Car endurance racing is an extreme challenge, even at the amateur level. Many drivers participate in endurance racing to really show what they are made of. Others aim to make it a career. There are a few tips that can make endurance racing easier no matter what your goals are.
10 tips for starting car endurance racing are:
- Spectate before you start
- Start small
- Make sure you are physically fit enough
- Practice your mental fitness
- Practice as much as you can
- Take care of your drivers
- Communicate effectively
- Find an experienced coach
- Never give up
- Have fun!
Endurance racing is an incredible sport, but it is extremely difficult. It can also become really expensive to participate in. It can be rewarding when you perform well, and it can also be heart-breaking when things do not go your way, so it’s best to prepare as much as you can before you start.
10 Tips For Beginners To Start Endurance Car Racing
1. Spectate Before You Start
It is always best to know what you are in for before you get started in something. In order to do so, you need to spectate as many endurance races as you can so that you can get a good idea of what to expect when you get started.
There are a lot of endurance racing series you can watch, both international and local. Try to watch some of the WEC races whenever you can and pick up on how they operate during the races. Attending local races in person is also a great way to see how things work in your local racing series.
In addition, you can also watch some onboard footage on YouTube to see how drivers manage their pace and their tires, which is crucial in this sport. You will also be able to see how fatigue starts to affect drivers towards the end of their stint, which is a vital component of endurance racing.
Learn From The Pros
You may need to take some notes on what you have noticed and picked up from the professionals. If you are attending races you can speak to some of the drivers to get a better idea of what it is like to participate in endurance racing. If you are not attending races in person you can still connect with drivers on LinkedIn and Instagram.
2. Start Small
Always start as small as you possibly can. This not only helps to ease you into endurance racing, but it also takes a burden off of your budget. The best place to start is in karting. If you have a Sodi certified circuit near you, they will most likely host endurance karting races.
These are really cheap; all you need is your own safety gear and a couple of friends. There is no need to buy a kart, tires, or fuel to participate here. These low costs mean there is not a huge risk for you financially, and if you end up not enjoying the sport then it did not cost you too much anyway.
If an endurance karting race is not available near you, it is best to keep things small with cars too. Try to join a team rather than entering your own car. If you join a team, try to aim for a lower ranking team who are participating for fun. This way, there is less pressure on you to perform well, and if you make a mistake there will not be any bad blood between you and your teammates.
If you are entering your own team, stay within your budget. It does not help having an incredibly fast car with all the best modifications if you can’t afford to repair any damage it picks up during the race.
3. Make Sure You Are Physically Fit Enough
Endurance racing, like marathon running, requires an immensely fit body. You have to sustain constant high g-forces for extended periods of time (usually between 2-3 hours). If you already have experience from track days, you’ll understand what just 15 minutes of fast driving does to your body.
You need to spend a lot of time in the gym in order to prepare for the season. Having the right diet is also important on top of spending time in the gym and working out. Try to do as much physical activity as possible to get into the right shape.
A gym routine helps a lot, as it keeps your body strong and prepared for the physical effort. But what you can’t prepare for is the effect of the g-forces on the body. The only way to get used to this is through being what racing drivers call ‘race fit’.
Being race fit means your body has undergone high amounts of g-forces for extended periods of time (it has to be recent as well). The best way to do this is to get as much driving in before the start of the season either in karting or with track days.
It’s the same reason Formula 1 drivers keep driving on track (whether its karts or cars) even in the off season. Race fitness is crucial in motorsport as it helps to minimize mistakes and reduce your fatigue later in the stint.
4. Practice Your Mental Fitness
Mental fitness is just as key as physical fitness when it comes to endurance racing. You will need to concentrate for up to 3 hours straight per stint. The slightest lapse in focus can result in a spin or a crash that can undo 2 hours of fast lap times.
Train Your Mind
Luckily, you can train yourself to concentrate for extended periods of time. The best way to do this is to use technology. Get yourself a simulator (or even a console if a simulator is out of your budget) and try to simulate a 3-hour stint.
Of course, the physicality element (g-forces) is not part of this, but it will help your mind to extend its ability to focus for longer. The more you practice these longer stints the easier they will become. Using a simulator eliminates the risk of destroying a car, of which there is always a risk with on-track practice sessions.
In A Race
As much as this training will help you to focus for longer periods of time, it’s a lot more challenging when you are actually in the car. The combination of intense focus and extreme physical output makes your entire body fatigue much faster, along with your mind. Try to prepare your mind as best you can for the actual race, to minimize the effects of this fatigue.
5. Practice As Much As You Can
Make as much use of the practice sessions as you can. Being comfortable with your race car on the track in the specific conditions is key to having a good race. There’s nothing worse than having to spend a 3-hour stint in a car that you are not comfortable with.
Learn The Track
You should really have done this kind of preparation before the race weekend, but you need to know the track like the back of your hand. You have to be able to stick to your braking points automatically (you will have to drive in the dark after all).
You also need to pay attention to where all the bumps, kerbs and slippery surfaces are around the circuit. These can throw the car off balance and quickly send you into a spin to the back of the pack. If you make a habit of avoiding these hazardous zones early on it becomes easier to avoid them when the late stint fatigue sets in.
