Chronicles of an Insomniac Racer

Chronicles of an Insomniac Racer

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.

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Chiew Ruoh Peng

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