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…
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).