The long trip down to Bathurst

The Bathurst 12-Hours is one of Ben’s high­lights of the rac­ing sea­son – but ar­riv­ing in good shape is as chal­leng­ing as the on-track com­pe­ti­tion it­self…

Total 911 - - Motorsport - Ben Barker The FIA WEC driver shares all about his world cham­pi­onship cam­paign

Owing to pub­li­ca­tion sched­ules, I’m writ­ing this be­fore the Bathurst 12 Hours know­ing that you’ll be read­ing it well aware of what­ever fate had in store for the Grove Rac­ing team at Mount Panorama.

With­out a race to com­ment on, but a lengthy trip Down Un­der still ahead of me, I thought

I’d take time out to lift the lid on the life of an in­ter­na­tional race driver. I’m not deny­ing that there are worse jobs to have, and I ac­tu­ally love trav­el­ling and dis­cov­er­ing new places, but at my height, and with the knowl­edge that I have to keep my­self in the right shape to do my job, there are some down­sides (see pic­ture above right!).

Bathurst is com­ing at just the right time to break up some of the monotony be­tween the end of last sea­son and the be­lated start to the 2018-19 FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship, which doesn’t get un­der­way un­til Spa in early

May. It would be the same if I was rac­ing in Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi or Day­tona, but all have one more thing in com­mon – the need to sit on a plane for sev­eral hours.

Go­ing to Aus­tralia is some­thing I have done many times, es­pe­cially as I spent a few sea­sons rac­ing out there be­fore re­turn­ing to chase a fu­ture in sports cars, but it is not the most com­fort­able trip. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, race driv­ers don’t all fly busi­ness class. I’ve had to fold my spaghetti legs into an econ­omy class space more than once and it can be a painful ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly if the flight has no stopover. That said, this time around I am fly­ing busi­ness class and the added lux­ury will be im­por­tant given the job I have to do when I get there.

As I have al­ready said, I know I’m ex­tremely lucky to be go­ing to Aus­tralia in the first place, let alone to race a Porsche around one of the most spec­tac­u­lar cir­cuits in the world, so im­prov­ing how I get there is only a bonus.

The whole at­mos­phere of the Bathurst event is dif­fer­ent to most of those in the WEC, which takes in a wide di­ver­sity of cul­tures – and thus pro­vides dif­fer­ent cul­tural chal­lenges at al­most ev­ery stop. The flight and ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions on of­fer can vary wildly be­tween venues, and teams and driv­ers have to rein in their ex­pec­ta­tions and cut their fi­nan­cial cloth ac­cord­ingly.

For this race at least, though, I’ll be spoilt, as

I’ll be stop­ping in a nice ho­tel in Syd­ney for one night be­fore head­ing to Mount Panorama, join­ing up with my young team mate Bren­ton Grove and hang­ing out with a cou­ple of suc­cess­ful en­durance vet­er­ans in Earl Bam­ber and Kévin Estre along the way. It won’t be a ‘boys on tour’ thing, though, as we’ll be try­ing to chill dur­ing the heat of the day be­fore ab­stain­ing from the at­trac­tion of bars and clubs af­ter dark. We do have a job to do af­ter all!

The fact that it takes so long to get Down

Un­der does mean that I’ll be mak­ing the most of the trip by tak­ing in a cheeky five-day surf sa­fari once the rac­ing is done. That, at least, will make the rit­ual of keep­ing up my phys­i­cal prepa­ra­tion a lit­tle more var­ied. Race week­ends don’t of­ten lend them­selves to main­tain­ing tip-top con­di­tion other than the work out you get be­hind the wheel, although I do try to ‘run the track’ at most events. Aus­tralian cui­sine isn’t the same threat to ten­der race driver con­sti­tu­tions ei­ther so, fin­gers crossed, the trip will pass with­out too much in­ci­dent.

For now, though, I’ve just got to re­mem­ber my pass­port and make sure I pack the right rac­ing kit – there would be noth­ing worse than turn­ing up with­out my crash hel­met or prop­erly fit­ting boots – and then hope that I don’t ex­ceed the bag­gage al­lowance (even for busi­ness class).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.