MANAGING THE COMPETITION
The Rolex 24 At Daytona, like all major sporting events, relies on the skill and talent of numerous individuals in order to run successfully. The difference in this instance, however, is that few sporting events last 24 hours so the complex coordination behind the scenes at Daytona International Speedway takes an extremely deft hand to carry off.
Involved in motorsports for over 30 years, Mark Raffauf has been race director for Grand-Am Road Racing for over 10 years, and as Managing Director of Competition oversees rules enforcement, event proceedings, technical regulations, driver conduct and briefings along with directing the Grand-Am event operations staff.
"There is a lot of manpower and organization required both from the Speedway and from our own staff, especially for the first race of the year," said Raffauf regarding the preparations required to organize the legendary Rolex 24 At Daytona. "All of that actually occurs during the fall of the year. By the New Year we are pretty much ready to go. Mustering the right manpower - in the right areas - is how we make it happen."
Raffauf's responsibilities cover both the technical part of the cars, i.e. tech inspection and regulations of the cars, as well as being chief executive officer of the event and head official. "What my staff here in race control is doing from day one is learning the cars by their paint jobs as well as their numbers because at night you don't always see the numbers," he said. "You learn to recognize things very quickly. We want all the track staff - the safety crews, ambulance crews, tow truck crews and all persons responsible for operating the race - up to speed. This is the first big event of the year so this is the first time this year that these people have been at a hot race track. The Rolex 24 At Daytona is like any other race - except it takes a lot longer to finish and we have to use our resources to operate the race track with sporting procedural matters as well as safety matters. There is a certain discipline on the track amongst the drivers and we have to oversee the action on track in terms of GT cars and the closing speed of the DP cars and make sure everybody is doing what they are supposed to do. The pit crews are required to listen to us at all times so that we can communicate to them any instructions or directions they need to communicate to their driver."
Raffauf fully knows that the Rolex 24 At Daytona will in actuality turn into a 40-hour day. "I find that if I fall asleep I am not as sharp when I awake. I may take a couple hours around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and go to my home which is very close to here and take a shower, shave, change my clothes and I am usually refreshed by doing that. The other people on my team work in six-hour shifts, are then relieved and they rotate during the race so there are always fresh personnel up in race control to manage the race. It's a real team effort up here as well as with the corner workers and safety crews. My key people never leave the race track, but we're well fed and well taken care of. We all have a passion for racing and we love what we do."
"The Rolex 24 At Daytona does have a little different feel to it than in years past," concluded Raffauf. "Now it is a 24-hour sprint race. There is no letting up and to win and to succeed you have to drive as hard and as fast as you can. To win this race you will have to pass 15 to 20 cars per lap for over 720 laps, without making mistakes."
-source: rolex motorsports