Why Hong Kong racing car driver Darryl O’Young is a Movember man
This month it’s all about the mo and the moves for Movember, a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier and longer lives. We’ll meet three of the charity’s Mo Bros and Mo Sistas helping raise awareness
Long before Darryl O’Young could drive – let alone even properly walk or run – he dreamt of becoming a racing car driver. Fuelled by visits to the racetrack with his dad from the age of two, he was behind the wheel of a go-kart aged eight and winning national championships aged 20.
Today O’Young, 35, has fulfilled his dreams many times over. He’s a three-time Macau Grand Prix champion and the first Chinese driver to complete a full season of the FIA World Touring Car Championship. He was also second in class at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 2013, revered as the Olympics of endurance racing.
But this month, O’Young plans to be powered by his feet for a change, and for a cause: Movember. The charity draws awareness to prostate cancer and other men’s health issues each year and has launched a new campaign encouraging “Mo Bros” and “Mo Sistas” to clock up healthy moves for a cause.
“I’m going to focus on moving seven days a week this month. I think it’s important to draw attention to men’s health issues, which are hard to talk about,” says the Canadian-born Hongkonger.
While many might believe motor sport is sedentary, O’Young insists his craft is full-body intensive.
“Imagine driving from Central to Stanley as fast as you can, nonstop, at full speed where every tenth of a second counts; imagine just that level of concentration. The G4 forces exerted in a car are also incredibly tough, meaning you need a strong core and a strong upper body.”
He already works out five days a week for two hours each time, but has vowed to step it up in Movember. “I’m going to make sure I take public transport or just walk everywhere... I’m also really going to challenge my team at Craft Bamboo Racing to clock up the mileage, too.”
Although he’s reached speeds of up to 315km/h in the car, he assures he’s anything but an adrenaline junkie.
“I’m anything but X-Games or the sort of person to jump out of an airplane. After racing for so many years, it’s not an adrenaline rush any more; you know everything that’s going on, you’re in control. I’m actually a really slow ordinary driver,” he says.
“Compare it to a sprint runner – they don’t sprint everywhere, they walk. It takes so much out of you to drive fast, I don’t automatically get in the car and want to drive fast.”
Most people think motorsport is very dangerous because you’re going at high speeds, but it’s actually quite safe. You’re competing on a racetrack in safe conditions; you’re wearing fire-retardant clothing, and you’re competing with other professional drivers and equipped with a fully professional team. I’d feel more nervous driving on Hong Kong’s roads.
Cardio fitness is really important as a race car driver. Your heart rate hits 185 beats per minute when driving. Then if you think of the endurance races we do, 24 hours at a stretch while driving for three to four hours in a row, you can imagine how physically challenging that is.
I wouldn’t claim to be able to keep up with an elite athlete. Racing doesn’t require that kind of level of fitness, but you do have to be fit. The second you get tired or lose focus, that’s it. Brain training is also a big part of my sport and concentration is one of my strengths.
You have to have a really strong neck. The G-force in a car travelling at the speeds we do is quite unimaginable until you’ve experienced it. I’d love to race in Formula One, but I’d need to train for a year and a lot of that would just be the sheer physical conditioning.
You have to start young in the sport; it’s not something you can learn in just a year. Because the costs are so great, it’s not a sport you can really “practise”. For example, for me to practise I would need to fly in my crew, my engineers; there is also the cost of the tyres and the maintenance. Then there’s the cost of actually running the car, something like £200 (HK$2,340) per hour. Also, driving around a track doesn’t mean you know how to race, how to overtake, how to drive fast around other people. Sponsors are a must, and I’m very lucky to have Aston Martin.
It’s a dream job, definitely, but I think even dream jobs are hard work. In addition to racing in 28 races around the world in a season – which means 28 countries and travelling almost every second week – there’s a lot of media and sponsor work. Overall, I find it’s a good balance of everything I love doing.
Follow Darryl’s progress and sponsor him at mobro.co/darryloyoung