26 IST