2014 Machismo 12 Hour; Event Preview

Auto racing is, at its core, a simple sport. “I can get my car to that line before you can.” Simple, right?

From the early days of inventors and creators trying to prove the worth of their latest vehicle, through the pre-war races of Auto Union vs the world, up to the moonshine runners in the South, the aero wars, the turbo era, the birth of downforce; racing has always boiled down to that driver in that car trying to beat every other driver in every other car. The same holds true with the Machismo.

12 hours of nonstop racing; just you, your team and a kart. The goal? Get it across the line the most times in 12 hours. Succeed and your team gets to add their name to the list of teams that have conquered the Machismo. This is easier said than done, especially this year, with 35 total teams on track trying to make it as difficult as possible for all of the others. Win this year’s event, and you have some mighty big bragging rights for the next year.

So, you may be asking, “what goes into winning this race?” The short answer is, a lot.

If you are a Pro Class team, not only do you have to turn qualifying style laps all race in order to try and keep up with the fastest drivers in Sport Karting, but you must perfectly manage your fuel stops, driver changes and for the first time ever, tire changes. The new option tire adds perhaps the biggest wrinkle to this years event, with teams having zero data to work from. The only thing that teams can count on with this tire is that the rules only allow its use for up to three hours. A team that nails their tire strategy this year will be standing tall when the clock hits 12 hours.

A team in the brand new Super Sport class has a lot to figure out too. As with Pro, they will have to perfectly manage their driver changes and fuel, but unlike Pro, Super Sport teams will receive a new kart whenever they come to the pits for fuel. In the blink of an eye, a Super Sport team can see victory slip away simply because their driver is not able to adapt to their new kart. The opposite end of that, however, is a team that is starting to fall behind might get into a kart that clicks on all levels with their driver. Their will be no point in the race that the Super Sport winner is a sure thing, not until the checkered flag is out anyways.

The Sport Class has the most “closed ended” rulebook of the three classes in this year’s event. The amount of driver changes that a team has to make is specified in the rules, a team will have the same kart for the duration of the race and the team weight is based on the team average rather than the individual. So, with all of those variables removed for the Sport Class, how do you get the upper hand? That’s easy, you win with speed. The Sport Class could be considered the most pure of the three, with much of the strategy already laid out for the team, the only real way to get an advantage is to be faster than your competition. Sure, there is still strategy calls such as when to put a particular driver in and who will do the double stints, but they really become more of an exercise in not getting it wrong and losing time rather than coming up with a crafty strategy that can actually make time for your team. If you are a driver in the Sport Class, you’d better be fast.

If 35 teams isn’t enough to overcome, there is also the completely unique track layout. This track layout is specific to this event, and at no other time of the year is it used for any events or practice. Drivers have to make their track time count on Friday during practice to be ready to go 100% out of the blocks on Saturday.

The Machismo track is full of odd corners, long apexes, and changing grip levels. Since the track is only used once per year, there are sections that go off of the sealed track surface. Those sections make the kart handle differently than the sealed sections, and those different handling characteristics will change based on a drivers style. The key to this track is to be adaptable as the track changes multiple times per lap, and changes drastically throughout the duration of the event.

Conditions always start cold, the track will have minimal grip from having sat overnight and having very little rubber laid down. As the day wears on, rubber will begin to get laid onto the racing groove rapidly. The track will heat up and times will slow down as the karts burn less fuel. At around 4:30 the sun will start to set, temperatures will drop rapidly and speeds will climb. The track will be well rubbered in by this point and the karts will make more and more horsepower as the air becomes dense. The fastest lap of the race has often times been set in the final hour.

Three classes, 35 teams, a track only used once per year, and 12 hours to settle it. Who can get across the line before everyone else? We’ll soon find out.