I couldn’t sleep well. How frustrating, knowing that I was going to qualify in Lotus Supercup Series, a Super GT support race the next day, and I couldn’t get the rest I much needed. I woke up at 3am. And waited till Friday morning. I felt I drove like a hero for qualifying, but I was actually 2 seconds slower than my practice lap time. That’s how the lack of sleep gets me. My senses just got distorted.
Ok. Qualifying went down the drain. That very day, I wanted to get my sleep. But again I woke up at 5am and waited till sunrise. I wonder why? I used to excel at sleeping. I could fall asleep within a minute and sleep through World War III. I sleep better than I work, write, sing, drive and race combined. But then, knowing there was an important race ahead, I couldn’t sleep.
The race on Saturday went down the drain. I finished 4th. On the surface, that didn’t sound too bad. But I was 30 seconds behind the car in 3rd. I knew I drove very sloppily. My mind just couldn’t process the roads in time. I knew I could have done way better. Going home, I was determined to get some good sleep to prepare for the race on Sunday. Again, it didn’t quite work out that way. I woke up in the middle of the night, 2:30am. I fell asleep after that, but woke up again. I had no idea how long I slept. It just wasn’t enough.
How was I going to race, I wondered? With nothing better to do, I pondered about why I choked the day before. I was probably too eager to win. I pressured myself too much. I recollected about my best races, trying to find the state of mind under which I perform to the maximum. I noticed that in autocross, I often set the best time when I was not “trying” at all. When I didn’t “try”, everything flowed.
So that was it. I decided to stop worrying about winning. Suddenly, my mind was blank. I was relaxed. I didn’t fall asleep, but my mind could finally rest. I thought happy thoughts — my kids’ smiling faces. Yes, there was a race coming up, but I was going to “give up” winning. Yes, I was very tired, but nothing was going to fix that anyway. I would not let frustration overwhelm me. I would go all out and play like a kid. You know how when it comes to playing, kids never feel tired.
Boy, did it work! In that mental state, everything flowed. In the first lap, I was right at the tail of the top 3 drivers. They did not pull away like the day before. I was ecstatic, but the over-excitement caused me to spin at Turn 14. I bit my lips as I saw the leading cars darting away, and Sean’s Car 65 passed me. I recovered quickly before Ravi’s Car 35 approached and gave chase. I passed Car 65 in a single lap, outbraking it at Turn 15. That was easy. The tougher job would be to catch up with the top three. I could still see them at the end of the long straight, or one corner away. It kept me going and going. I silently cheered when faster GT cars passed me, hoping they would disrupt the leading Lotuses. I could see the gap between me and the top 3 closing, but there would not be enough time for me to catch up before the checkered flag.
“Somebody makes a mistake please!” I selfishly thought. Then it happened like magic: somebody made a mistake. That somebody, was me. I turned in slightly too early at Turn 12, and went off track a little, but quickly recovered. “Think good thoughts, think good thoughts. Just go faster, go faster.” I said to myself.
Coming out of Turn 14, I suddenly saw Bruce’s white Lotus not too far in front. I deduced he had spun out, otherwise it was impossible for me to be this close. I gave chase. I never let him out of my sight again, but there weren’t enough laps left. Bruce collected the checkered flag before I did.
On my way back to the pit, I was feeling satisfied. Although I was in the 4th position again, this time I delivered my 100% and had fun! I was proud of what I did. Upon entering pit, I was pleasantly surprised when the marshal directed me to join the winning cars! I was third! Apparently the leading car made a technical mistake at pit stop, and overlooked a drive-through penalty. As a result, he was disqualified. That was a totally unexpected turn of events.
Later, I found out from the time sheet that I was just 12 seconds behind the leader, and 9 seconds behind Bruce. Close enough, for a insomniac racer.
That night, I slept very, very soundly.