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Grand Am / Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

Discussion in 'Sports Board' started by Nettdata, Dec 13, 2009.

  1. Nettdata

    Nettdata
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    Any racing fans out there?

    As some of you may know, I manage a Grand Am Porsche racing team, called Bullet Racing. We're an all-volunteer team, based out of Vancouver, BC, that races on behalf of the BC Children's Hospital Foundation, by raising cash per-lap (or straight-up donation) that goes 100% to the Hospital.

    We're thrashing on the car right now to get it ready for testing in Daytona in the first week of January. (Well, they're back in Vancouver working on it, I'm out of province helping my dad recuperate from open-heart surgery, doing what I can to work on logistics, sponsorship, web site stuff, etc).

    It may be a little self-serving, but I was wondering if anyone was at all interested in a somewhat behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to get things up and running for such a huge race?

    I'd also be willing to do a question-and-answer type thread on it here.


    Next to Le Mans, it's the biggest race in the world, and has a huge contingent of racers from around the world participate; from F1, to Indy Car, to NASCAR, etc.


    Let me know if you're interested, and I'll be more than happy to.



    ...nettdata
     
  2. Nettdata

    Nettdata
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  3. Nettdata

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    Well, things are progressing.

    The guys are back in Vancouver working killer hours prepping the car for the race.

    You would not BELIEVE the crap that has to be done... basically, the car comes almost completely apart and then put back together.

    This includes almost everything, except for the engine. The transmission, axles, bearings, etc., etc.

    Taken apart, cleaned, inspected, put back together.


    In case you weren't aware, the engine is a sealed component that comes in a crate from Porsche. It's got a seal on it that has to be intact in order for us to pass tech. This is so that all the engines are pretty well guaranteed to be the same, and nobody replaces the internals with go-faster parts. (Level playing field for competition and all that).

    All in all, the car has to be done and sent on its way in about a week. It's a 4-5 day trip to Daytona, and the customs paperwork for the car, tools, support gear, etc., is a nightmare. Believe me, the import tax on the car was enough of a kick in the nuts that the nightmare is well worth it to ensure we don't have to do it again.

    Meanwhile, as team manager, I'm working on logistics for our team, including flights, hotels, rental cars, race credentials, etc., etc.

    I'm also working on sponsorship deals, and making sure sponsors are happy and kept in the loop. They are, after all, more of a partner than a sponsor.


    The team itself is fairly large, consisting of drivers (4), crew, spotters, and support crew.

    The crew is usually 6-8 people, and are responsible for running tires/wheels during the race, wrenching on the car, refuelling, safety/fire prevention, etc.

    Personally, I also do the on-board computer stuff, including the Motec data acquisition, on-board engine management settings, etc. I also work with the on-site Porsche engineers with the diagnosis and tuning of the engine and control systems.

    The spotting team are 3-4 people that sit at the top of the main grandstand throughout the practice sessions and race, and are in constant radio communication with the driver, keeping him (and the pits) informed of the traffic, on-track incidents, etc. This is critical, as the closing speed between a Daytona Prototype car and our GT car is insanely high, so if you have a pack of 4 of them (like we did last year with the 4 lead DP's), it's important that the driver knows about it so he doesn't get freaked out as they go whipping by. They also tell him where the overtaking cars are in relation to him, so he can concentrate on what's going on ahead of him.

    Spotter chatter could be something like this: "3 DP's coming out of Nascar 3, looking on the inside, inside, inside, and they're clear". "Yellow flag in the Bus Stop, appears to be debris on the left side of the track, so take it slow and stay right". "3 cars have gone through the chicane in 1, watch for fluids." "Damaged and slow moving car coming out of Nascar 2, stay left."

    This is especially critical at night, in the dark, when it's damn hard to figure out closing speeds, etc. Never mind sometimes you just have to coach and comfort the driver, and push him a bit if/when he gets overly complacent and forgets he's in a race. It's too easy to get into a rhythm when you're driving, and you forget that the goal is to actually go out and pass people. This is especially true when you're running by yourself. If you're racing someone, it's easier to keep the competitive juices flowing, and push yourself. If you're alone, you end up just putting in the laps.


    And one of the most important people is the logistics/catering person. A team runs on its stomach, and it gets damn cold during the race, even if it is in Florida. We probably burn through 15-20k calories during race day. Even though the race itself is 24 hours, we generally are up and working for 42-48 hours, with only a couple of 20 minute cat naps, if you're lucky. And this is all while you're handling $8k worth of race gas, in pit lane, etc. You have to stay extremely focused and aware of your surroundings, or somebody could get fucked up.
     
  4. Nettdata

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    Probably one of the most interesting aspects of the process, for me, is the interpretation of the data. It's my job to configure the Motec, and download/reset it every time the car comes into the pits. I also work with the driver coach on interpreting it.

