Imagine running a full racing schedule going for a championship. Not just any championship, but the American LeMans Series Championship.
Now imagine yourself doing that, while also running some IndyCar races for Panther Racing including the double header in Toronto this weekend.
This isn’t something that is hypothetical. This is what Ryan Briscoe, driver of the No. 4 National Guard IndyCar is doing this year.
“I’m multi-tasking still so it definitely makes it challenging,” Briscoe comments. “Just been hard, but the team has really looked after me and been able to acquire seats that I used last year so that was a big start with getting comfortable in the cockpit. Great groups of guys to work with, very professional.”
Briscoe joined up with Panther Racing mid-season this year, his first start with them coming at Detroit, and has been getting to know the guys a little more each week ever since. With the way his schedule has been, he finally got a chance to be able to see the guys at the shop during the week.
“I definitely am excited,” Briscoe says. “I feel like coming straight off racing Pocono, I was able to go to Indianapolis this week, go to the race shop and spend time with the guys, which is basically been our first time together since our first race at Detroit.
“I feel preparation coming into Toronto is good, just a lot more organized than it’s been for me the previous races we’ve done together, which I think is a confidence boost for me and the team.”
Briscoe has also experienced a change with Panther Racing versus his previous seasons at Penske Racing in that Panther Racing is a single-car operation. Briscoe comments that it makes it even harder because you don’t have a teammate to bounce information back and forth
While Briscoe is working through changes of his own, the IZOD IndyCar Series is throwing curveballs at the drivers with changes and tweaks for this year. Instead of a single-race on Sunday, the IZOD IndyCar Series is running back-to-back races this weekend in Toronto, with one on Saturday and one on Sunday.
“It makes for a really fast-paced weekend, one practice session only before going into qualifying,” Briscoe comments. “So preparation is so important. There’s not much time if you’re off your mark to begin with so you have to be on it. You need to have a good practice to know what you clearly need going into qualifying for race one. Then after that, you’re qualifying for race two and then racing. It all happens quickly.”
Briscoe welcomes the challenge that it brings, as double headers equal more racing for him.
With having the double headers, some would think that maybe drivers would be conservative in race one. However, Briscoe says he doesn’t think so.
“Speaking in general terms as a driver, I would say not,” he says. “But in Detroit, I would say for sure the first race was more conservative than the second race. The second race, pretty stupid actually; everyone was making a lot of boneheaded moves on the restarts, which we didn’t see in race one. So I don’t know why that is.
“In preparation for a race like this, you’d think it may be the same in both races. We may get a little more confident going into the second race and try to get a bit more out of it. I don’t know – we’ll see.”
Oh, and the double header isn’t the only challenge that the drivers are facing. INDYCAR has gone with “standing starts” for the first of the two races. Instead of the traditional rolling starts, the cars will be stopped on the front stretch and have the light countdown.
“That’s going to be interesting, I don’t know what to expect,” Briscoe says. “I hope it all goes well. I don’t see why it won’t, but certainly something new to adapt to.”
The Toronto circuit has thrown Briscoe a curveball in the past, as he has two top seven finishes, along with two finishes outside the top 15 in his four starts.
“I’d say the track is difficult because it’s quite bumpy and it’s got quite a few fast corners for a street course so that’s probably the hardest thing,” Briscoe says. “You’re switching tarmacs quite a bit around this circuit so you’re going from old concrete to new concrete to tarmac, and that’s make the set-up more challenging and adjusting your driving to it.
“It’s a good race track, it’s got lots of passing zones. The passing zones are always tempting; you see a lot of crashes here so something to be aware of during the race to watch out for accidents happening because this race always seems to breed accidents. So it’s something to keep on your mind especially with two races this weekend.”
With having a double-header this weekend and his jam-packed schedule, training is key for Briscoe in keeping him in shape for the season. Briscoe says for drivers, the core of their training comes during the off-season.
“The off-season is where I can take my fitness to another level, where I can improve where I feel I’ve been lacking and try to get my fitness to the next level,” he comments. “Once we get to the season and especially once the month of May begins, you flood out. All the way through May and June till July, and then you get a weekend here and there off. During that period, it’s more maintenance than keeping improving. You just need to try and maintain what you worked on during the off-season and certainly being in a racecar is huge. That keeps your maintenance up, but I just mostly try to keep cardio up during the season.”