GRAND-AM drivers see off-track activities as extensions of their time behind the wheel and are frequently seen as a way to make them better competitors.
Most drivers see off-track activities as ways to make them better competitors.
For most of us, hobbies are ways to relax after the work day or on weekends.
Not so much for many drivers in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Sports Car Challenge. Their hobbies are extensions of their time behind the wheel and are frequently seen as a way to make them better competitors.
Many have been in off-track mode since last month's Rolex 24 At Daytona, a hiatus that soon will end with GRAND-AM's inaugural visit March 2 to the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Andy Lally takes off-track extreme sports, well, to the extreme. He holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; owns world championships in street luge and spends significant time on his mountain bike.
Martial arts and biking provide cardio training that directly translates into sports car racing, according to Lally.
"They teach you explosiveness but also how to pace yourself," said Lally, co-driver of the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche that won last year's GT North American Endurance Championship. "Things can get painful at the end of a stint and you learn how to hold it [together]. With Jiu-Jitsu, you're constantly straining muscles. You learn how to hunker down and get through [the pain] without tapping out."
Brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor are mountain bike enthusiasts.
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP, said it enhances the mental side of four-wheeled racing in which a driver must look for debris, adapt to changing conditions and all the other components that go into driving a race car.
"With the biking application we are looking for roots, ruts, inclines, declines and animals," he said. "Something thrilling always happens on mountain bike rides … [like] the time an armadillo hit the rear derailleur and broke it leaving us stranded without a chain. It is always a great time and fantastic training."
Jordan Taylor said mountain biking aids endurance.
"Being in Florida, where it is pretty warm and humid during the year, it creates a similar situation to being in the car where it is very hot," said the co-driver of the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP. Riding "is usually in a forest type place with some water nearby so that makes it very humid and not very comfortable but that is probably the best thing for you when you're training in conditions like that."
Spencer Pumpelly, a two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner who competes in the Continental Tire Challenge in the No. 38 Porsche Carerra for BGB Motorsports, has flown helicopters for nearly a decade logging more than 200 hours. He holds a commercial pilot's license.
"There are a lot of parallels between flying and racing," said Pumpelly. "In both you need a good understanding of the mechanics of the machine; you need to efficiently use resources and you need good situational awareness.
"Just like in racing when you fly you need to always be planning ahead. Whether I'm flying or racing I am always learning and that's part of the enjoyment I get from both."
The United Kingdom's Robin Liddell takes a somewhat different approach.
"I always find that any form of disciplined activity away from the race track helps mental focus generally as well as creating an awareness of how the mind affects the body when it comes to competing or simply trying to get the best out of oneself," said Liddell, co-driver of the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R.
Liddell drives rally cars during the winter months and believes it enhances his car control.
"I find that the skills I gain by sliding the car around a lot as well as being able to read the different surface conditions better can really help, especially on a damp or wet race track," he said.
The inaugural race in Austin can be seen on SPEED at 5:30 p.m. ET March 2.