The COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos in the lives of millions and race drivers are just as affected. In her second interview, Tina Mitchell talks to driver Nico Rondet about how he is coping with staying home, changes to his physical training, the importance of nutrition and sim racing and some advice to young drivers.
Motorsport Prospects: Tell us a bit about yourself and your racing history so far.
Nico Rondet: Hi, my name is Nico Rondet, I was born in France, grew up in Brazil, and am now a US Citizen. So, I talk funny… Let’s get that out of the way! I have lived in California since 1996 while racing and coaching around the world but mostly in the US and Europe. I have spent the last few years racing in both the US in the IMSA Prototype Challenge (LMP3) and Continental (now called Michelin) Challenge (with Audi and then McLaren) as well as in Europe in the Michelin Le Man’s Cup (LMP3). All of that while also being the chief instructor of the Racing School in Sonoma (Jim Russell then Simraceway and now Sears Point Racing!!!).
MP: How importance is fitness for you and how has this pandemic affected your fitness regimen?
NR: I always stay very fit for racing. I have embraced a triathlon style regimen for over 15 years. I have studied the sport, become a certified triathlon coach and adapted to the needs of motor racing. Typically, the winter when we travel less is when I build a big base which carries me through the season. This year for personal reasons (divorce) I was a little behind… Interestingly enough, these stay at home conditions have allowed me to catch back up. I do not ride as far as I would normally at this time of the year, but I ride more often than If I were traveling or working at the track. To stay completely safe. I wear a highly breathable mask made by a small triathlon gear company (DeSoto). I also do some basic weight training at home, mostly using my own bodyweight, things like push ups, squats, crunches and pull ups. I also have axed the whole thing towards less intensity so that it helps my immune system to be in top shape! So actually, my fitness is top notch right now. And I am ready for battle!!!
MP: What about nutrition?
NR: Similar answer to the previous question. Really focusing on a clean and measured diet. I have had curiosity towards vegetarianism and Veganism so I have tried to go the Vegan route although I am not hardcore. And since I started working with an online distributor I can get my nutrition delivered at home which eliminates one trip to the grocery store. So far I really like the way I feel and look. My weight has gotten back to where I was when I was in my mid 20s yet with more muscle mass!
MP: What has this time off allowed you to discover (or re-discover) that stimulates the same senses that racing does?
NR: Easy! Simulator racing has all these elements built in. I have been a strong advocate for sim training for years. I have had my own simulator at home since 2006. It actually has been really funny to watch everyone in Motorsport diving into sim racing like crazy. And guys who were always saying that it was not for them or whatever, now they are immediately offering online coaching, well at least some of them, even before they have a sim setup!!! I actually have been spending a lot of time coaching some of my ex co-drivers and other clients online. I also got involved with a couple of different invitational Pro driver series. (IMSA and US F3). So again, no problem there!
MP: Has this extended time off helped you in any way that you might not have had the time do if things were more “normal.”
NR: It certainly has given me more time at home to focus on “my” preparation and things. It has pushed me to venture into online coaching. I am now developing “real feel” setups which I can sell online. I have been producing short videos about fitness, nutrition, and sim racing. I have started my own online nutrition store. All avenues which I wanted to start exploring. And with travel and regular schedule of coaching etc I never did. So now I can. And now that I have started it will be easier to continue this work even after we go back to “normal” although I think that it will be a new “normal”.
MP: What kind of advice would you give a young driver?
NR: Make sure that this is really what YOU want. This is a hard career so do not do it because it is someone else’s dream. I see many young drivers in that case. They typically become good drivers but rarely champions. And if you truly want to have a career you need to NOT just be good. You need to be a champion! The other thing is that the old saying: “to make a small fortune in motor racing… Start with a big one” will apply! I am one of the few opposites. I came from very little. I literally lived in the back of my SEAT Ibiza in Europe for almost 3 years. I would sleep in the back seat 3-4 nights a week… Eating cereal powder milk and cold ravioli. Today I live a good life. Not a rich man’s life but a good life! And there is plenty more to come!
MP: Any final thoughts?
NR: Do not forget the big picture. I focused mostly on the performance. I was always ok with the media, but I never pushed enough on the business side. And also, be more guarded. I have helped many other drivers throughout my career placing them place where I could not be, helping them in understanding the setup of their cars. Sometimes just helping with communication inside a team. I speak fluent French, Portuguese, English and Spanish…etc. I brought amateur drivers to teams, just putting the right people together without a binding contract only to be left out afterwards. Always hoping that I would get that favour in return one day. That day is yet to come so just be aware.
You view and subscribe to Nico’s YouTube channel here.