Get Used To The Conditions
Using a simulator to learn the circuit is a fantastic tool. However, what you can’t do is simulate the conditions on the race weekend. You need to use practice to see how much grip is available on the track and set your car up accordingly. Use practice sessions to set your car up so that all drivers on your team feel comfortable in it.
6. Take Care Of Your Drivers
Drivers need to be at peak performance throughout the course of the race. As such, it’s important that they are well taken care of not only during their rest breaks in the race, but also during the entire race weekend.
Keeping drivers hydrated is essential to their physical and mental performance levels. Make sure there’s a drink system installed in the car and plenty of drinks available for drivers in the garage. When drivers become dehydrated during their stint, mistakes become more frequent. The best drinks to use are ones with lots of electrolytes.
Nutrition is a tricky thing to get right during the race. Drivers can’t have heavy meals before the race that will make them feel lazy or drowsy. However, at the same time, they do still need to eat during a 24-hour race, especially if they are putting in a lot of physical effort.
It’s best to supply light meals that provide a lot of energy. These can be salads, smoothies, and pasta dishes. Also provide a lot of healthy snacks such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables that drivers can get in quickly during their breaks.
A driver rest break between their stints is probably the most important thing you need to focus on. It’s difficult to sleep at a racetrack with 20 plus cars driving around at high speeds. The amount of sleep is also difficult to get right. Too much sleep will cause the driver to wake up feeling even more tired than before.
The Fighter Pilot’s Power Nap
Ben Collins, the man that used to be the Stig on Top Gear, has a handy tip to get around this. Have something caffeinated and then take a 20-minute power nap. The caffeine can take up to 20 minutes to kick in, so as soon as you wake up you get a caffeinated energy boost. This technique has also been used in the military and the air force.
7. Communicate Effectively
Communication with your team is crucial in endurance racing. When you have different drivers on track at different times, it can be difficult to communicate messages through to all of them. This is where the right equipment can really make a difference.
Invest in a team radio system that allows you to chat with your driver on track. It’s also important to be able to effectively communicate with the rest of the team (such as mechanics and engineers) through radio, however this might be out of your budget in amateur racing.
Strategy is important in motorsport, but it’s absolutely essential in endurance racing. Your team will have an initial pit stop strategy after qualifying, but that almost always changes. Drivers get tired, fuel starts running low and tires wear out. If you don’t have a channel of communication, that element of flexibility in strategy is taken away.
In addition, you might find yourself stuck in traffic and need to pit earlier or later in order to overtake the car in front of you in the pits. This needs to be communicated with the entire team to ensure they are kept in the loop and are ready for the pit stop. If not, it could be disastrous.
Motorsport is unpredictable and anything can happen. Punctures, mechanical issues, and contact between cars are all common occurrences. If a driver can’t communicate these issues with their team, there will be confusion and panic in the entire team when the car comes down the pit lane before its scheduled stop.
8. Find An Experienced Coach
No matter how fast a driver you think you are, there’s always someone with more talent, speed, and experience. As a racing driver and athlete, you need to always be willing to improve yourself. The best way to do this is to find a good coach.
Get The Right Coach
You wouldn’t go to a plumber to get advice on how to fix your race car, right? Well, the same logic applies to choosing racing driver coaches. Although they all know how to drive fast, they might not be as knowledgeable in your specific category.
Try to find a coach who is experienced with the car that you drive and the category you are racing in. In this case, you would turn to an experienced endurance driver who has a lot of hours under their belt. They would be able to give you accurate advice on how to make your fuel and tires go the distance, and how to keep your energy levels high.
Coach Your Team
At the end of the day, you are part of a team. Sharing knowledge and advice with your teammates will help to elevate your team to a higher level. If your coach is not willing to help your entire team (which is unlikely), you will need to coach your teammates yourself. A winning formula in endurance racing is when everyone helps each other out.
9. Never Give Up
Motorsport is unpredictable, and anything can happen during long endurance races. This means that not only can your team end up with a mechanical issue or a crash that sends you back and behind everyone else, but it can also happen to anyone else on the grid.
Even if something has gone wrong during your stint, it’s important to put it behind you and keep pushing on. You might get lucky further on in the race if something goes wrong for your rival team. If you give up too early you might not be in the position to take advantage of an opportunity like that.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Many famous athletes have been quoted saying something along the lines of, “I have learned more from the games I lost than the game that I won”. This is also true in motorsport. The best way to learn is through experience and making mistakes, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you do something wrong. Learn from it and keep pushing on further into the race.
10. Have Fun!
Motorsport is an extremely competitive environment. Everyone wants to stand on the top step of the podium holding the trophy. However, it’s also about having fun. When you’re having fun, the entire experience will be great, and you will also perform better in the car.
Try to keep things fun at the individual level, but also understand that everyone in your team wants to have fun as well. Don’t make life difficult for anyone with a bad attitude or rash decisions, as this will only bring the morale down. Keeping everyone in the team as happy as possible, including you, is vital for the overall team’s performance.
Endurance racing can be extremely difficult, especially for drivers that are new to the racing discipline. But taking the time to learn from the best, and to keep yourself in good mental and physical shape can really make things much easier. Keeping the morale of the team up, and learning from your mistakes is also important, but the key thing is to always keep it enjoyable too!