The Daytona Bathurst Double – 36 hours of racing in a week

Rhys Vandersyde covered the Rolex 24 in Daytona and the Bathurst 12 Hour in the same week

Rhys Vandersyde covered the Rolex 24 in Daytona and the Bathurst 12 Hour in the same week

Motorsport photographer Rhys Vandersyde covered two of the biggest GT and sports car races in the world, on opposite sides of the planet, in the same week. After detailing his experiences in Daytona for, his second piece looks at last weekend’s Bathurst 12 Hour.

A 24 hours race might be the ultimate endurance test for cars, but for those of us who took part in the Daytona-Bathurst double, there was the unique challenge of 36 hours of endurance racing in just 8 days on opposite sides of the world.

For a little bit of context; the Rolex 24 at Daytona started at 13:40 local time on Saturday, January 28, which happened to be 05:40 Sunday January 29 in Bathurst.

The Bathurst 12 Hour finished exactly 7 days 12 hours and 5 minutes later, at 17:45 Sunday February 5. That’s 180 Hours from start to finish for those trying to do the maths.

Obviously, I wasn’t the only person to do both events, 14 drivers featured on both entry lists for the two races, including Aussie Porsche Factory Driver Matt Campbell and Mercedes Factory driver Jules Gounon, who took both the GTD Pro class win at Daytona and the outright win at Bathurst – not a bad way to start the year for the Frenchman!

Beyond the drivers, a number of other people in the motorsport industry also did the double, with key technical personnel from manufacturers and several members of the media, most notably the Radio Le Mans crew including John Hindhaugh and Shea Adam who were part of the broadcast team for both events.

At the conclusion of the race on Sunday afternoon, I didn’t have the appropriate credentials to photograph any of the podium celebrations – One of the many lessons learned working an IMSA event for the first time. They do things a little differently in the US.

Before departing the Daytona Internal Speedway one last time, (well, hopefully just the moment, I’d love to go back) I made sure I had all my photos edited and uploaded by 16:00, leaving the circuit 32 hours after arriving the day before.

Even though I managed to get a 45-minute nap in during the 24 Hour (completely unplanned), the exhaustion at the end of the race was massive.

Racing through the night in Daytona

Racing through the night in Daytona

However, in an attempt to keep some sort of normal sleeping pattern, I pushed through and kept awake until about 20:00 that night. In hindsight, I probably should have gone straight to bed.

It might be just me, but before a big trip I always wake up exceptionally early. This time was no different (even directly after the 24) and at 02:00 Monday (US ET) I was wide awake!

On the bright side, it gave me plenty of time to repack all my gear and suitcase before heading back to Orlando for the journey back to Australia.

But, it made an already long travel day even longer.

Flying back to Australia in time for commitments at Mount Panorama on Wednesday afternoon was always going to be stressful.

Naturally, my flight out of Orlando was delayed and an extremely tight layover in Los Angeles made the chances of me or my gear missing the plane extremely high. It’s the most stressed I’ve been in a while.

After running through LAX to make my connecting flight to Sydney, I cannot describe the moment of relief sitting down on the plane and checking the air tags in my bags confirming they had also made it (or at least they were in the proximity of the plane).

Before making the trip I had asked a couple of drivers who had done the double previously for some advice and the resounding feedback was to fly business class to get a decent sleep on the way back.

However, since neither Porsche nor Mercedes were picking up the bill for my flights, I was in the back of the plane for the journey across the Pacific Ocean.

While I did get an hour or two of sleep, I’m sure the drivers up the pointy end were much more refreshed on arrival in Australia.

And so, 27 hours after leaving Daytona Beach, I arrived in Sydney, but there was no time to wait around. It was straight on to Bathurst.

With the time change from the US to Australia I effectively skipped Tuesday entirely and had to get straight into it at the track to fulfill some obligations with some very understanding customers.

Luckily, I was able to check into my hotel in Bathurst early and have a shower to refresh before heading into the track – that definitely helped me get through the rest of the day at the track, but a decent sleep was well overdue.

I’m no stranger to waking up early, but jet lag made sure I was well awake by 03:00 every day of the Bathurst weekend. While that was extremely handy for race day it added to the fatigue factor by the end of the weekend.

The Daytona experience opened Vandersyde's eyes to new angles at Bathurst

The Daytona experience opened Vandersyde’s eyes to new angles at Bathurst

Despite all of the lost sleep over the course of the week (really over 2 weeks when you include all the lead-up to the Rolex 24), photographing the two races, at two world-renowned circuits back-to-back was an amazing and rewarding experience.

Having photographed Mount Panorama for 10 years now, it’s a track I’m very familiar with.

But off the back of exploring a brand-new track and event for me, I was able to come into this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour with fresh eyes and see the event in a new light, coming up with some new and different shots I’d never captured before.

As for those working at the two races back to back, it’s a testament to the passion of the people who work behind the scenes in the sport.

To continue to operate at their peak while on track the drivers need to get plenty of rest, including sleeping during the 24 hour race (albeit briefly).

But it’s the mechanics, engineers, journalists and so many other people who work right through (including well before each race starts and well after the finish) that deserve special mention.

It’s a big effort to a 24 hour race, let alone back it up a week later.

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