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The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona is currently in progress. The race started yesterday afternoon and will finish this afternoon. The teams who have come through the night unscathed (and many did not) now face the daunting prospect that a third of the race is yet to be run. This piece was originally published as part of Nightshift Sports coverage of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s just as relevant today because it addresses a specific time in a 24 hour endurance race, and not a specific race.
“In a 24 hour endurance race, it’s only 24 hours for the car. For the crew and drivers, it’s a minimum of 32 or 36 or even 48 hours.”–Miles Geauxbye
There is a trick that the night/day cycle plays on participants in around-the-clock, 24 hour endurance races.
It is called Sunrise and although the racers naturally feel that racing into the sunrise means the end of the race is very near, that is not the case.
The legendary 24 Hour races start in early afternoon, at 2:00 or 3:00 or 4:00PM and when a team makes it to sunrise–safely and still in the game–there is still approximately a third of the race to left to go.
Sunrise is a signal that, having made it through the night, you are now simultaneously required to do things: turn up the wick to close strongly and keep it all together on the track and in the pits so nothing derails your run to the finish line.
Go fast, but don’t go recklessly.
Do your very best work on the track and off at the precise time of day at which you are the most compromised in terms of energy, attention, strength, focus because you have been up all night and working longer than that.
Sunrise is a marker of progress but it’s also a false horizon: you might think you’re almost there, but you’re not.
You made to morning. Congratulations.
But a third of the race is yet to be run, and this is–like all of the race–yet another strategic point.
The next goal is to make it to twelve noon, the point at which –at Le Mans–you have three hours left.
And once you make it to twelve, you get to turn up the wick and race full blast all the way to the end of the race.
Enjoy the sunrise. But it’s not the natural end to the race, just the unnatural beginning of the end.
The Fine Print: Image embed courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. The image has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing. Text (c) 2017, 2018 Donald Pierce.