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SKEER: The Le Mans Break

Elliott Skeer files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

Seventy-six … that is the number of days between the checkered flag falling on the third round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama in April at NOLA Motorsports Park and the green flag being waved to start the fourth round of the season June 26 at Watkins Glen.

This is the break I like to call the “Le Mans Break.” where American racing focuses its attention around the French classic. But for someone like me who didn’t compete at Le Mans, or on the last few TUDOR United SportsCar Championship weekends before it, the break is a very strange time.

But racing never really ends. Off-track efforts are as important as the driving, in my opinion. Racing is not a weekend getaway but a full-time job and needs to be treated as such. This means that all 76 days of the break have racing in mind, and productivity levels are measured toward my racing goals.

Racing is a very expensive sport. We all know that, and it’s something I am always thinking about. Not having the ability to write a massive check for the season means every day of the year has thoughts about budgeting and securing additional funding.

A break of this length really lets me focus hard on the off-track business side of things and secure some extra dollars for the season. Waking up in the morning usually begins with some brainstorming about new partner ideas or ways to tighten bonds with current partners and continues into the afternoon putting these plans into action.

It’s obviously very important to secure the funds to compete, but it is equally important to be as ready as possible for the actual race. Physical and mental preparation is crucial to performance on track. Racing inside of a closed car with cockpit temperatures well above 100 degrees and no cool suit or drink bottle to rely on means that I have to be as physically ready as possible.

This means daily cardio and/or strength training. The benefit of living in Southern California is the ability to train outside every day of the year. It can be climbing, running or sailing – as long as you sweat it is seen as a positive to me.

Mental strength needs to be well maintained, too. Racing isn’t like a basketball or golf where you can play each and every day. In theory you can, but it would be very impractical and expensive. To “work out the mind,” I turn to simulators.

I’ll run 10 to 15 laps of a random car/track combo each night to keep my mind inside a car and in a race mode. It’s not exact, but it is as close as I can get without actually driving. Besides, who doesn’t like some no-rules racing with other racers and no crash damage to worry about?

Over two months away from a track is a little too much for me, so I decided to make the eight-hour drive from San Diego to Monterey for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship weekend in early May at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I will say that was a very strange weekend for me, being in my normal paddock and knowing so many faces inside it, but not having any sort of schedule to follow.

It was like being a very well connected fan. I was able to bring a camera and shoot the weekend, though. I do have a soft spot for some motorsports photography, and I was happy to give it a try. But I will gladly leave it to the professionals after seeing my photos on my laptop. A weekend at the track without racing was not something I wish to get used to, but was fun to try out once.

I still am a 20-year-old who goes to college and tries to have bits of a “normal” life. I was especially happy with the NOLA schedule, as I had a week after the race to prep for finals! It’s never easy to instantly switch to cramming for a marine biology final right after winning my first Porsche race, but the finals were taken and passed!

The upcoming weeks also were filled with nights of bonfires at the beach with old friends. It’s always nice to get the mind off of racing for a few hours to just unwind, too!

At the end of the day … er … break, in this case, it’s all about making each day as positive and productive as possible. With this many days off, it’s crucial to not let the mind wander and lose focus on the task at hand, and that is becoming the best race car driver I can be and perform at the best of my abilities this season.

Now, please excuse me, as it is a beautiful day outside, and there’s no time to waste!

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