One of the biggest battles of a 24-hour race? Sleep

By J.A. Ackley
Jan 29, 2023 | 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, Aaron Telitz, Townsend Bell, Parker Thompson

Photo Courtesy Lexus Racing

A race that goes a full day can be grueling, even if you’re not driving the entire time. So, the biggest battle of night may be the battle to get rest.

I try to get sleep any time I can during the [Rolex] 24,” said Aaron Telitz, driver for the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Racing GTD entry for Lexus Racing. “If I get out of the car, I’ll go to the motor home, sit back and relax.”

Telitz learned the value of sleep during his first 24-hour event.

I had to force myself to start sleeping,” Telitz said. “In 2019, my first 24-hour race, I had a 1 a.m. shift. I never went to sleep before that and you don’t get out until 3 a.m. After that, I was like what’s the point of falling asleep? I stayed up all night. I don’t recommend that.”

Hey, he’s not the only one who learned that lesson hard way. Even winners make that rookie mistake. Just ask Townsend Bell, who has won in his class at both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24.

The first year I did this, you get out, talk with some people, some sponsors are there, talk with the other drivers, put the headset on,” said Bell. “Later in my career I learned when I get out of the car, I immediately start the process to get ready to sleep because those minutes are precious.”

It’s not easy to wind down from the adrenaline rush of a racing stint.

I’m such a competitive personality that it’s hard to shut my competitive brain off,” Bell said. “Even at 3 a.m., you’re thinking about [racing].”

Bell offers the following advice to getting quality sleep at the track.

Get a good motor home location that’s not too close to the racetrack,” said Bell. “Make sure you have good earplugs. Start thinking ahead to when you’re going to get out of the race car at 2 a.m. When that motor home door opens, what do you want to see? You’re hot, you’re sweating, you’re hungry, you’re exhausted, but you’re stimulated at the same time. So, prepare. You don’t want a lot of distraction. You want a clean plan to get you from your car, fed, shower to bed.”

Some of that preparation occurs before race day, too.

If I know my schedule is going to be doing a bit of work in the middle of the night, then I’ll start preparing three or four days ahead of time to get my body on the right clock,” Bell said.

They say a smart man learns from their own mistakes. A wise man learns from others’. Consider Telitz’s teammate, Parker Thompson, the latter.

I’ve seen some of my teammates learn that the hard way,” Thompson said. “If you don’t sleep it punishes you later.”

Join Free Join our community to easily find more 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, Aaron Telitz, Townsend Bell and Parker Thompson news.
More like this
View comments on the GRM forums
APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
1/28/23 7:20 p.m.

Every once in a while I think I'd like to do a 24 hour race. Then, I remember how badly I do without sufficient sleep and how I only sleep under ideal conditions and I decide that's probably not for me.

j_tso Dork
1/28/23 7:26 p.m.

Similar to what the article said, I remember in an interview during a Spa 24 a driver said the experienced ones can get out of a car and switch off quickly, whereas the rookies are still pumped and wear themselves out by the end.

I like hearing what drivers do to endure. Some carry the same number of driver suits as stints so they always have a clean set. Scott Pruett brushes his teeth after each stint.

Our Preferred Partners