Le Mans Race Weekend Essentials: Ex-F1 driver and Cadillac racer Jack Aitken

Ex-Williams Formula 1 driver Jack Aitken will start his second Le Mans 24 Hours this year, driving for Action Express Racing.

There’s so much hype around Le Mans this year, with it being the 100th anniversary event, and that seven manufacturers alone are represented in the top category that will go for the motorsports win.

Aitken’s in a Cadillac that has the capability to win outright, alongside fellow Brit Alexander Sims and Brazilian Pipo Derani.

Richard Prince/Cadillac Photo

Now that Aitken has a Le Mans under his belt from 2022, we asked him for his race weekend essentials especially for this year’s event, and he didn’t disappoint. There’s bikes, engagement watches and a travelling espresso machine coming up!

Is there an item you can’t travel without

Earplugs! Not even racing ones, sleeping earplugs, because I really value being able to get a good night’s sleep. Basically, whenever I go on a trip, if I haven’t got earplugs, I’ll buy some at the airport, that makes a huge difference for me.

Especially here at Le Mans because I’m sleeping at the track, I need them. Obviously there’s work going on all the time. Whatever I can find from like, Boots. They’re not expensive, but just buy a pack of them and work my way through it!

Is there anything you make sure you pack for Le Mans specifically?

For Le Mans, definitely take quite a few extra bits with me because it’s a long week.

I bring my own pillow, so again, on the sleep theme. I just think it’s probably the most important thing for me is getting enough sleep up to the race. So make sure that I’m comfortable with that.

I end up bringing quite a bit of sports kit with me because it’s a long week, and you don’t actually end up doing a huge amount of driving. So a lot of the drivers like to go for a run or go for a ride like Monday through Friday before the race just to keep things ticking over.

I went for a run with Simsy [Alexander Sims] and [Nicky] Catsburg yesterday and they mullered me [British term for getting beaten badly]!

I know a lot of drivers went on a bike ride, they’ll bring their bikes and I’ve done that in the past as well. I use a Cannondale Supersix Bike which is just fantastic. I really enjoy riding because it’s not as hard on the body as running.

Most of the time if I go for a ride especially if it’s with mates, like most of my rides, aiming to go somewhere to sit at a cafe, halfway around, have a nice coffee and some cake or whatever and just live my best life.

Is there anything that helps with the mental and physical stresses of a 24-Hour race?

Probably the biggest thing for me is staying on top of hydration because if you don’t stay on top of it, then it leads to a lot of other problems like I think people know that if you get dehydrated your physical performance generally drops off.

But a couple of other bad things start happening. You don’t tend to sleep as well, which is obviously a factor when you’re trying to nap between stints.

You get stomach problems so you won’t be able to digest your food that quickly and again when you get out the car you try and eat something as quick as you can and go for a rest and if your stomach’s playing up that’s no good.

And you lose concentration as well when you get dehydrated. So I bring like little packs of hydration tablets and I try and sip them all the time.

During the race itself, as soon as I get out of the car, I have a drink in the fridge so that it’s really nice and cold, neck as much of that as I can and that will bring my body temperature down1

I do have protein powders and stuff as well. But nothing particularly interesting there, I’ll have it sometimes if I feel like I need to get food in me quickly and I can’t sit down for a meal.

I just use whatever stuff that I’ve found that works for me. I ordered most of my stuff before I came out here from My Protein, just because it was like, I’ve used stuff from there before.

Coffee I stay away from during the race because I like being able to go to sleep quickly when I get out car, I know some drivers have it during the race no problem and then they can go to sleep, I’m not like that, if I have a cup of coffee that tends to stay with me for a while.

So I like to save the caffeine hit for when the sun comes up in the morning and you get in for your last couple of stints when you’re probably not going to be able to sleep much anyway and it’s kind of that last kick to get you over the hill of 24 hours.

We have a portable coffee machine this year from Rocket – I’ve got them on my helmet as well. With the other drivers we’ve gone from me introducing them to this is an espresso machine, please don’t break it.

We’ve gone from that and people thinking why would I use that over an espresso [machine] to half the paddock comes up to me saying do you have the coffee machine with you, can I have one?!

I think it’s working. Rocket were really good in sorting us out with the Porta Via. It’s in a portable little travel case that they’ve made with the coffee machine and that’s been good to have. As much for the team as for me, I think, because they’re drinking coffees at 10pm at night working on the car and stuff.

Are there any brands you really like and always pack, sunglasses, watches, that sort of thing?

So there’s a couple of things that work well for me. I’ve got two watches with me, one’s my Garmin Forerunner 255 running watch and I use that for when I sleep, weirdly enough!

Sorry, I feel like I’ve been talking a lot about sleep.

It tracks my sleep and it measures my resting heart rate and all that stuff. I like having the data to look back on, more after the race. So last year when I did it, I was able to come back and see what was working, what wasn’t, based on how good the sleep was.

Then the other watch is like my walking around, chilling out in the day and traveling watch, which is an engagement present actually from my fiance Alexandra [Thomson] which is definitely a bit extra and not very performance orientated!

It’s a Grand Seiko GMT watch (SBGE285). But it’s just like a bit of man jewellery, which I like to have on. It’s a big event so you got to dress up for the occasion, all the other drivers think of watches these days, so I’m just trying to keep up.