Covering an event like Petit Le Mans as a journalist is, in many ways, not unlike spending a few days in the field during my days in the Marine Corps. No matter how well prepared you think you are, there are a few inescapable certainties: you’ll be logging countless miles on foot, you’ll likely only get a few hours of sleep per night, and when it’s over, you have an after action report due on your boss’s desk long before your body feels capable of stringing coherent sentences together.
For those who aren’t aware, Petit Le Mans is a collection of races held each year at Road Atlanta racetrack in Braselton, Georgia that culminates in a gruelling ten-hour endurance race. That final event sees participants from three different classes of racing competing simultaneously. In effect, that really means there are three races going on at once, on the same track, with wildly different cars… for ten hours straight.
To relate Petit Le Mans to football… it’s sort of like if the Super Bowl were played on the same field and at the same time as the Rose Bowl and the Arena League championship. The automotive melee that ensues isn’t just exciting, it’s gripping, as cars that look a lot like the ones you might see on the highway duke it out with another against a backdrop of even faster cars that look like wingless fighter jets squaring off in a battle of their own.
After days of lower-profile races and meandering my way through what can only be described as Woodstock for automotive enthusiasts, I was already exhausted when Saturday morning arrived. I’d been up all night for two nights prior, gathering notes and speaking to players in the field, and as I settled into my seat in the media room on the first floor of Road Atlanta’s tower, I felt a familiar feeling creep over me. Exhaustion is a funny thing: it can convince you to turn away from your responsibilities, your obligations, even your passions for the sake of just a moment’s reprieve.
I’m just going to rest my eyes for a second, exhaustion beckons you to say. Then I’ll get to work.
Fortunately, I found myself uniquely suited for the nature of the challenge. The combination of my time in the Corps, my years working in the racing industry, and the right gear made my 72-hours on location for Petit Le Mans more than just an exercise in adrenaline-fueled highs and droopy-eyes lows. As much as I’d like to take the credit for what came to be a productive bout of networking and event coverage despite the growing cloud of sleep deprivation looming over my head — the right tools for the job certainly stacked the odds in my favor.
Some elements of my coverage-day pack are pretty universal for people in my field: a notebook, a pocket knife, a couple decent pens, sunglasses, and a flashlight. A few others, however, are the product of my experiences as a Marine and as a journalist — bolstered through my ties with outlets like The Loadout Room, that’s always looking for new ways to put products through their paces in the interest of relaying to readers where best to invest when facing challenges of their own.
A Good Quality Timepiece – NFW Regulator
George Fox’s NFW Watches are all about the marriage of quality and style, and when you’re surrounded by racing teams with budgets that could make some national militaries blush, it’s nice to have a bit of bling on your wrist that makes you feel like you belong. As I shook hands with some of racing’s biggest names, it was my Regulator, not their Rolexes, that caught the most interested glances. It’s aesthetics, modeled after the gauges you might find in the cars competing in the race, fit the culture of the environment — but more importantly to me, the watch proved reliable and easy to read.
A few years ago, I took a wayward right hook while boxing that permanently damaged my right eye — giving me a blind spot and some degree of light sensitivity. As such, I need easily discernible hands against a contrasting face to have any hope of gleaning the time at a glance — and the NFW Regulator offers me that without compromising style.
Despite my collection of diplomas and the occasional chance to schmooze with high-rollers at events like Petit Le Mans, I’m still the same blue-collar kid that made his first living working interior demolition before finding his way into Skip Barber Racing’s workshop (and beyond). I didn’t come from money, and as such, my tastes never matured much beyond liking what works over what looks good. NFW Watches, however, give me both — and to the tune of less than $300 for many watches, they do so without compromising my budget.
A Steady Supply of Caffeine – Strike Force Energy
Whether you’re at a race like Petit Le Mans or an industry convention like SHOT Show, the media room really serves as an important hub for just two things: outlets (to charge your laptop, cell phone and other gadgets) and coffee (to charge you). That complimentary coffee serves as the lifeblood of on-location reporting in publications ranging from the New York Times to small, industry-specific trade outlets you’ve never heard of. Fighting off the sway of exhaustion is truly the great equalizer.
At events like Petit Le Mans, however, with only a few fleeting hours between the end of one day and the start of the next, coffee stops being your friend and instead becomes another obstacle. You find yourself trading one problem for another, as you pour your tenth cup of the morning into a paper cup with a willful disregard for the way the last cup made your stomach cramp and twist.
Instead, I leaned heavily on Strike Force Energy’s compact and concentrated packets. Just tear open the pouch and dump it into your plastic water bottle (or in my case, a Hydro Flask bottle) and you’ve got 180 MG of life-giving caffeine coupled with a flavor of your choosing. My caffeine intake is always higher than any doctor would advise, but it took far fewer of these little packets of power to keep me moving than it would have taken cups of coffee — meaning I didn’t have to exchange abdominal cramps for keeping my eyes open at the laptop.
*Written by Alex Hollings of NEWSREP