From Our Aussie Abroad - Ian Branston:
Most, if not all of us, will have attended some form of sporting event. It may have been tennis, soccer, football, cricket or all of the above, but at the end of the day there was usually a winner and a loser. In the moment of the event you can leave with a feeling of bitter defeat or the elation of success. However, over time these feelings get buried in our day to day lives and what we are often left with is not “the result” but the memory of being there. In other words – the experience.
I have been fortunate enough to have participated in, or been a spectator, at numerous motorsport events all over the world – Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US. What sticks in my mind as I recall these events always relates to my experience and not necessarily involves who won. Perhaps a reflection of the number of brain cells I have killed but let’s continue.
The experience angle is perhaps why I am such a fan of long distance racing. The spectacle of being riveted to my seat for a sprint race or an F1 battle is certainly enjoyable, but my memories more often than not always defer to what I did or who I met rather than who won. In addition, longer races give me the chance to do more than just watch the cars on track. It gives me the chance to wander the pits, change viewing points, meet friends and go to other behind the scenes activities on offer.
And so to the Rolex 24 hour at Daytona in 2020. Not only a back to back win for BMW Team RLL, but this was a race that was a battle for hour after hour with the last laps just as exciting as the first and a whole lot of stuff in between. The result was unmistakably fantastic but my long term takeaways or impressions go well beyond the on track activity.
The late night and early morning sights and sounds are my favourite. Obviously the sound of the cars ripping down the log straights get my attention but a late night stroll through the infield provides sights and sounds all of their own. Wood smoke from all the fire pits, the sound of numerous parties among the sea of RVs combined with the back drop of the cars creates an incredible atmosphere.
Watching the sunrise across the infield is always special, especially when you realize the race is far from over and there is still plenty of time to swap stories and meet with friends. Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the generosity and approachability of the teams, drivers and owners during the pre race garage visits. It’s always great to hear from the drivers themselves about their expectations, for the race and the season. With the Bathurst 12 hour following soon after the Daytona race several drivers are always very keen to chat about Mt Panorama or their previous experiences at Bathurst. If they have not raced there its very apparent they all want to!!
This year, during our visit to the Turner Motorsport garage, we were given an intriguing insight into the strategic planning side of the race from Don Salama. Add this to some very excited drivers (Bill Auberlen, Augusto Farfus and John Edwards spring to mind) who were all eager to get racing but still had the time to chat and share stories and the garage visits remain a favourite and provide lasting memories. In fact this year, I was so interested in listening to stories (and getting models signed) I totally forgot to take the obligatory selfies!! No worries, I’ll catch most of them at the season finale at Road Atlanta.
In the meantime, if you are eager for another long distance race, not quite as long as Daytona, there is always Sebring in mid March. And that provides to a 4 hour race along with a 10 hour and a 12 hour. One day I to get the chance to experience this 3 race marathon.