Many Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona fans — especially those making their first trek to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship test — challenge themselves to stay awake and at least functionally coherent for the full 24 hours. Drivers, however, know the secret to success at a 24-hour race is simple: Finding a good place to catch a little shut-eye. Just ask Chevrolet Corvette Racing driver Jan Magnussen. "My first 24 hour race was at Le Mans," the 45-year-old Magnussen said the day before this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona. "That first time, I didn't sleep enough when I had the chance. I was engaged in everything. I was 25-26 years old. Pretty soon, you learn that you need a rest."
Magnussen is a five-time IMSA season champion and three-time class winner at Daytona. He made his first trek to Le Mans in 1999, and says he's learned a lot in two decades. "Now I know what it's going to feel like," Magnussen said. "You know you're going to get tired, but you also know you're going to be all right." Another veteran in the Corvette Racing stable at Daytona this year is Tommy Milner. Milner, who turns 33 on Monday, has raced at Le Mans since 2006 and is a three-time IMSA season champion and two-time Rolex 24 class winner. "Most guys basically try to figure out when they can take one real good sleep — two hours, if you're lucky," Milner said. "Between getting out of the car at night, and getting your wet stuff off, trying then to fall asleep is not easy. "After you've been so amped up, going right to bed is pretty much impossible. Usually works out to be about two hours of time that you can sleep, whether or not you get that two hours is up to you. I go earplugs, lay down, no phones, maybe some music and just sit there and relax. But even with noise-cancelling headphones on and the music turned up a little bit, you can still hear the engine sounds. Usually, it's just the engine sound you've been hearing for the last two hours just replaying in your head, just droning on and on."
Magnussen, who is slated to be in the car for eight hours this weekend at Daytona, agrees that wind-down time can be a challenge. "Usually when you're in the car you're working," Magnussen said. "Once the stints are over, you have a brief chat with the engineer about your experiences in the car, and see if there's something we need to pay attention to. Then usually, it's if off to get shower, maybe something to eat, a massage, and rest up until somebody comes to pick you up at the motorhome to get ready again. "Hopefully, we can get some good down time so we're well-rested and ready for the next stint. I don't know long we'll be in the car at a time, but by the rules we can be in the car four hours out of every six. I think it's bettter to have more down time so you can push harder for the time you're in the car instead of a bunch of short stints. "I think it's easier now because you can manage the duration a lot better because you know how it's going to work out. Unless there are any problems, it's pretty much set. You're in the car for this long, out of the car for twice that amount, and then you're back in the car. It's not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets easier. It's important to get away when you can. If you're not in the car, you can't do anything." So, do the younger drivers come to Magnussen for some of his secrets of the 24 hours, now that he's figured out secret of the 24? "Nah," Magnussen said. "Most guys think they know better."
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