Driving a go-kart is harder than people think, especially when you’re driving for 24 hours with Tourette Syndrome.
Trey Shannon, who has the syndrome, will be driving solo for 24 hours to raise money for the Tourette Syndrome Association of America — an attempt to break the go-karting world record. The current record, which was last set in October 2010, is 801.38 miles.
The syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects about 200,000 people in the United States. But, it frequently goes undiagnosed, according to the TSA’s website.
The disorder is characterized by tics — involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocal outbursts that occur repeatedly. Eye blinking, head jerking, throat clearing, sniffing and tongue clicking are examples of tics.
Although Shannon, who attended Virginia Tech as an undergraduate, has a relatively mild case, some daily activities, such as reading and driving, require more concentration.
“I make it a point to be more aware of what’s going on around me (when I’m on the highway), that way if I have a tic that lasts for 10 seconds, I can guess where everything is while the tic is going on,” he said.
My dad was always worried that I’d get hit in the face while I was playing baseball because I’d have a tic and wouldn’t be paying attention.”
There is no known cure for those with the syndrome, regardless of its level. However, the money donated to TSA will help to find one.
Shannon said he is fortunate that the syndrome has never stopped him from accomplishing his goals.
Shannon has been a racing enthusiast his whole life and began go-kart racing when he was 16. He took time away from racing while he was a student at Tech, but he was a member of the Formula SEA — Society of Automated Engineers — Team.
Shannon worked on the mechanical engineering senior design project, which consists of 30 design engineers build a Formula One racecar and compete in an international SAE competition near Detroit, Mich.
The race Shannon is participating in — 24 Hours for TSA — will take place at New Castle Motorsports Park in Indiana on Oct. 25.
The track had to meet a list of specifications to be used for the world record. The course cannot be oval shaped and has to be between 0.75 and 1.25 miles long, Shannon said.
The course that he will use at NCMP has 14 turns, long straight aways, and is 0.92 miles long. Shannon said this track is a fairly large go-kart track — most are a half of a mile to three quarters of a mile long.
To train for the event, he started working out in the gym two hours a day, six days a week.
“(I worked on) personal fitness and muscle endurance, especially in my shoulders, neck and forearms. Go-karts vibrate, and they can tire you out fast,” he said.
Shannon also went to a track in northern Virginia to get practice time in the go-kart. He drove for eight hours straight. He also practiced at NCMP to test how long his tires would last and when his team would need to re-fuel the car. He said they tested these things to determine when to fix the breaks within the 24 hours.
NCMP is not charging for Shannon to use the track, said Mike Adams, the director of operations for the park.
According to the track’s website, usual fees range from $22 to $25 a day for practicing on the track. An ambulance is required to be on site as well, which Shannon said can cost $15 an hour.
“They’re saving us about $1,000,” Shannon said.
Infinite Nutrition, one of his sponsors, is donating a specialized energy drink, which Shannon will have access to in his car throughout the race, to help keep him alert.
“The main danger is fatigue, not injury,” he said. Infinite Nutrition will design a customized drink based on Shannon’s body type and the activity he’s performing.
While, 24 hours for a Cure has already raised more than $1,000, Shannon said his goal is to raise $10,000.
“I don’t have a concrete goal, but the more the better. I want to get people talking about (the syndrome)," he said.