In past seasons, as well as my LMP1 commitments, I have been involved in a secondary programme to complement Le Mans. As well as keeping me race-sharp, the other great positive is that it kept me busy and in a car, often having a race immediately after the 24 Hours. This year, having focused on the FIA World Endurance Championship, things are very different, with a break of more than 10 weeks between Le Mans and our next race, the Nürburgring 6 Hours on August 30.
The break is an absolute necessity for the teams, mechanics and all those involved, but for a driver it’s quite a tough period. Can you imagine an office worker complaining that they had a 10-week break? This is where we as drivers differ, because we are fortunate to do what we love and that means we want to be back in the car, competing and fighting for victory as soon as possible. That’s not to say we haven’t been kept busy in this so called ‘break’ period, with testing, PR and all the other commitments. It simply means we haven’t necessarily had the chance to do what we love most… racing.
As an Audi Sport driver, I am lucky enough to attend various events throughout the year and I was invited to the press launch of the Q7 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where I met and spoke with industry peers over dinner and met fans during autograph signings. Unbelievably, it was the first time I’ve attended Goodwood as I have always had clashing commitments in previous years. Having experienced it first-hand, I will be making sure I go back next year as it really is an event like no other. I was taken aback not only by the incredible atmosphere, but also the sheer amount of historic cars that I grew up watching and dreaming about. To be able to get so close and see them in the raw metal is something very special.
Audi UK also hosted its first ever Audi Polo Challenge in Cambridgeshire, and it was hard to resist an invite so close to home! We were lucky enough to have Prince William play polo for the ‘Audi Quattro’ team, and it’s one of the few sports I had never watched live, so it was an honour to watch the future king play during my first event.
Aside from doing all the things that we put off before Le Mans (“I’ll do it after Le Mans” is a running joke in my house), the break also provides a great opportunity for drivers to focus on their fitness. Now in my eighth year with Audi Sport, this is definitely an area in which I have seen huge progress, not only within our team but also within motor sport as a whole.
Audi Sport is paying a lot more attention to this area, especially with the recent announcement of Tom Kristensen taking responsibility for all activities concerning the drivers’ physical and mental fitness. We all take a keen interest in other sports, especially any with a competitive element; it’s in our nature! This year, along with many other drivers, I have caught the triathlon bug.
I competed in my first marathon race earlier this year and I have always loved cycling, so it seemed a natural progression to feed my competitive hunger. I have to admit swimming is not my strength, so it took a lot of determination to make the step from local swimming pool to a lake.
I chose the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon in Derby on July 12 as my first tri event, mainly because it supported Cancer Research as a charity. I’m pleased to say it was incredibly well organised, with a great family and community atmosphere, and it’s good to see someone with Jenson’s high profile combining a passion with the opportunity to raise money for charity. Despite my inexperience I was pleased to qualify for the final and make the top 50. It has definitely given me the desire to compete again in the future, so until I can get back in the car at the Nürburgring I will be doing everything to arrive in the best possible physical and mental shape.