If there’s anything to be learned from joining a 12-hour endurance race earlier this year, it’s that running them not easy. Whether it’s 4, 8, or 12 hours long, it's demanding not just to the car, but to you physically and mentally as well. You need a lot of preparation, and not to mention practice, before you can even think about doing something like this. Unlike a sprint race, where you can go all out from the start, the drivers also need to change their mindset. Specifically, they need to take their driving down a notch to make the car actually makes it to the end of the hours long race.
So, imagine my surprise when I was asked by Tuason Racing School to take part in their Ultra 4-hour endurance race out of the blue. The bigger shock? They only told me about it a week prior to the race itself. Despite knowing the difficulty (and the lack of specific details at the time), I agreed to join. The reason? Why not challenge myself to go wheel to wheel racing on the circuit. After all, who wouldn't want to give it a go? Prior to that, I’ve just been competing in an autocross course. This endurance race would be a great way of actually getting to race in a grid with other drivers.
Most of the teams participating in the weekend endurance race actually had time to practice during the weekday. I, sadly, didn't have that luxury unless I skip work...and ditch my teammates. So, the only practice I got was the session before the race itself. Talk about cramming.
There was also a bit of confusion the days leading up to the endurance race too. I actually didn’t know what car we would be driving that weekend, and who my teammates were. I assumed it would be one of the Giti-Formula V1 cars as most of the entrees were teams competing in the series. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Instead, I found out we would be using a Toyota Vios OMR used in the previous seasons instead.
While driving the Formula V1 would have been fun, it would have been a tall order for someone like me to race one. For starters, I have yet to drive the V1 car. I also heard from colleagues who have driven it that it is quite a handful to drive at the limit. You could say I was relieved to know that I would be driving the Vios OMR, which feels more familiar. I had driven the new Vios OMR in four legs of the Vios Racing Festival earlier that year, so that put fewer things to worry about in my mind.
Still, I felt anxious, to say the least. I mean, I had little practice, and I didn’t know most of my teammates. Well, not personally at least. I finally managed to meet them and most of them were TRS instructors. They gave me a warm welcome and even let me go out first during the first practice session.
The next thing I knew, it was time to race. Turns out, time flies when you're waiting for your turn to drive. Our team was composed of five drivers, meaning each of us would do around 45-50 minute stints and those minutes flew by fast. The good thing about that though was none of us would get too tired to drive, and our pace would be consistent.
I will admit I was anxious to drive. Can maintain a good pace or would I would pass out from exhaustion? All of that did fade away the moment I got strapped in the car and headed out the pit lane. Instead, I just drove the best I could (without being too rough on the car). Despite my stint being around 50 minutes long, it only felt like 30 minutes or even less. And in an instant, my stint was over, and I was being told to pit. It's true what they say. Time really does fly when you're having fun.
I lost all the pre-race jitters and I was looking for more track time. I felt that my confidence in the car (and myself) had grown right after the first stint. I wanted to stay out longer, but I reckoned fatigue will kick in hard if I just kept going. Also, the sun was beating down the track at 3:00 PM, and without air-conditioning, the interior felt like a sauna. The race suit didn’t help either.
After hours of racing and numerous driver changes later, the chequered flag was waved, and the race was over. With all the effort our team put in, we managed to finish 2nd in our class. Considering none of us really had proper practice the days leading up to the 4-hour endurance race, we were all surprised at the results.
Saying it was a fun experience is underselling it. It was awesome to have joined an endurance race out of the blue. Sure, the stints were short, but that didn't make it underwhelming at all. At the same time, I picked up new things and managed to improve my driving skills as well. Since we didn’t really expect to beat others, we just all enjoyed the experience and had fun. Being handed that trophy however was the icing on the cake.
At the end of the day, I was tired, sweaty, and looking for the nearest shower. Was it worth getting slow-roasted inside a race car running at high-speeds? You bet it is, and it's making me want to hit the track again.
So if someone offers you the opportunity to race for them for free, I suggest you do so. I mean, not every day do you get chosen to do so. Who knows, you might even bag a trophy or two. And even if you don’t, you can at least say you’ve completed an endurance race.
Special thanks to JP, Ferdie and the rest of Tuason Racing School for the opportunity to drive in the endurance race.