Former British Superbike rider Gary Mason admits he was put off racing at the 24 Hour Le Mans event by a number of fellow competitors but as he rolled down the pit lane at 3AM ahead of another brain-melting stint for Prime Factors Racing BMW he started to get the giggles.
Mason is one of a number of British riders making the move into the FIM Endurance World Championship from sprint series on either a permanent or temporary basis.
At this month's Suzuka 8 Hours stars from different series are merging together to compete against one another including; two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner, current grand prix riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, World Superbike's Alex Lowes and British Superbike's Ryuichi Kiyonari.
The Staffordshire rider claimed glory after being crowned British Endurance Superbike Champion last year and his Prime Factors Racing squad has made the bold move into international competition, beginning in Superstock before a planned switch up to Superbikes in 2016.
Earlier this year Mason and his team-mates Barry Burrell and Stefan Cappella grabbed a creditable points finish on the team's debut at Le Mans, taking 10th place in the Superstock classification.
“It is a tough race and we can't say we didn't have any mishaps but we coped with them and we finished that was the main thing,” Mason explained. “We are a young and hungry team, very professional and thoroughly committed to what we are aiming for. There are exciting times ahead.
“Everyone had told me how horrific the 24 hour race was so I had steered clear of it. But it has got to this point in my career where the opportunity came up and I thought why not let's do it."
The 36-year-old journeyman had previous experience to draw upon after competing at the endurance blue riband event, Suzuka 8 Hours, but reveals it was a nervous step into the unknown at Le Mans in his first 24 hour race.
“It is bloody hard, probably one of the hardest things I'll ever do in my career trying to keep going for 24 hours. Obviously you get a little bit of a break off the bike, but by the time you get out of your leathers have, a debrief and some food you are almost getting ready to go again. It is like Groundhog Day.”
Mason reflected on a few words of advice given to him by former British Superbike and Endurance World Champion Terry Rymer ahead of his 24 hour debut with a wry smirk.
“I remember what Terry Rymer [1990 BSB champion, 1992 and 1999 Endurance World Champion] said to me. 'You wait until three in the morning, that is when you are going to have a breakdown in your head. You need mental strength to push through it. Then you get a second wind when the sun comes up.' He is bloody right.
“I remember riding down the pit lane on the rev limiter at the start of a stint at 3AM and giggling to myself thinking this is just not right.”
To put endurance racing on two-wheels into perspective Mason points out that after a full race weekend at Le Mans which includes practice sessions, qualifying and the twice around the clock race, the distance covered by rider and machine is nearly equal to the total mileage of a full BSB season.
“Training is very different as well,” he added. “Realistically a BSB race is between 28 to 32 minutes so you train for that. In endurance it is constant and you get into a massive rhythm while staying out of trouble and pushing as hard as you can.
“It can also be a very lonely place especially riding in the middle of the night because you don't know what is going on. The only guy you see is the man with the pit board every time you come around.”
Despite the hardships, Mason says he's hooked on the camaraderie within his Prime Factors Racing team and revels in the bonds made over a race.
“It is weird because we've been used to riding as an individual and if you crash, you crash,” the rider said. “You have to change your mentality a little bit because it is about bringing the bike home while riding as fast as you can without crashing because if you do that is it, over.
“But it is very enjoyable too because it feels like you are in a platoon. It is like you are in the military. You need the chef as much as you need the marine and as much as you need to the mechanic. I'm just one cog in a big wheel.”
For the remainder of the year Mason has set his squad one simple goal: to finish on the Superstock podium and then begin the learning process all over again in the big bike class.
Through the physical and mental pain Mason is already looking to throw himself through the mill all over again.