What a great and crazy year this has been. As the 2021 season comes to an end, I am looking back at everything.
I put a lot of effort into reflecting on every detail that happened in the racing season. All of the things that I did right… and all of the things that I did wrong.
All year, I try to improve on the things I did well, as well as learn from and correct the mistakes.
This time of the year, however, is when it starts to dominate my thought process. I have dreams about racing. I eat breakfast every day only thinking about how to gain an extra edge on my competition.
Everything I do throughout the day, racing is always in my mind. And with Road Atlanta being my home track, I am thinking about it even more.
Going into this last race of the season, I have an excellent feeling about our performance. It will be one of the busiest race weekends I have ever had, second only to when I flew back and forth from Watkins Glen (NASCAR) and Road America (IMSA) in the same weekend.
The Motul Petit Le Mans weekend will bring not one, not two nor three, but four races in the same weekend.
On Thursday and Friday at the track, I will be racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America presented by the Cayman Island races, which is a total of three races.
Then to top off the weekend, I will be racing the ten-hour race on Saturday in the Motul Petit Le Mans. It will be, no doubt, a physically taxing weekend, especially since in the entire month prior I would have been in four different regions of the world: Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.
Long plane rides and lots of jet lag will put me to the test for sure. I am ready for those kinds of challenges. There is nothing a nice cup of coffee and the sound of a Porsche 911 can’t fix!
The sights and sounds at a racetrack never fail to keep me up. Especially when we get into night practice.
This Petit Le Mans will be different than most other years too since we are racing in November instead of October. The night will come much sooner.
I checked the weather for the day of the race, and sunset will be at 5:35 p.m. That means that half of the race will be in the dark. For those that have never driven Michelin Raceway at night, it is definitely an experience.
At times, it is bright and you can see a lot of the track, but there are other corners where you cannot see a single thing. The part that took me the longest to get used to is coming out of turn three.
As you exit the corner and start to go downhill through the esses, the light that shines on the track in turn four starts to become eye level with you in your mirrors. Almost every time you go down the esses at night, you cannot tell if that is a car behind you or if that is just the track light.
At least the esses are full throttle the entire way down at 150 mph. That always makes things a lot easier. Another dark place is going down the back straight. There is not much light there. It is also one of the few passing spots on the track.
People tend to get impatient and try to out-brake you going into turn ten, but it is always a last-minute move. This track is so difficult to pass on. You can try to go to the inside of someone in turn one, six, and ten, but other than that, it is difficult. Yes, the back straight is very long, but turn seven is such a slow corner.
This means that if you exit turn seven just two feet behind the car in front of you, as you accelerate down the straight, that two feet becomes two yards, and then five yards.
Finally, as you approach the bend in the back straight, the draft starts to take effect and you can gain on them a little. This is why everyone gets so impatient here because you only start to catch back up towards the end of the straight.
Everyone’s mentality is: “Oh I’m gaining on them now, so I can pass them.” But in reality, you’re still an entire car length back. It is always my favorite place to watch the races from. Really exciting things can happen in the braking zone of turn ten. Pretty much every other place on the track is high-speed corners with very little passing opportunity and high G-forces.
This is what also makes Michelin Raceway a physical track. It is honestly one of the most demanding tracks in the world, both physically and mentally. So much is going on so fast that you are constantly doing something.
Twelve corners in just over a minute. None of the corners are low consequence either. Imagine going down a hill accelerating at 140 mph, not being able to see where you are going, ten other cars around you, and two 10-foot tall concrete walls standing on each side of the track.
Oh, and I forgot to mention there is a massive bump right at the apex when you are traveling 138 mph, and it sends the rear of the car out to an oversteer in less than 0.1 seconds.
It is so taxing on the mind and body that staying relaxed in addition to maintaining a calm yet intense mental state is going to be extraordinarily important.
One other thing that I will have to get used to that I have not done before is using two different pit lanes on the same weekend.
The Porsche Carrera Cup North America pit lane is on the left side of the track, and the WeatherTech pit lane is on the right. The Carrera Cup pit lane is a fast and straight entry. The WeatherTech pit entry on the other hand is very curved and there is a wall on the edge of the track.
It will be interesting to have to push the pit entry limits on two different sides. This also means that our paddocks are far apart. The only way for me to get back and forth between the two is via the bridge over the front straight.
If I run between the two paddocks it will still take me at least a couple of minutes to get to the other one. Some of our sessions will be back to back, so if you happen to be on the bridge between a Porsche Carrera Cup session and a WeatherTech session, you’ll probably see me running like a chicken with its head cut off to make it to the next session.
Good thing I still eat the sardines to keep me fueled to run back and forth (go back through my other Sportscar365 articles to get the joke). The only problem with the sardines on the track is sometimes it is a little bumpy out there. I now like to go light on the sardines when I’m driving at a bumpy track. It helps.
Ending on a personal note, I am writing this article right now in Kenya. My family and I are doing a safari out here. I was able to spend yesterday with the Maasai tribe.
This was my first time interacting with an African tribe. Their outlook on life is the best I have ever seen. They are the most thankful people I have ever met. They don’t have much, but they sincerely appreciate what they do have. Family, friends and life.
I am thankful to be able to learn from them and see what life is really about. I feel that a lot of times living in a first-world country and racing cars closes your eyes to what life is actually like.
The meaning of life is so much different than most of us realize, and there is so much that we can all learn from small tribes like the Maasai.
If you want to see more about the Maasai tribe, you can follow my Instagram @DylanKMurry and check out my posts about spending time with them. They are truly amazing people.