2010 News Article \\
Dale White Voice of Speed : Time Flies With Le Mans
7th June 2010
Time flies when you’re having Le Mans. The first break I have had to write this is sitting here at the Salt Lake City airport waiting on my flight to Paris. This will be shorter than I would like but I want to make sure to get something for you to read before Le Mans.
When I got off the plane here I was thinking about things to write in this diary. I started thinking about all of the preperation that has gone into getting to this point. We have been targeting this race since 2008! But, to narrow my focus some I thought I would talk about the logistical challenges and how good our fuel mileage has to be around a lap here, what we need to see our Michelin tires do after a stint and a half, how the temperature might impact us, things like that. However, when I actually pulled out the computer none of that seemed to matter. All was coming out was about the emotion and the excitement of the race. It’s hard to stay too analytical when you have 300,000 passionate people screaming for 24 hours. Some might deny the emotional impact of this race but if they don’t say racing at Le Mans doesn’t mean anything to them then they are either lying to you or need to find a different job. This place is about pure emotion and one of the things I am most proud of is that I can use that to my advantage to find success here.
To talk about Le Mans you really have to talk about what has come before it.
It has been an interesting start to the season. The Drayson Racing Lola-Judd has been very quick. It’s been fast since we unloaded it at Road Atlanta last year for its debut. We have shown that all three drivers - Paul Drayson, Jonny Cocker and Emanuele Pirro – are up to speed. Paul has impressed me the most this season. Since Sebring, and especially at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Paul has been right where we need him to be and usually even quicker. Long Beach was a great example of that. You can go back and read my thoughts from there but Paul showed he is quick and can put together the laps in practice, qualifications and the race. The fact that he is now able to focus 100 percent on racing only makes that better. The whole team will benefit from Paul's undivided attention on motorsport and we can’t be more excited about it. I think you’ll continue to see his lap times shrink and his confidence racing wheel-to-wheel improve even more. A few double stints here at Le Mans will turn even more heads. Paul has what it takes and it is exciting to work with a guy who is spot on in and out of the car.
With Paul’s move out of politics, we now have a lot of exciting options on our plate regarding manufacturer and marketing partners. I’ll leave the marketing side to others on the team but, for me, the prospect of being able to partner with a manufacturer interested in the same green innovations and success we are is very exciting. I hope we can put that together and roll out for our third Le Mans start for Drayson Racing with a something new and innovative.
But, for now, we are off to Le Mans, the greatest race in the world!
Le Mans is a massive event, it is what we all target all year long. While I won’t quote Steve McQueen directly, everything else is just waiting for this race. I don’t want to understate the importance of the other races and how much success means to us in the American Le Mans Series or Intercontinental Le Mans Cup but at Drayson Racing we live and breath Le Mans. I am racing today because of my love affair with this race as a kid.
For me Le Mans is more than the biggest race in the world but the biggest event in the world. When I was a child growing up dreaming of going to Le Mans; it seemed as likely that I would go to the moon. I never gave up on my dream or the memories of how far away it seemed. I was just a kid growing up in the desert but I had posters of Le Mans cars on my bedroom wall. Not many people left my small town in their life. A few traveled and some went to Europe but no one ever even thought about racing and winning at Le Mans. It was a dream that I refused to give up on no matter how many people rolled their eyes and I have been able to win it twice in my career. [Editor, White is the winning manager/owner of the GT class victor in 2003 and 2004 and finished second in 2005].
Every time I go to Le Mans I treat it like it will be my last; sort of like “Live like you were dying”. Living life to the fullest heart and soul every moment is what it is all about. The downside to this is having such a strong emotional connection with Le Mans is almost overwhelming at times. Especially when I first arrive at the circuit and sit on the pit wall looking back at the garage structure. People involved in motorsport are passionate by nature. Many people talk about the emotional roller coaster of motorsport which is difficult to put into words. It is definitely the highest highs and the lowest lows but you need to add a 10x factor when competing at Le Mans.
It is such an important event that the emotion can overpower you if you let it. It grows like the pressure of the earth; you either come out a piece of coal or a diamond. There are a lot more days when you’re coal. But, you have to learn to control that pressure.
The build-up to Le Mans, both in preparation and mentally, can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t get a handle on it. For me, I control it by creating lists of what needs to be done, by reviewing my notes from the past and by trying to take a few quiet moments out to walk through the woods around my Montana home, feed the horses and spend time with family. It is a must that you find ways to relieve the pressure or it will build until it overtakes you and you are totally worthless. Once you get to the track you have to fight the same pressures but without the built-in support system of home. It can be tough and even though you think you are controlling it, by Sunday night your body and mind just want to give up and you realize just how much tension has been around everything. For a few of us, there is a real pleasure in beating that.
Another way to prepare is to arrive early. We get into Le Mans the Friday before we can even get on track. We arrive to a garage which is totally complete and ready for us to roll the race car into. Showtrax, a company out of the UK that I have used for years, comes into the bare garage and transforms it with all of the walling, ceiling and other structures that you see while sitting at home watching on SPEED. We always try and look good but at Le Mans we just take it up a notch. Parts of the garage that will never be seen by a TV camera are covered in Drayson branding. It is really cool to see and between our branding people at The Seen and Showtrax on-site, they give us something that is even envied here in this paddock. That is a good feeling and I believe it does help raise the game on the track.
Once I get there I do my best to just get comfortable with it all again. It doesn’t take long. It doesn’t even feel like I’ve left. Since we are racing in the American Le Mans Series more this year, we don’t get to see all of our friends in the ACO or the Le Mans Series so the first few days are a good time to re-kindle old friendships without all the pressures of the schedule. Le Mans is a bit like Thanksgiving dinner; you see people you haven’t seen for a year but you pick up right where you left off.
There is a lot to do once we get to Le Mans but each day you wake up loving it more than the day before. That is true passion; being able to forget the frustrations and times you have been beaten down just to step up and take it all again the next day. To me, this event makes me want to better the best I’ve ever done. This year, with Drayson Racing, I have my first chance to better my class victories here with an overall victory. It is a tall order but I know we can make it happen.
Even with all of the knowledge I have of Le Mans and my processes for keeping control of it all, there are always a few surprises. I guess that is something I love about auto racing and Le Mans in particular; there are never any “same thing, different day” feelings. There is always something that you have to react to in a second’s notice. That gets me up every morning. We’ll no doubt run into that again this year, maybe even a few times! But, that is what Le Mans is all about. That’s what racing is all about. Heck, that’s what life is all about.
It’s Le Mans time again and I can’t wait!
Check us out at Le Mans and I look forward to writing all about it for you when I get back from France.
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