Hello, everyone! Welcome to the first installment of Katie’s Racing Line!
I’m going to start off this column with a really simple statement: The FIA World Endurance Championship is, hands down, the best racing in the world right now. I’ll let you read that sentence again, I’ll let you formulate a bunch of counterpoints to it, and then I’m going to say it again. WEC is the best racing in the world right now. No other series even comes close to the awesomeness that is this series. The cars are incredible, the drivers are some of the best in the world (for the most part, anyway), and the action on track? Come on…how can anyone even deny my statement after the epic battle between Audi and Porsche?
So it’s simple. The FIA World Endurance Championship is, hands down, the best racing in the world.
I’ve been thinking this for awhile, but Fuji really sealed the deal for me. I mean, I had a plan for staying up all six hours. I pull all nighters all the time, and I’m a firm believer in my coffee to energy drink ratio (tried and tested during Le Mans this year), but despite the fact that I had been up since about 8 AM Saturday morning, I didn’t need to use my plan. Despite the fact that Fuji started in probably the most boring way possible (wooohooo, safety car!), it was a thrilling race that kept me wide awake until it was over.
Full disclosure: I’m a Porsche fangirl. I love Porsche. I love that Porsche is having its year in such a huge way. Being at a Porsche podium at COTA was one of the most thrilling moments of my 2015 racing season. Well, it was until I was present at a Porsche GTLM overall win two weeks later at Petit. But the point is, this is the year of Porsche. So staying up all night for races? It’s really easy this year.
Also, I should probably point out that I’m a huge fan of rain races (yes, even at Petit). Rain separates the men from the boys, and with Fuji, it added a whole new layer to an already great racing series. The strategies were more interesting, the driving was fantastic, and there was a moment when my Twitter feed was basically me going, “I don’t know what to tweet right now because everything is amazing.” When you’re watching these incredible racers battle the elements, there is something that comes over you. It’s almost a ballet (and no, I’m not talking about the synchronized water dance of Porsche and Audi) but your eyes don’t land on one ballerina and your other senses don’t fade. Rain races seem to make every sense come more alive, even when you’re at home and your body is telling you it’s time to sleep.
Which is why I like to live tweet the races, why I love to stay awake through the long night hours to see a favorite team win. It’s interesting, my family was watching college football recently and when they saw that their team was up by halftime by a lot, they turned off the game. I was shocked by that. I can’t imagine ever walking away from a race. I can’t imagine turning off a race because my team is several laps ahead and it’s clear they’re going to win. Too much can go wrong, too much can change.
Maybe it was all of those factors that came together in a perfect storm to make Fuji a fantastically interesting race that kept me up without too much help from my caffeinated beverage friends. Maybe it was the fact the moment the green flag flew, no one held back anymore. Porsche fell back on the start, but because this is the Year of Porsche, they made a comeback in a way that just made the racing so exciting.
I keep trying to pinpoint what exactly this column will be about. Will it be a study on racing fans and what makes us tick? Will it be a recap of the races I watch and attend? Will it just be a snapshot into the world I love so much at every race weekend? I can’t decide exactly. It may be all of those things, and it may end up being none of those. I don’t want to recap a race that happened a week ago, many of you watched it and know what happened. (If you didn’t, walk, don’t run, and find the WEC’s highlights video, it was amazing.) But when I talk about this race, when I talk about how amazing it was and how much I loved it, I keep going back to the idea that WEC has the best racing on the planet. I keep thinking that I could have gone to bed at around one in the morning, instead of live tweeting it.
What makes a person stay up all night to watch a sports car race? I don’t know. Is it different than what makes a person go to Daytona and stay up all night in the freezing cold? Or what makes a person stand out in the rain in Petit? I mean, staying up all night to watch a sports car race is a little different than actually BEING at a race. You get the sanitized version of the sights and sounds, but you miss out on the smell of tires, of fuel. You miss out on the feel of a fence gripped between your fingers as you watch your favorite team battle to win, the way it digs into your skin. You miss out on the taste of rain, of beer, of race track food, all for a cup of coffee brewed in your Keurig during a yellow flag.
The sensory overload that comes with being at a race is missed out when you’re watching at home. You’re warm, you’re comfortable, you can hear the next day. And yet, the excitement of the race doesn’t fade. Watching man and machine vs the elements vs other men and other machines, that thrill is still there. And somehow, the World Endurance Championship has found an incredible way to showcase that at three o’clock in the morning.
It’s the best racing on the planet.
On a personal note, my obsession with watching the race may have come from the fact that, not only was the Porsche factory LMP1 team winning, but also that a team I love was winning the GTEAm race. I discovered sports car racing through Patrick Dempsey, through his passion for the sport, and I blame him completely for this insane world into which I’ve been dropped. To see him doing well, and not only well, but to see him matching the times of the pros around him, that was a really proud moment for me. And then, watching Marco Seefried throw down fast lap after fast lap in what had to be the most epic stint ever, this race was going to keep me engaged. It had to. Because then Patrick Long got in and it wasn’t until I was about five hours into this race that I thought I was about to watch Dempsey get his first big-time, sports car win. All three of those drivers were stellar in less than ideal conditions and the team worked incredibly well to bring that win. To say I was proud after nine years of cheering would be the world’s biggest understatement. I’ve been a proud, unashamed fan for a long time, and Fuji felt like the beginning of a new chapter.
To me, there isn’t a greater racing series on the planet right now. But then, I feel like sports car racing in general is on a huge upswing. If IMSA can keep that going here at home, then I think there will be a lot more races that we’ll be watching with bated breaths from home.
Oh! And how do I stay up all night for a race? I guess I can let you in on that subject, because really, you do need your senses at least a little heightened if you’re going to be watching a race from home:
Hour 1: Espresso. Get coffee with espresso.
Hour 3: A cup of coffee. I brewed a K-Cup
Hour 4: Bring out the Red Bull
The next day: Just keep brewing coffee. You’ll be fine. I promise.
In between all that, drink a lot of water, get on Twitter, and just enjoy the race. Try it out for Shanghai and let me know how it works out.