    This is a sample screenshot from the Motec data, actually from the 24hrs race last year, with our main driver in it.

    This was his qualifying lap.




    One of my jobs is to help interpret this data in order to help the other drivers on the team learn how to go faster.

    We can then take this data (of a very reasonable lap), and compare it to the laps of the other drivers.

    By comparing things like shift points, braking profiles and points, etc., we can coach the drivers on very specific things to help improve their lap times.

    We spend a week at Daytona doing nothing but testing, and the process of grabbing the data out of the car and debriefing the driver happens many, many times per day.
     

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  5. Senna Vs. Prost

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    Most of you don't give a fuck about motorsports, but this is an amazingly cool thread, from a perspective you hardly see. Thanks a lot Nettdata. If you did this on a team blog, I think it would be very cool.
     
  6. Nettdata

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    FYI, we just rolled out our new website as of last night: <a class="postlink" href="http://www.bulletracing.ca" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.bulletracing.ca</a>

    I'll be putting up a blog in the next couple of days on there.
     
  7. Nettdata

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    Uhmm... wow. We've just finalized our driver lineup.

    It'll be announced publicly shortly, but we've secured some world-class talent for our final 2 driving positions, and I'm amazed.

    We've now got a HELL of a shot at winning. Not just finishing, but winning.

    Needless to say, I guess I won't be bringing my driving gear to Daytona this year.
     
  8. Nettdata

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    FYI one of our drivers is a Canadian A1GP driver, Sean McIntosh.
     
  9. OxnardMontalvo

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    Just wanted to thank you for the thread, good luck for the race.
     
  10. Nettdata

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  11. konatown

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  12. Nettdata

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    Been a while since I updated stuff, but I've been busy.

    In case you're interested, we've finalized our driver lineup.

    It includes:

    -- Darryl O'Young, a multiple Porsche SuperCup Asia Champion
    -- Sean McIntosh, Canada's A1GP driver who's testing in F1
    -- Ross Bentley, world-famous driver/coach, past 24 hrs winner
    -- Kees Nierop, former Porsche Factory driver, raced 935's at Le Mans


    More details here: <a class="postlink" href="http://bulletracing.ca/?q=content/driver-bios" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://bulletracing.ca/?q=content/driver-bios</a>

    So yeah, we've got an actual chance to win this fucking race.


    Damn.
     
  13. Nettdata

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    Pics from testing this past week in Daytona:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Nettdata

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    We were featured on the BC News:





     
    #14 Nettdata, Jan 13, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  15. Nettdata

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    Here's some in-car from our testing at Daytona a couple of weeks ago.

     
    #15 Nettdata, Jan 21, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015
  16. Samr

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    Hopefully I'm not the only one interested in this:

    For those of us who have never heard of the 24 Hours of Daytona race, could you just give us a general overview?

    Do the different types of cars race all at once? How many times of cars are there? Are they in the same standings, or different?

    How long are drivers allowed to drive before a relief? Is there a regulation on how many drivers you can use? What's the strategy in switching them out? What are the logistics?

    Is it 24 hours non-stop? What happens if something breaks and you have to miss a lap to repair? Do you have to make it up? Is it the person with the most laps at the end?


    And the questions I've always wanted to ask a NASCAR driver: what the HELL do you do if you have to use the restroom? How do you eat (I'm sure you get hungry)? How do you drink? Do you get bored behind the wheel, and if so, how do you fight it off?
     
  17. Nohik

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    Nettdata could you answer a few questions that I have as well please?

    1.What do the drivers eat during an endurance race and before it to prepare?

    2.Do the top drivers do any sort of special training for a race like that or not?

    3.How physically taxing is an endurance race like Daytona/Le Mans for the drivers? Does it ever wear out your hands as well or not?

    4.What about mentally? All that adrenaline and being on your full concentration for a full day would kill me...
     
  18. Nettdata

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    <a class="postlink" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daytona_24_hours" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daytona_24_hours</a>

    Yes, Daytona Prototypes (DP's) and Grant Touring (GT's) both run at the same time, for 24 hours straight. DP's are much more performing, as they are purpose built, while GT's are "supposed" to be based on street cars.

    There's usually a 40mph or so closing speed difference between them.

    Here's a pic of our car with a DP car.



    Generally, minimum of 1.5 hours per stint for drivers at a time, sometimes will go 2 stints at once, especially in the cooler night.

    Driving a car for that long is a very intense and physical thing... people greatly underestimate the amount of work it takes. Most of our drivers are marathon runners, etc.

    Strategy is very complex... some drivers have better strengths than others... for instance, today it's calling for rain for the first 6 hours. Ross Bentley (author of Speed Secrets) is one of the best rain drivers out there... he calls it "Car Dancing". He's first in the car today for us. (Start in 20 mins, actually).

