Man of Many recently had the chance to ride in a V8 Supercar at Eastern Creek Raceway, thanks to Red Bull Racing Australia and Triple Eight Race Engineering. We also spoke to Jamie Whincup, the six-time V8 Supercar champion and one of the stars of Red Bull Racing Australia, about the physical and mental strength it takes to be a professional race car driver.
Stepping into a V8 Supercar is like entering a different world, simultaneously familiar and alien, a mixture of high and low tech that gives it the feel of a steampunk spaceship. It’s undoubtedly a car, but it’s unlike any car you’ve ever been it before – a claustrophobic cage that rattles along at hundreds of kilometres an hour.
Kitted out in a Red Bull Racing jumpsuit and helmet, we’re strapped into the passenger seat like a skydiver ready to jump. After a quick thumbs-up, the driver hits the accelerator and we’re off – the most immediate sensations are the overpowering smell of petrol and the near-deafening roar of the engine as the car speeds out of the pit.
Riding in the passenger seat is an endurance test of its own as you feel every touch of the brake and every turn of the steering wheel. We overtake another car on the inside and it’s like being in a video game given the ease with which we accelerate past them. The dramatic turn of pace is frightening and almost surreal as you head down the home straight.
Then it’s over before you know it – a blur of frenetic activity that leaves you reeling and breathless in a matter of minutes. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience, but it’s a sensation that stays with you long after you hop out.
What does an average week of training look like for you?
Our sport requires quite a bit of cardiovascular fitness – the cabin temp is 60°C after a couple of hours and just the physicality of it all – the steering pressure, brake pressure, couple of hundred gear changes per race. So a general training week for me is running, riding or swimming and a bit of time in the gym most days a week. It’s probably twenty percent in the gym, and the rest is pounding the pavement, rolling the legs over on the bike or chewing up and down the white line.
How do you mentally prepare for a race?
It’s different for every athlete but I like to go through my plans and procedures and really make sure I’m clear with what I’ve got to do and what I’ve got to achieve that race. I don’t have any crazy mental routines or anything like that, it’s just a matter of getting in what you’d call ‘the zone’.
How do you maintain concentration and precision during a race?
Race fitness is key to that – the more you do the better you mind becomes at focusing. We don’t get many test days so I generally try and get in quite a few hours on my Yamaha jet ski. It’s actually a very similar thing in terms of inputting and scanning for changes in the road or water. So just the mental concentration you get from being out on the jet ski for a couple of hours is helpful.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being a professional driver?
It probably is the mental side. One little mistake – you can miss your brake marker by a tenth of a second and you’re in the wall and your weekend’s over. It’s a tough gig and one little mistake can be very, very cruel. Saying that, I’m not one to dwell on the past, mistakes happen, you learn from them and put your head down and work on making sure it doesn’t happen again.