Is the Season Over? A Racer’s Guide to Coping with 2020.

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The current Covid-19 outbreak is wreaking havoc around the globe. Over the last two weeks we’ve watched world economies shutter as more countries go from a wait and see approach to varying degrees of quarantine. Italy appears to be a turning point in response and as evidenced by the toilet paper hoarding, people are panicking. I’m not here to say whether this level of panic from individuals and governments is warranted. Time will answer that. But one thing is becoming clear, the 2020 race season will be directly affected by this outbreak.

944spec

The main series I race in is 944spec with the National Auto Sports Association. I’ve watched Indy Car, F1 and many other series start to postpone their seasons but I honestly thought our events were safe. We have few spectators and it would be easy to maintain ‘social distancing’ in our paddocks. As a precaution, I was prepared to stay on site during race weeknds, thereby avoiding hotels and also using meal prep to avoid in town interactions. This week, for one reason or another, I have watched virtually every track around the country shut their doors. Some for a few weeks and others longer. This was soon followed by a ‘temporary’ suspension of the 2020 race season.

It’s hard not to have a knee jerk reaction. Racing requires a lot of energy and preparation and most of us get some sort of ‘fix’ from the sport. It’s been a long off season and the season opener at MIR wasn’t nearly enough to scratch this itch. Unfortunately, with the amount of uncertainty still surrounding the Covid-19 virus and the increasing closures occurring, a 1 month postponement is sounding optimistic at this point. With this looking like something possibly much longer, I’m mentally preparing myself for a cancelled season and seeking ways to get out this energy. Here are some of the things I am doing.

Virtual Racing

I will be the first to tell you it’s not the same but it does help and will keep your reflexes sharp. iRacing is the defacto and worth the monthly subscription during this time. I’m hopeful my next physical race will be at Barber Motorsports Park in July so I will be lapping Barber in the MX-5 cup car in my sim rig. iRacing will work with a controller but you will get infinitely more out of the experience with a proper steering wheel and pedal setup. Plan on spending at least $500 on a decent setup. Probably less than you would spend on race fees for one of the many events that are cancelled. There are plenty of DIY plans for seat mounts on the internet and I am sure those of you now working from home will have plenty of extra time to fab something. Or go all in and buy a full rig. Either way it will help keep you sharp and prepared for when/if the 2020 race season resumes.

Work Out Challenges

This will vary based on access as pretty much every gym has shut their doors. I stumbled across the One Punch Man Challenge the other day and it inspired me to mix things up a little bit by adding ‘exercise challenges’ to my routine. I was investing in a home gym before things started shutting down and one of my foundation pieces is a Jacob’s Ladder. Starting out, I am adding a 10 minute session in addition to my daily dexterity and balance sessions. It’s a small change but I’m also taking on more yard/farm projects during this time. The plan is to resume the race season in even better shape.

Other things include taking the long way on projects. I have a drainage project to work on if it ever stops raining here. Instead of using a skid-steer I may dig the drainage bed by hand. Not as crazy as it sound because I love being outdoors and working in the dirt. It should keep me busy and thoroughly exhausted for at least a few days as well as build strength for the car.

Basically, stay active and challenge yourself physically.

Learning

This could be reading a book, taking an online class, etc… If your town is on lock down and you are watching Netflix all day, you aren’t doing yourself any favors come race time. Anything by Ross Bentley is a good starting point. It amazes me that simply reading a book on race craft will drop your lap times. Seriously. The brain is a sponge and the more knowledge you have the more your sub-conscience has to pull from in race conditions.

Here are some books I recommend:

  • Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley
  • Going Faster by Carl Lopez
  • Drive to Win by Carroll Smith
  • The Perfect Corner 1 and/or 2 by Adam Brouillard
  • Motorsport Fitness Manual by R.S. Jutley

These are all great books with a wealth of knowledge. I may re-read one or two during this downtime.

I’ve also enjoyed HPAcademy lately. It requires a small subscription fee and has hundreds of webinars on everything from data analysis, engine rebuilding, fabrication, mega squirt, dyno tech you name it. It’s more for your builder/engineer side and some of what you study will help in the paddock.

Finishing/Starting Projects

This one relates to learning and if this crisis lasts a while I will be finishing up some of my lingering projects and starting new ones. I’m currently refreshing my welding skills in prep for the Super Touring RX-8 build.

Motorsport Outlets

I’m subscribed to Formula 1 TV and Motortrend Ondemand. The former offers lots of news and archived races. Although it’s not the 2020 season, there is a lot of history and amazing racing in the archives. F1 has also announced a virtual race during the postponed GP’s. First one will be Bahrain on Sunday the 22nd.

The Motortrend Ondemand service includes lots and lots of racing series. And a lot of them aren’t broadcast in the US. I’ve been wearing out the 2019 BTCC series. Good stuff.

Other Avenues

Last weekend the local SCCA chapter was still running an autocross. As of this writing they haven’t cancelled future events. However, this was right before the CDC recommendation of groups no larger than 10. This will be a great place to test some of the projects I’m building without going to the track.

As things stand, I’m already antsy as hell to hit the track. I’m sure these strategies will help with the down time with the added benefit of improved performance when the season restarts. But I’ve also caught myself looking at dirt bikes already. Plenty of trail riding around here although I’m not too keen on injuries. We will see what happens.

By Chris Simmons

Chris Simmons is a race car driver, instructor, business owner and all around gearhead. His passion for motorsport started in the drifting community over 10 years ago and progressed into wheel to wheel racing of all kinds. When off track Chris can be found training and working on a myriad of projects. After a hiatus from writing, he is back to share his passion, knowledge and experience in regard to motorsports on and off the track.

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