Summer break is a bit of an odd concept for a racing driver still finishing university. It’s a bit like having a summer break within a summer break.
For those that don’t quite understand the distinction, the racing world (mainly Europe) tends to take a hiatus from on-track competition in the beginning and middle of August. It gives our engineers and mechanics a much-needed break from long, sleepless race weekends.
For me, I used this time to improve as a racing driver as best I could. This meant me spending two weeks in the UK preparing for the final races of the year.
I planned the two weeks to target all the areas of motorsport that are crucial: fitness, driving, and interacting with media and sponsors.
First on the docket as I landed from the States was a four-day fitness camp at the London Olympic Park hosted by Pro Performance. I never thought I would get to train at all the Olympic venues I saw on television in 2012.
In fact, during the London 2012 Games I had an existential crisis realizing that the majority of the athletes were my age and I felt I hadn’t accomplished anything at their level. Hence going there three years later as a professional athlete was something special and a bit surprising.
Our first day was actually held at the Pro Performance headquarters near Gatwick Airport. We completed lots of circuit training and reaction testing before heading down to the Olympic Park.
The following day was the one I’d been most looking forward to: entirely spent on the bike. In the morning we completed a 32km ride before going into a two-hour velodrome track bike training session.
Fellow sportscar driver and factory Toyota LMP1 pilot Mike Conway proved to be fun competition all day. I think if you put racing drivers on a track with wheeled objects you’re going to end up with everything that would happen on a race track!
Our drafting and blocking skills were put to the test while riding together. Ultimately Mike posted the quickest lap but I put partial blame on my training day before, which he didn’t partake in.
After the velodrome session we completed a 30-minute watt bike workout followed by an afternoon mountain bike ride. As much as I enjoyed the riding my legs were happy to see a bed that night!
The next morning saw us jumping in the pool at 6:30 a.m. We spent the entire day training at the aquatic center. After completing a swimming workout we moved on to a two-hour dry land gym session.
The real highlight experience of the day was completing a diving session with one of the UK’s head diving coaches. Next time I think I’m mentally tired I’ll cast my mind back to the 10m platform and know I can dig deeper!
The final day was slightly less strenuous but equally fun. In the morning we made the journey to the white water Olympic venue to complete a team-rafting course. Our strokes were definitely not perfectly in sync, but we made it through the rapids and only lost one driver along the way….
With the fitness camp completed I dove headfirst into simulator work. The first day was a bit of a fun day at the sim as we were supporting the Sean Edwards Foundation at Base Performance’s 5th birthday.
Fellow GT driver Jody Fannin and I traded top times in a GP3 car around Silverstone. It got quite competitive as the charity event turned into a data analysis party! Ultimately Jody pipped me for fastest time to win the competition for the fourth straight year.
A few days later I was back to prepare for the final race of the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Nurburgring. Playing it on Gran Turismo is really not the same as doing it on a proper sim!
This is another track that I have grown up watching with F1 but have never actually driven. It’s important I close out the year well with Lamborghini so simulation prep was necessary.
The final project of the trip was a bit of a mental exercise in how to best handle media and sponsors. I spent the day at Silverstone being trained by former F1 pit-lane reporter Louise Goodman. What could be more fun than doing hundreds of fake interviews!
I guess the best was saved until last, although it required quite a lot less effort on my part.
While in Britain word reached me that the decision to exclude my GRT Grasser Racing Team from the opening BES round at Monza had been overturned by the FIA, meaning that Fabio Babini, Jeroen Mul and I had indeed taken victory on the new Lamborghini Huracán’s debut back in April!
Needless to say we were all absolutely delighted and can’t wait to hopefully finish the European season in style.
With that, and the TUDOR Championship’s North American Endurance Cup title to fight for at Petit Le Mans in early October, I really cannot wait to get back in the saddle!
So until next time… a massive thank you to Pro Performance, Base Performance Simulations and Louise Goodman at Goodman Media.
I certainly learnt a lot and was amazed at the level of support for young drivers in the motor racing industry in the UK.