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JAN 30, 2014

Inside the Oval: Surviving the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

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By Lachelle Seymour
Ford Racing Public Relations

At 3 a.m. Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, I felt like I’d already lived three days in one. It was around then that I finally understood the scope of the Rolex 24.

The media room had gone from chaos to quiet. I’d gotten used to the commentary from the television above my head and with only a few others in the room, you could hear the engines of the cars, including our new Ford EcoBoost prototypes, on the track.

I certainly understood how much work went into getting the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine race-ready. We’d all worked through the holidays. For me, though, it was around 3 a.m. that I really appreciated how physically and mentally demanding a 24-hour endurance race is for drivers, teams and the Ford Racing engineers.

When I told people I was going to my first Rolex 24, the same thing always happened. They stopped, smiled and said good luck – because they know exactly how bad I was going to feel at hour 22.

So I asked for advice.

Ozz Negri does triathlons to get ready to drive the No. 60 Michael Shank Ford EcoBoost Riley. I’m mildy afraid of drowning, so I kept asking. It was suggested I stop drinking coffee two weeks before, then hit it hard during the race. That also sounded unpleasant. By the race, I’d worked out that surviving the Rolex 24 is more about finding what works for you. That turned out to be a few hours of sleep.

At 3 a.m. crew members slept along the fence line in the pits the best they could. I watched as one tried to lie down on two plastic folding chairs facing each other. Ford Funny Car driver Courtney Force was still awake, cheering on her boyfriend Graham Rahal and plotting to open an infield coffee station. I told her I’d buy five cups. She may have been kidding, but I wasn’t.

Meanwhile, we were never very far from the green and gold Rolex clocks that count down the race’s 24 hours. The Ferris wheel still spun with bright lights, the party still going strong in the infield.

It was 3 a.m., and we still had 11 ½ hours of racing to go.

The Rolex 24 is one of those races that makes an impact on you. When you have jobs like mine you spend an easy 80 percent of your life at a race track – enough that you start to forget which race you’re at the next weekend. Then something like the Rolex 24 comes around that makes you sit back and realize, once again, how incredible it is that a 24-hour race is possible. That the winners finish within seconds of each other after racing hard for a full day is incredible too.

When the clocks hit the halfway point of this year’s race, one of the team reps let out a “Woohoo!” The rest of us looked up expecting to see, you know, a pizza. Then we realized we were officially around the bend and headed toward the finish.

We’re just at the start of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. We’ve made incredible progress already but no one will be satisfied until we win. There’s a lot of work left to go and when we get there, the trip to the winner’s circle will be sweet.

Lachelle Seymour is a member of the Ford Racing Public Relations staff.

·  14 years in NHRA and NASCAR.

·  Wishes she had a dollar for every time someone’s said “you know these cars turn left AND right.”