What’s it like being a Supercars driver? Grove Racing’s David Reynolds takes us behind the scenes to tell us what’s involved in being a contender in the Repco Supercars Championship in SupercarXtra Magazine issue #127.
Reynolds made his first start in Supercars in 2007; his full-time season debut in 2009; scored his first race win in 2013; conquered Mount Panorama with victory in the Bathurst 1000 in 2017; and recently took part in his 400th race start.
He’s raced for both Holden and Ford, across various Commodores, Falcons and now Mustangs, for factory-backed teams such as the Holden Racing Team and Ford Performance Racing (under the Rod Nash Racing banner) and race-winning independents such as Erebus Motorsport and now Grove Racing.
For 15 years, Reynolds has lived the life of a Supercars driver, experiencing the highs and lows of something that’s more of a way of life than a job.
“My life is not 9am to 5pm; it’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Reynolds. “You live and breathe the sport day in, day out.”
On paper, it seems pretty straightforward: 13 race events in the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship and a handful of test days gives the impression that there’s a lot of waiting around for drivers across the year. But that doesn’t factor in the training programs, media and sponsor commitments, team requirements and everyday family responsibilities that all need to be fitted in, ramping up in and around events.
The off-season is the opportunity to reach peak physical fitness, with more time for demanding training schedules ahead of the racing season.
“I do a lot of fitness at the start of the year when you get a lot of free time,” explains Reynolds.
“You can’t train flat out and then race a car and then just train flat out as soon as it’s over as you suffer burnout. And it’s also really taxing to drive a Supercar flat out anyway. So you always spend a few days either side of that resting or tapering off.
“When you’re in season, it’s really hard to get fit, unless there’s big breaks. So I try and do as much as I can before the season so that way I can sort of cruise during the year and just try and maintain it. But there’s no fitness programs that can replicate driving a car; driving a car is the best fitness you can do for our sport.
“You can be as fit as you want, but it doesn’t translate into making the car fast; it doesn’t change the performance of the car. It does help you in knowing that, say, if I go for a run for two hours without water, I can drive the car flat out for two hours without water. I know that physically and mentally I can do that.
“Our sport doesn’t restrict the weak, the strong. You don’t have to be the fittest or strongest. You can be overweight and still be fast. You don’t have to have one special attribute. It’s a combination of things that combine to drive a car fast with the desire to want to drive it fast.”
Along with the physical aspect comes the mental, converting all that training and preparation into a performance and result when it counts. Even as a Bathurst-winning veteran, the complexity of the sport takes a mental toll.
“The moment you stop thinking about driving the car flat out or, ‘Far out, this race is coming up, we’re going to be on this tyre, this is where I have to brake,’ etc, etc, then you probably shouldn’t be competing,” says Reynolds.
“The cars are a lot more complex with more variables – set ups, tyres, formats, etc. So every weekend you go into, there’s a new set of challenges you have got to think about; whether you know how the car and tyre will perform at the track and what can be done to get the most out of it all.
“It’s definitely a strange business. Even something that appears simple like how teammates match up isn’t as straightforward as it seems, as there are inevitably differences in who built the cars, how they are built, the mileage they’ve had, the impacts they’ve experienced, etc.
“A great example is with my teammate Lee Holdsworth’s car and mine. My car is a former Nissan Altima converted into a Ford Mustang, while his is a Mustang that was made by another team. So you can set them up with the same numbers and everything and put the same mechanics on them, but they will feel and handle completely different
“It’s why teammate battles, even though everyone perceives it as the only true benchmark, when you really boil it down, is it really?
“There’s so many funny things in this sport that makes a huge differences to performance that the average person that just turns on the screen and watches wouldn’t understand.”