Tomorrow, I embark on the race of the lifetime. I’ll be attempting to virtually drive non-stop1 around the Le Mans race circuit for 24 hours entirely solo, raising money for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. I’d be delighted if you could join me.
Earlier this year, I jumped head-first into the hobby of simulation racing [sim racing] by buying my first wheel-and-pedals set; a Logitech G29 Driving Force Racing Wheel. I’ve long been a fan of racing video games and motorsport ever since I was child, but this was my first foray into the heady world of sim racing. I’d love to race in real life, but sadly lack enough of the talent (and money) to go motor racing for real – so this is the closest I can do.
Behold, the rig:
Last weekend (10-11 June 2022) was the 90th edition of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans: an endurance motor race around the city of Le Mans in the heart of France. I’ve twice attended the race in the past (in 2010 and 2011) as a spectator, and there is such an incredible feeling and ‘buzz’ around the whole event; it is proper electric. I’ve got huge respect for the drivers, who are able to stay on the limit for so long; each sharing two-hour stints with two other drivers in a car over duration of the 24-hour race.
Before rules were introduced which mandated that each car had to be piloted by a three-driver team (for obvious safety reasons), two-driver teams were common – I can only imagine how demanding that must have been to keep alert through day and night for so long. However, only one driver in history ever completed the full 24 Hours of Le Mans entirely solo: Edward (“Eddie”) Ramsden Hall, who undertook the feat during the the race in 1950:
“When asked what provision should be made for the, er, more fundamental of human functions during a 24 hour solo drive, Eddie Hall’s advice was short and succinct: ‘Wear green overalls.’”Frankel (2017), ‘The One-Man Squad that Took On Le Mans‘
When I started sim racing earlier this year, I was really intrigued to try to see if I could do the same – race for 24 hours straight, and live to tell the tale. But I didn’t just want to tell the tale – I was keen to put it to good use to raise some awareness about a good cause at the same time.
I considered a number of charitable causes that I could do this challenge in aid of: however, I wanted to choose one where I thought my contribution/donation would be able to have a direct and noticeable effect – a meaningful impact, rather than being just a drop in the ocean. The answer was somewhere close to home: the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA).
In the current time (post-pandemic, cost of living crisis, cuts to public services), it feels important to be able to ensure that critical medical services are available to anyone when needed; where urgent medical attention could, quite literally, be a matter of life and death.
It’s the only facility (and charity) of its type in this local area and so it is one-of-a-kind – every time I hear or see the chopper going overhead, it’s kind of reassuring that there is an air ambulance facility still flying and helping save people’s lives: you never know when it might be you (or someone you love) that needs it.
As a side note: when I was originally designing the car livery for this challenge before I had even settled on HIOWAA as the primary recipient, I chose the car number ‘56’ simply due to its similarity to my initials (“SG”) and a naïve pipe-dream that it would one day grace a race helmet of mine. However, little did I know that the number 56 is the call-sign of the HIOWAA air ambulance (“Helimed56”) – clearly this was, as they say, a sign.
It’s not going to be easy – it might not be a physical challenge in the ‘traditional’ sense (I guess I’ll get a bit of cardio from steering the wheel and putting pedal to metal, but that’s about it), but it will be a challenge to keep up the energy and focus for a full 24 hours; especially as I’ll be live-streaming and potentially engaging with any viewers who drop by.
This is also all going to be pretty “new” to me: so far, the longest I’ve spent racing at a time has been a few hours – this will be quite a different beast. I’ve also never live-streamed before – in the run-up to this challenge, I’ve had to learn how to operate and set up livestreaming software, and practice being on camera whilst talking-and-driving. I think I’m up to the challenge; though I might need a constant supply of coffee to avoid sleeping at the wheel.
The hardest part will be when the Sun goes down – I’ll need to devise strategies to keep the momentum going and avoid drowsiness coming on. I estimate that I’ll complete around 360 laps over the course of the challenge, so I’m going to be seeing the same landmarks (grandstands, trees, road signs, advertising hoarding) over and over so will have to avoid the impulse to switch off completely – hopefully I can get into a rhythm of good lap times to keep me alert.
At the time of publication, we’ve already raised over £700, which is mind-blowing – I’d like to say a huge huge huge “thank you” to everyone who has contributed so far, it is absolutely amazing. The JustGiving campaign has already exceeded my wildest expectations – there has been strong support from family and friends and even some more far-flung supporters, and the green light hasn’t even gone out yet!
Thank you SO SO SO much – your support really makes a difference to the charity and the services provided by the air ambulance team, and I hope that I have even helped to raise more awareness of HIOWAA and their good work – even amongst motorsport fans further afield who may have stumbled across some of my posts or videos on social media.
Right, we’ll there’s just around 24 hours to go now ’til it’s lights out and away we go – so I’m gonna go get prepared. See you at the end of the race 🏁
1 Well, minus the occasional bathroom break. I’m not a monster (!)