During this past week Ant and I were very fortunate to go on a Porsche track day experience at Silverstone. The set up and facilities they have there are just fantastic, including the Human Performance Center which provides in depth fitness information through analysis and training for racing drivers and endurance athletes. As with many sports some people may not realize the importance behind drivers fitness and how their athletic state can effect their driving performances.
Whilst at the Human Performance Center these athletes will be taken through a series of tests to analyse their current state and see what areas can be improved for optimal performance. Some of these areas would include:
Reaction time – Needing to react to other drivers, obstacles, road conditions and corners throughout a race is of huge importance to the drivers. They are tested on a Batak machine over 30 & 60 seconds with a final test of 5 minutes. The later tests there reactions over a long period of time which reflects the end of a race when fatigue is starting to creep in but you still need to maintain a high performance.
Posture assessment – Obviously throughout a race the driver is sat down which has effects on tightness of some muscles and joints along with weakness of others. This test will monitor the drivers alignment and mobility to ensure good postural habits and mobility are always maintained. Neck mobility is also key to make sure the drivers have as much vision of other drivers around them as possible.
Weight – Car manufacturers go to extreme detail and technology to get the car as light as possible, so the last thing they want is the drivers to be carrying a little unnecessary weight to weigh it down more.
Cardiovascular – Through exhilaration, performance and tension drivers heart rate can raise up to 80% of there maximum heart rate throughout the race. With some races lasting up to 3 hours this pushes their CV system to extreme lengths in order to cope. Drivers, just like endurance athletes, need to train there CV system prior to in order to prepare it to deal with these demands throughout the race.
Strength – Injury prevention is paramount for any athlete of any sport and it’s no different for drivers. Their body needs to be able to handle the forces put on it from the car and impacts from other cars or obstacles. Core strength is also key to allow them to stay stable in the seat, races are fast with lots of twists and turns, the more solid the body and car stay the more control they’ll have.
A very impressive test they spoke about was to monitor drivers sweat to allow the correct hydration and nutrition ratios. Every persons body works differently and at different intensities so by monitoring this allows bespoke drinks to be made to keep optimum hydration for each individual athlete. Finally they are able to help athletes train at extreme temperatures. Whilst wearing numerous layers of protective clothing its not a cool environment and with races globally temperatures outside the car add to the heat intensity. To allow drivers to acclimatize and train all the above in extreme temperatures means their body will be ready to deal with the extra elements when needed.
This was a brilliant experience to see how much importance all these individual aspects have on the sport and just shows once again top performance doesn’t just come from training on the track, course, court or range. Time outside of the performance field is vital for the best performance on the field.