- Credit: Zsolt Szabó

Zsolt Szabó finished his first 24h race 4th

Ever wondered how a 24h karting race looks like

Zsolt Szabó participated in his first 24h race this weekend in Sevilla, Spain. He teamed up with ex-WTCC driver Felix Porteiro, 2002 World Series by Nissan Champion Santiago Porteirom and Nikolas Hansen, who replaced Roberto Merhi. The Spanish ex-Formula 1 driver was due to race, but his tight schedule would have allowed him only to join the team overnight, arriving from another race.

You landed in Spain on Friday morning. How did the rest of your day go?

ZS: From the airport I went straight to the track to test. When I arrived the session was already on. Luckily I quickly adapted to the kart and the track and I was able to prepare more than one hour for the race, which I was very happy for.

You have never participated in a race like this before. How was your first 24h race?

ZS: I enjoyed it a lot. I wouldn’t thought that a 24h race can be this short. It was great to see that at some occasions we don’t have to fight with the others all the time, but help each other a bit, for example when slipstreaming. The one behind was really pushing the one in front to speed up as these races are not decided in the first hours. Obviously in the last hours you don’t help the others like that, but when there is almost 24 hours to the end, we don’t slow each other down with fighting. This is quite a big difference compared to sprint races which I have in touring car racing.

What other differences or difficulties did you face?

ZS: It was a totally different challenge than any other I had before. In a race like this we have to lap so many drivers so many times while losing as little amount time as possible. It was interesting to experience how you can overtake with the least possible time loss.

The other was when they woke me up from a 30 min sleep at 3 am that I will drive next, just after I had a three-hour run. There I had a 1.5-hour run before daybreak, when I think it is the hardest to drive. It wasn’t the best feeling in the world, but you know we are only tired until we get behind the wheel.

How challenging was it physically?

ZS: Fortunately I am stronger both mentally and physically than I expected, but to drive 6- hours wasn’t easy. My lap times were quick and constant, which I was incredibly happy for. Which I enjoyed the most was that I was not slowing down my experienced team at all, my pace was good, and everyone was really satisfied.

Physically at the first run I didn’t have any problem, but at the second I started to feel some pain in my back and my waist, my hands were full of blisters and it was also a bit painful for the ribs even though I had a rib protector on. The first three laps were usually about to get used to the pain, but after that everything went well. Tiredness stroke only on Monday.

What was your most memorable moment of those 24 hours?

ZS: It is hard to highlight one, because I had so many. Like when a karting world champion was on track and I battled with him was great, but the whole atmosphere of the race was very nice.

We were running in 3rd position in the majority of the race, but one of my teammates received a penalty and that is why in the end we came 4th. It is a team sport and that is how it goes.

How did you spend your time when you were not driving?

ZS: When I wasn’t behind the wheel I helped the others by checking the lap times of the others and analysing my teammates’ data. In these 24h races the rest of the team needs to keep the current driver motivated. I even managed to sleep a little bit, one and a half hours overall, but 24h races are not about relaxing. I was surprised not to feel myself that tired I thought over the whole event because of the adrenaline.

I am very thankful for this opportunity, I learnt a lot in the field of overtakes and racing in a team. If I have a chance, I definitely like to take part in a race like this in the future!

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