Remember Felix Baumgartner? The guy who went up into space, jumped from the stratosphere, broke the sound barrier before releasing his chute and landing safely back down to earth? He also base jumps, he can fly without an aircraft (seriously) and he’s a pilot! If there was and award for “ballsiest man ever” he’d definitely be a top contender. When you type his name into the Youtube, his career highlights takes things to the next level of epic.
After deciding it was time for a new challenge, Baumgartner is now racing cars for Audi Sport, and is taking to the racetrack with the same audacity he displayed throughout his adventurous career. He’s currently in Australia with the Phoenix Racing Team preparing to get behind the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS Ultra competing in the Bathurst 12 Hour race which is happening at Mount Panorama.
We’ve seen you free-fall from space, base jump into a cave, jump out of a plane with carbon wing strapped to your back, you’re a qualified helicopter pilot and now you’re racing cars. What is the difference in thrill between flying through the air and flying around a racetrack?
Felix Baumgartner: I wouldn’t say It’s a thrill for me, it’s more of a challenge. I was always attracted by the challenge. I was always fighting against the image of an adrenaline junkie. I’m not searching for adrenaline, I just like the challenge of starting things and doing things that have never been done before. I like the build up. For example for Red Bull Stratos, I was not a scientist I was not an air force person, I never worked for NASA, I didn’t know anything about space. So now, I want to break the speed of sound jumping from the stratosphere, now I need to talk to people, experienced people who know a lot about this. I’m Trying to listen and learn from these people. This is what attracts me. You start from scratch not knowing anything, then a year later you know a lot.
Same in a race. When you’re doing it the first time it’s a complete mess. You don’t know the track, you don’t know how to steer the car, then you talk to the right people, you listen and learn and 6 months later you compete in the race. Of course you can never win because you started too late, but you can perform well. That makes me happy. Knowing that you did not know anything about this and then 6 months later you know how to do it.
Making the transition from being a skydiver and into racing cars, what preparation did you have to undergo mentally?
FB: Mentally I don’t think I needed more preparation because I’ve been doing difficult things since I was 16, so I know how to deliver if the heat is on. It’s not a new element mentally. It’s the same setup just in a different environment. Before, I did everything in the air, now it’s on a racetrack. The only difference is you have competitors.
When you base jump from the highest building in the world and you cross the English channel with a wing – there’s nobody next to you that could beat you. When You do it and perform well you’re the winner. When you’re racing cars you have a lot of competitors. There’s direct competition. You can see yourself losing or winning, that’s the big difference. That’s something that I had to learn.
I know I will never win a race. It’s impossible, because I’ll never keep up with these guys (as he points to his fellow Phoenix racing teammates), but I want to be a good team member. Of course they have to do the main job because they’re much better than I am, but of course I have to do my job because if I damage the car we’re not going to finish the race. I have to stay out of trouble during the race. There’s a lot of other cars on the racetrack, so it’s going to be a lot of hard work. When I’m done on Sunday 5pm I’m going to be a happy person because I started as a nobody in Bathurst, I’ve never been here before and now I have something off my list that I can tick off.
How did you first get started with Audi?
FB: When they called me in 2013 they asked me if I was interested in participating in the 24hr in Nürburgring and I said yes, if they do it right. If you just put me in a car and ask me to compete I cannot do it. But if you do a slow build up, that makes sense and if we have a perfect execution, then I’m interested. It has to be professional. At my age, at level and my name you don’t want to be too embarrassed, and if you do the proper preparation it’s not going to be too embarrassing. You end up somewhere in the middle. Luckily we ended up at 9th which was good for our first race. I’m always interested in doing it well because I want to perform well.
Since you’ve done so many crazy things, what advice would you give to the Average Joe looking to step out of their comfort zone and try something adventurous.
FB: First of all I think it’s really important in life to leave your comfort zone because life is so interesting and there’s so many things to accomplish. We should live to 150 years old so we can do all these things that are so interesting, but we can’t. So once in a while we should leave our comfort zone. The thing is, if you leave you comfort zone and you want to perform well, or stay alive, no matter what you do, you have to have confidence in your team, your technique and last but not least confidence in your self. If you have those three elements, you’re going to be successful.