    Strategy is very complex, and you have to be able to react quite quickly and change/adapt as the race progresses and you see what the track/weather is doing, other teams are doing, yellow flags, fuel stops, tires, etc. It's a hell of a chess game... not just "go in and drive for 24 hours".

    Go read our last year's recap here: <a class="postlink" href="http://bulletracing.ca/?q=content/we-went-we-raced-we-persevered" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://bulletracing.ca/?q=content/we-we ... persevered</a>

    We spent over 150 laps in the garage fixing the car.

    You NEVER give up. EVER. It ain't over until the fat lady sings, and you ALWAYS have a chance to win. Some strange shit can happen and wipe out the top 10 teams in a blink of an eye.

    The race runs for 24 hours, from 3:30PM ET Saturday until 3:30PM ET Sunday. Whoever crosses the finish line under their own power with the most laps in the bag wins.


    You pretty well never have to go to the bathroom while you're driving, as you're too busy concentrating and dehydrating. The biggest problem we have is keeping drivers hydrated. We use PediaLite, water, gatorade, bananas, oranges, etc., etc to keep them hydrated. Drivers begin to fully hydrate themselves a full 24 hours before the race starts. They ALWAYS walk around drinking water/etc, and if they don't we shove one in their hand.

    The heat and physical demands are very taxing, especially when wearing a full nomex 4-layer driving suit, helmet, bellaclava, etc. Thankfully it doesn't usually get too hot in Daytona in January, so it's a fair bit easier. In the really hot days, some drivers have to be pulled from the car and are near exhaustion when they're done a stint. There are medical services available in the pit lane for just this reason.

    In the car we have drinking systems. We have a large driver-specific reservoir of water that gets put in the car when the driver gets in. There's tube integrated into his helmet, and a button on the steering wheel. When he pushed the button, water gets pumped through the tube. If we have a cocky/annoying driver that's mouthing off a bit, we'll "accidentally" switch up the radio and push-to-drink buttons on him in practice.

    And yes, you can get bored, especially when you're running fairly alone. If you're not dicing with someone, you can get into a rut, and believe it or not, driving becomes subconscious, and your mind starts to drift a bit, all while you're still putting in good laps, braking at 2 g's, etc., etc. We have spotters that keep an eye on what's going on around our car and are in constant communication with the drivers. The team management (crew chief, owner, manager(me), etc) also have driver communication.

    We try and get our drivers to stay with one or more other drivers on track to keep them occupied and reminded that "hey, you're in a fucking race here buddy".

    We also relay various lap times and relational information to them. Our closest rivals might be on the opposite side of the track from us (it IS a 3.6 mile track), and we'll still be dicing with them within tenths of a second.

    Trying to keep the driver aggressive, yet smart, is a challenge sometimes.

    Equipment longevity is the key to a long distance race like this. It's better to be 1 second a lap slower per lap but able to finish the race than it is to be 1 second per lap faster but only able to run for 18 hours before your transmission/car fucks up.
     

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  19. Nettdata

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    Same stuff as any endurance sport... tons of fluids, bananas and stuff, pedalite, carboloading before the race, etc.

    All professional drivers have huge physical/mental/skills training that they undergo to be competitive. Sports psychology is huge, with all sorts of mental imaging, etc. We also employ professional driving simulators that you just can't buy as a private individual. Ross works with one such company developing these, so he gets a free $100k simulator for his house... we take ample advantage of that.

    It's to the point that at any time, we can have our drivers sit down in a room, close their eyes, and mentally go through an entire lap of a race, in the head, in real time. They visualize the track, all the markers on it (pavement defects, paint scrapes, anything that helps you become visually intimate with the track). We can put a stop watch on them, and when they're done, they are within 2 seconds of a REAL lap time on track. That's a 1 minute, 52 second lap, by the way.

    Again, the preparation for this is huge.


    As per my previous post, it's no walk in the park. They are physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of their stint. Then they go and try and take a break / nap for a couple of hours until they have to come back and do it again.

    Most times things are too exciting to get any sleep, so they are usually up for the entire 24 hours.

    Again, "endurance" just isn't a word... it's FUCKING HARD WORK.

    As crew, our day is about 48 hours long.

    The RACE is 24 hours, but we have pre-race prep, the race, and post-race cleanup.



    4.What about mentally? All that adrenaline and being on your full concentration for a full day would kill me...[/quote]
     
  20. maybe

    maybe
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    I have a near-pointless question about something that piqued my curiosity.

    I notice in many of your photos, the car number was 44, then it was 33 in the testing pics, and timing and scoring has Bullet racing as the number 22 for the race. (Currently 15th in class -- nice) What's the deal there? Are numbers assigned, or are you guys just working your way down to being number 1? Heh.