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24 Hours of Daytona: Exclusive Anthony Davidson Interview



Formula 1 and sportscar racer Anthony Davidson is taking on one of the world’s most prestigious races this upcoming weekend (Jan. 26-27): The Daytona 24 Hours. Check out highlights of last year’s race in the above video.

In the meantime, The Adrenalist caught up with the British driver to talk about his first experiences with the car, the track and his chances of success in one of the major endurance races of the season.

The Adrenalist: Anthony, as a former F1 driver and Le Mans racer, what did you know of Daytona and why did you want to race in this historic event?

Anthony Davidson: Well the Daytona 24 Hours is one of the most prestigious races in the world. Every year I know that a lot of Europeans go and race over there, but I only really caught the bug this time last year when I was watching the race on TV at home. I must have watched about eight hours of action and thought that would be a brilliant race to do. It’s such a good way to start the year too and, when the opportunity came up, I grabbed it with both hands. It also gave me a chance to get back into racing again after my accident I had at Le Mans last June.

I got a phone call from Enzo Potolicchio, who is running a team called 8Star in the Daytona Prototype class and I’ll be racing this year with him and Stephane Sarrazin (who’s also my team-mate at Toyota), Nicolas Minassian and another former F1 driver Pedro Lamy.

The Adrenalist: What makes the Daytona 24 Hours such a prestigious event to compete in?

Anthony Davidson: I think the best thing about the race is that you get lots of top drivers from loads of top disciplines from around the world coming to compete in it. So you’ve got the top NASCAR drivers coming along to do it, top Indycar and LMP1 sportscar racers – it’s a real melting pot of global driving talent. It’s really interesting to be out on the track at the same time as the likes of Montoya, Justin Wilson, Allmendinger, Sebastien Bourdais and Allan McNish. It’s really cool.

I don’t think there’s another top professional race that has that many drivers from different categories, maybe the Australian V8 Supercar race at Surfers Paradise, but that isn’t as a prestigious or historic as the Daytona 24 Hours.

The Adrenalist: Tell us about the 8Star DP Corvette you’re racing.

Anthony Davidson: Our team is in the fastest class, the Daytona Prototype category and the performance is balanced so you near enough match each other and the cars share similar chassis platforms with different body kits. Behind the DP class there are various GT classes, but there is less of a difference between the classes than there is at Le Mans. The prototype class at Le Mans compared to GT class has a much higher laptime differential than in Grand Am. So it makes the racing – and the overtaking of lapped cars – quite hard.  They call them prototypes, but they do feel more like a top GT1 car to drive. I’ve driven a GT1 Maserati in the past and it feels pretty similar to that. They are good cars, quite tricky to drive, but rewarding as well.

The Adrenalist: Have you had a chance to drive the car at Daytona already?

Anthony Davidson: I went out for the first time in early January for a two day test and probably did about 30 laps in the car. Two days of testing sounds a lot but it was only four sessions in total and they are only about 90 minutes long. So it was quite hard to get up to speed. I think that Daytona will be a more demanding race than Le Mans in many ways. It’s a bit more mentally draining from what other drivers tell me. Primarily in terms of traffic and the track itself is a bit more stop/start than Le Mans so you are constantly working at the wheel.

I can’t wait to get in the thing and start racing. Even though I’ve only done a handful of laps in the car I think the laptimes were fairly good straightaway. I’m happy that I’m in the DP class, because I’m not at my best in a GT car. My style is much more suited to lots of downforce and grip, that’s because I’ve got used in my career to driving one particular type of car, F1 or LMP1 sportscars, so driving something with less downforce is quite alien to me and I’ve only done a handful of GT races in my life.

The Adrenalist: What did you make of the famous Daytona banking and will that be tough to race on at night?

Anthony Davidson: The banking is really steep and when you are on it, you suddenly get much more of an appreciation of what it must be like in NASCAR. I know it’s easy for the F1 fraternity to look down their noses at NASCAR, but I can tell you it is pretty daunting overtaking cars around the outside of the banking. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a car on the inside and outside with millimeters to spare at double the speed – you can’t begin to comprehend how those NASCAR guys do it, there is some serious talent going on in that series.

Also it’s a weird sensation of being so titled and compressed as your whole body and head goes down slightly as well. It’s a really odd feeling. I did one night time session while I was there and the lights are fantastic – way better than somewhere like Le Mans, so it’s much easier in the night. That’s not an issue at all. And they keep racing if it rains, which is not something they do in NASCAR on the banking.

The Adrenalist: How do you cope with the endurance of racing through the night for 24 hours non-stop?

Anthony Davidson: You prepare yourself for being in the car for around three hours in total (after the time is split with your team-mates) and you get to learn your body. I know that I’m not that good with sleep deprivation but there are things you can do to help. One is to have a shower after a sleep and every time I get out of the car I eat something, as it’s quite easy with the adrenaline pumping to neglect to re-fuel your body. Also, you pace yourself leading up to and during the event. Don’t get too stressed, or too excited and try to get as much sleep as you can.

The Adrenalist: Finally, what are your chances of getting a good result?

Anthony Davidson: Not sure really, obviously we have some good drivers in our team, but the whole outfit is new so it will the team’s first race together in a brand new car. So we hope for reliability and then going on how we performed at the test, I think we stand a good chance of being near the front. With our team we’re just going to get stronger with every lap and I think we’re all experienced enough to understand that you’ve just got to be there at the end of a 24 hour race and hopefully with all the Safety Cars they throw out we’ll be somewhere near the front.

The Adrenalist: Great talking with you, Anthony. We wish you the best of luck this weekend.

Anythony Davidson: Thank you.

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