The morning before the race is a period of acceleration, but it can feel just the opposite. Many teams start off with some amount of anxiety — a thousand tiny tasks remain before the car is "perfect," and it can still feel tempting to try to knock them all out in the dwindling moments before the green flag waves.
But once the race is underway, the mere fact that the car is out on track, turning laps, and away from convenient access makes a lot of those small issues seem to disappear. You're going faster than you were before, but that sense of being overwhelmed with tasks is replaced by a focus on the more singular task at hand — drive smooth, get good track position, run quick pit stops, don't break anything. You light the rocket, and then you do your best to get out of the way and let that baby burn.
As the end of the race approaches, those feelings can flip. The anxiety returns. Those thousand tasks are replaced by a thousand worries of what might break before the finish, whether it's all going to hold together, and whether you'll be able to get everything buttoned down well enough to get the rocketship back on track. Track position typically isn't something to be gained so much as something to be maintained, in the face of fatigued mechanical components, tired drivers and crew, and adversaries lurking just a few laps behind.
But even as the anxiety mounts, there's no doubt that the end of the race is near. That clock continues to tick, and as the 25-hour mark approaches, everyone (including the safety crew) gets ready for the finish.
Some get ready to celebrate a race well-run. Others get a head start on planning their revenge. For a good half of the field, the last few laps of the race are a parade. And after the checker actually flies, everyone gets a full lap to cool down, thank the corner and safety workers, and cycle back into the pits. For once, the sensation of slowness matches the vehicle speeds.
For that matter, a lot of sensations return that were absent — or at least ignored — during the race. Exhaustion is one. Thankfully, there's also a little time to rest before the awards ceremony begins.
And just like that, it's one more year in the books.
When you look back on what it takes to see the end of an endurance race, the most obvious requirement is the endurance itself. It can be easy to remember and to celebrate the quick, spirited moments that took place — they can feel like a swell of pride or heartbreak in the moment. But the sensations of those moments are always held in contrast to the moments in between — the longer, slower periods that actually get you through most of the race and out the other side. The ones that give you the sense of what kind of race it was, and how it really went.
And while it'll be the brief moments that you tell stories about for the rest of the year, the moments in between will always show up to set the stage. The complete Moments In Between series: