Brazilian racer Augusto Farfus is no stranger to an endurance race. Together with his teammates Chaz Mostert, Jesse Krohn and Philipp Eng, he will be defending his win in the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. We caught up with him in the paddock just after qualifying.
Augusto, you’ve raced pretty much everything there is to race, how important is this race to you?
It’s one of the biggest races on the calendar together with Le Mans. It’s the start of the season and the first race after the winter break so all eyes are on this race. Personally, it’s one of my favourite races of the year because of the American style of racing. The whole atmosphere in and around the track is amazing.
Last year you and your team won the race. Although the conditions couldn’t be more different, does this add pressure for you this year?
There’s always pressure before the start of the race, whether you’ve won it before or not. Every time you start a race you fight for a win. The good thing is that, having won last year, we know it’s possible. To be honest, at this point most of the work is done. Now it’s just a matter of execution.
Just before we caught up you had a final briefing with your engineer. How complicated is it to drive a race car like the BMW M8 GTLM?
Yes, we were running over some of the emergency procedures of the car. How to reset electronics, fuel pumps, engine maps. Things that we usually don’t need but are very important to have when you do need them. The BMW is a very complicated machine and to be honest I think it’s the most sophisticated car in the entire field. It’s not an easy car to learn but once you do it’s an amazingly capable machine.
How do you manage the car during a race a 24-hour race like this?
This is the hardest part. The result of a good race is a perfect synchronisation between you and your engineer. In the beginning of the race you take it gently; spare the car, save some fuel. The engineer has all the data, so he makes sure that everything is running smoothly while the driver focuses on keeping the pace. Usually in the last hours of the race, all of this goes out the window and you just go flat out.
How do you manage yourself during a 24-hour race?
Energy management is everything. People think that when the race is at 1pm, the drivers show up at 12pm. But that’s not true. Our first team meeting is at 9am, which means you wake up at 7:30am. In this case Daytona is a bit easier than LeMans. Here the race starts around 1pm, in LeMans the race starts at four. Also, mentally it’s a big difference. When the sun rises at Daytona you only have five to six hours to go. In LeMans you have ten more hours to race. Before the race it’s just a matter of getting enough sleep and carbs. During the race I try to sleep a little bit, but that’s not always easy. The hardest part is the fact that you have to be fit in the last two hours because that’s when you really fight for the victory.
Daytona is famous for its banking. The BMW isn’t built like a NASCAR. What’s it like driving up it?
You should climb it yourself, it’s so steep. The first time you go on it it’s almost shocking. Once you get used to it you quickly learn that the banking itself is the easiest part of the track. The NASCAR races go flat-out all the time but in the middle of the oval we have to smash the brakes to make it into turn one.
You’re a bit of a 24-hour race expert, how many have you done before?
That’s hard to say, I think somewhere around fifty.