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VANTHOOR: Riding High into Le Mans

Laurens Vanthoor files his latest Sportscar365 column

Photo: Porsche

I’ve been experiencing the best and worst of motorsport this past month.

First, we win Mid-Ohio and then took the pole at Nürburgring setting a new lap record, but then with a two-minute lead in the race, Romain [Dumas] came to some oil on the track, lost control and that was the end of our race.

It broke my heart—even worse than Long Beach.

I don’t want to dwell on that here. Instead, let’s talk about something that is always good to me: cycling.

To be honest, I don’t do it purely for motorsports. Obviously it helps with my fitness and my overall health, but it doesn’t make me faster in a racecar.

Ever since I started cycling, the longer races have become a bit easier, but the main reason is I just enjoy doing it. It’s a release. I’m not thinking about motorsports; it’s just me and my bike.

There’s a part of cycling that is close to racing. I’ll go out on a ride with some friends who are very good cyclists, they’re really strong, even pros in the past.

Photo: Oliver Hilger

When I first started cycling with them, I had no chance of keeping up at all according to them, but I started to get better and better and it got to be like motorsport; I wanted to beat someone else, I wanted to improve my bike so it was quicker.

The competitiveness shoots through you. It’s only second to motorsport for me. I really enjoy it.

Last year I did three races and I’ll do more this year. It’s real racing. You’re fighting for positions and going all out. There’s a lot of tactics, more than I thought. I want to be the best at it.

I’m not as good at it as I am at motorsport, but I want to work hard and beat everyone else. That’s why I’m always training.

I’ve collected five bikes now; two road race bikes that are my favorite and I put the newest parts on, and I have a winter bike for bad weather that has less special stuff on it and is built to accept water.

I have a cyclocross bike, which I actually prefer to mountain biking, and I have a time trial bike that’s just for speed on a flat course… I wanted something that would get me the fastest lap on Strava!

Photo: Oliver Hilger

I couldn’t find a good workshop near where I live, so I decided to buy my own tools and learn how to do everything on YouTube.

I build my own bikes and I do all the maintenance myself. Luckily I have a couple deals on bikes and parts with companies like Scott Bikes, Ceramicspeed, Wahoo and Oakley. If not, it would all be way too expensive!

Some people tell me that biking is dangerous and that I could hurt myself and affect my driving, but the same is true for running; I could twist my ankle.

What can I do that’s 100 percent safe? Play ping-pong?

I don’t do anything crazy. For example, I was doing a bike race last year when it started to rain and it was a fast course through a city. I decided to stop because it wasn’t worth the risk.

Photo: Oliver Hilger

After Long Beach an IMSA cycling club sort of formed. I was in touch with Renger Van der Zande about going for a ride in Malibu. Then Oliver Gavin joined us.

We started a WhatsApp group so we could arrange group rides at the races. I’ll plan my flight to come in early so I can go for a ride and I’ll message the group to let them know and see if anyone else wants to join.

We’ll rent bikes from Rapha or other bike shops. Oliver Jarvis just joined the group.

We’re not competitive with each other when we ride, because when you ride in a group you want to set a pace that everyone can maintain. Although, it’s funny, whenever we get to a hill, it seems we start to push each other to see who can get to the top first!

I’ll let you know how big our group gets by the time we reach Petit Le Mans.

Speaking of Le Mans, we just completed the test day. Preparing for Le Mans is quite a big deal because you can feel how bad Porsche wants it. There’s been a lot of preparation; a lot of time, money and people.

There are people walking around in the garage that I have never seen before! It’s quite impressive. There’s a clear goal and expectation to win.

Photo: Porsche

It’s cool to have the special livery. It gets a lot of attention! We could have picked any Porsche livery, but we picked the ‘Pink Pig’ because it’s so different and stands out.

There were a lot of red flags during our on track sessions, so I didn’t get to drive as much as I would have liked.

We gathered a lot of information with four cars though. The engineers have a lot of work to do to analyze it all and come up with the best package!

For now, I’m sticking with my usual training, playing with my bikes and by the end of the week I’ll cool down.

I have to make sure to get good rest and eat well. It’s not just the day before the race that you need to prepare, you to need to prepare weeks ahead of time to build your energy stores.

I’m focused on that right now and relaxing at home, as much as I can with the renovations we are doing. I don’t volunteer to help too much… I have a good excuse!

Laurens Vanthoor (@VanthoorLaurens) is the 2019 IMSA GT Le Mans champion and former FIA GT World Cup champion driving for Porsche GT Team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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