Originally published Jan 18, 2017
It seems completely insane that, two weeks from now, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona will be done. The first race of the season will be over, drivers will have their Rolexes, and most of us will be going back to work, operating more like zombies than people. The off season will be over, we’ll have the beginnings of a 2016 championship, and everyone will probably have something to say about how it all went and if IMSA has any idea what it’s doing. In two weeks, we’ll know exactly who had shown their cards at the Roar (probably no one) and who had held back (probably the entire GT field). All of those questions will have answers in two weeks.
For now, they loom large in front of us. I thought I’d be able to get some answers at the Roar, but frankly, the only question I got answered was: exactly how cool is it going to be to see all four classes running together with the GT3 machinery? The answer: pretty cool. The sense of excitement that was at the test in November was still prevalent at the Roar, too. There were surprises: the technologically interesting but often disappointing DeltaWing and Mazdas were consistently topping the speed charts. The new Ford GT was fast in GTLM, and Porsche was slow. GTD was extremely interesting with the new GT3 machinery, but I don’t think we saw all that they can give yet. We don’t have a lot of answers yet, but in two weeks, we will. And those answers will shape the 2016 season.
Over the weekend, I spent time with a novice race-goer. He’s looking forward to his first Rolex 24, and as I listened to his excitement, I started to really think about how many people come to their first 24 every year. Some people camp, some give into the pull of exhaustion and the need to be warm and curl up in their cars, and some walk around like zombies in the middle of the night. But I remember what it was like when I went to my very first Rolex 24 six years ago. My best friend and I go every year now, but that first year…we were beyond unprepared. We were messes. It was also, to this day, the best race I’ve ever attended.
So I asked around for some advice on how to survive the Rolex 24. Twitter and Facebook came to the rescue, and I thought we could lay out a good how-to guide here for all of the newbies coming to Daytona this year. Below, you’ll find a selection of the tweets I received with a little bit of my opinion mixed in. Take notes, your quiz comes in two weeks.
First, a little bit of background. While the Rolex 24 starts at 2:40 PM on Saturday, this is not just a twenty-four hour race. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. You are about to test your levels of endurance and let me tell you…it’s not easy. The weekend starts on Thursday, with practice, qualifying, and night practice. Thursday is a pretty long day, but it’s worth it. It’s a lot of fun. Friday is shorter, which is good, because you’ll want to get all of your sleep. And then comes the marathon. If you decide to stay up all twenty-four hours, your actual awake time will come to about forty hours straight, give or take a few hours. So…how do you survive the marathon?
Pace yourself, dress warm, but avoid too much time sitting inside anywhere warm! Oh, and coffee! ☕️ https://t.co/796bFYNX45
— KBru Communications (@KBruComm) January 14, 2016
Fun fact about the Rolex 24: it’s long. Another fun fact? Yes, it’s Florida and while you may be coming down from the coldest arctic weather, you’re not going to be prepared for the Florida cold. The wind is coming off the ocean, it will more than likely be foggy at three in the morning, and wind-chills do drop below freezing occasionally. So learn the value of layers. This is the number one piece of advice I got from everyone. LAYER. If you have to put on long-johns in the middle of the night underneath your jeans, do it. Bring a winter jacket, gloves, scarves, hats, etc.
— mark briden (@pepperR56) January 14, 2016
But also, don’t forget that this is Florida and we are the Sunshine state. There is a very good chance you will see the sun come up on Sunday and a few hours later, it will be in the 70s (possibly even 80s). Bring your sunscreen. Slather it on. The Rolex 24 Hours burn isn’t a badge of honor, trust me.
— jen thompson (@jenwrite) January 14, 2016
In terms of pacing yourself…it’s a lot of walking, so wear the comfiest shoes you own. This race is also a lot of temptation. I’m a firm believer in a margarita or two throughout the night, but I don’t advise getting tipsy (you’ll just get sleepy). Have a set schedule for your food and drinks and stick to it. Mine looks a lot like this:
Breakfast: 5:30 AM
Midmorning snack: 10:30 AM
Lunchtime: 3 PM
Dinner time: 7 PM
Margarita/adult beverage: 7PM with dinner. 9PM with snack.
Snack: 9-10 PM
Coffee: 10-11 PM.
Five Hour Energy (shoutout to Leh Keen for this year five years ago): Midnight. This coincides with a protein filled snack (generally beef jerky and some nuts)
Coffee: 3-4 AM
Breakfast: 6 AM (another coffee at this time) And TREAT YOURSELF. You just stayed up all night in cold and fog…get yourself a funnel cake! Perfect breakfast to eat as the sun comes up.
Red Bull: 11 AM
Lunch: 12 PM
Water: Throughout the 24 Hours. Substitute in a gatorade as needed. I don’t drink soda, at all as the sugar crash tends to be pretty bad.
@YourRacingBelle Infield Parking is worth it. Arrive early with the crews. Bring your own toilet paper. Cooler with water/snacks in car.
— Jamieson P. (@jdoggny) January 14, 2016
Plan ahead for this race. A cooler with water, gatorade, bottled coffee, energy drinks, snacks, and sandwiches will not only save you money (water runs $4 a bottle) but will also ensure that you’re constantly keeping yourself hydrated and fed with healthy snacks versus constant trips to the vendors to get pizza, hot dogs, or onion rings. Hopefully you have infield parking (which I agree, is totally worth it) and it’s just a trip to your car to grab whatever you need. But this race is all about planning ahead. Come up with a grocery list, go to Target, and stock your cooler. This makes staying up all night so much easier when you’re well-hydrated and well-fed with nutritious snacks.
@YourRacingBelle The infield will be wet, bring extra socks/shoes. Layer at night. Also campfire smoke. Fireworks at night by the lake.
— Jamieson P. (@jdoggny) January 14, 2016
There’s also a lot to keep your senses awake during the long night. While the yellows are sometimes long (everyone look up the fog caution of 2011), there is always something going on. The infield is incredible, take a walk through it and see the ornate and incredible set ups the campsites have trackside. There are carnival rides if you feel like you need something to wake you up, though those end pretty early. The fireworks show is absolutely amazing, especially if you’re someone who can take pictures of the cars at night, against the backdrop of the lit up night sky.
— Jon Foote (@footewerks) January 14, 2016
Absolutely move around as much as possible throughout the race. Don’t stay in one place to watch. There are grandstands throughout the entire infield, and every single one of them provides a great spot to watch the action. This is also the best way to keep yourself awake. Don’t get stuck in any one place during this race. Keep moving. The new grandstands along the front straight and turn one are incredible. There are shuttles running constantly, so take advantage of them. The more you move, the less likely you are to fall asleep standing up.
— Josh Van Cleef (@joshvc) January 14, 2016
Look, I’m a big proponent of staying up all twenty-four hours. Everyone should do it at least once. But if it gets to be about 3AM and you cannot stay awake, then by all means, get some sleep. Go to your car, curl up in a ball, and get some sleep. But do not sleep for eight hours. Set your alarm. Think of it as more of a nap than as a full night’s sleep. And set it for daybreak. There are three times at Daytona that are the absolute best: dusk, two-thirty in the morning, and dawn. Trust me when I say that you absolutely want to watch the sunrise as the cars come roaring past you. It’s a magical, life changing experience.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and these are some of the best tips in the business from the people and the fans who have done it before. But the easiest way to stay awake at the Rolex 24 Hours? Well, speaking from experience, I can say that super-fan and track mom extraordinaire Vickie has the best advice:
— Vickie Miller (@Viclovesracing) January 14, 2016
See you guys there!