National Motorsport Academy

Shaving Lap Times: Driver Health

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The way to becoming a faster driver is not solely down to improving the performance of the car. You, as the driver, have an important part to play. After all, the car won’t drive unless you provide the input. (Uh…try telling Roborace that!! Ed)

Most people assume that once you have the driving skills you need, it’s just down to tweaking the mechanical side of things and practice. But alongside your talent behind the wheel, there are other things that you can do to help improve your driving and overall performance on track.

Fatboy Slim

If you take a look at most, if not all, of the professional racing drivers, you will notice that they are slim and with a high level of fitness. There is, of course, a reason for this. Even though it may appear to be an easy job to sit in a seat and drive a car for anywhere between 20 minutes to 2 hours, both the physical and mental demands placed on a driver are high.

Due to the increase in forces from driving quickly, there is a lot of exertion placed on the drivers’ body. This can cause you to tire more quickly which, as a result, will manifest itself in a drop off in lap times. Likewise, this tiredness will also affect your concentration, increasing the possibility of missing braking or turn-in points.

 

So how do we avoid this downturn in performance? The first thing to do is to work on your fitness and endurance as this will put you in a better state physically to deal with the demands of racing. Not only will you be stronger and better able to maintain control over the inputs of the car, but you will be able to continue with this over the course of the race. Of course, turning yourself into Arnie (I’ll be back) Schwarzenegger is not what you are looking for in the size and weight stakes so there are special stamina and strength programs for race athletes so that you gain all the benefits of the gym work but none of the bulk. Remember Nigel Mansell, who became so big in the shoulders that he would not fit the last McLaren he drove and had to give up his seat – not what you want!

There’s also the point of carrying extra weight in the car. If you’ve stripped your pride and joy down to the bare necessities for even a track day, why wouldn’t you consider your own weight as a factor? If you don’t want to spend on fitting lighter body panels, polycarbonate windows and a fortune on carbon fiber, look at your diet! Ditch the burgers boys and girls!

Hydrate

As part of any good fitness regime, keeping control of your diet and ensuring that you are getting the right amount of nutrients and supplements into your system to help support your physical activity and stamina. All of this can be done away from the track in preparation for your next event. But what can you do on the day of the event that will help with your performance on track? Well, the best thing to do is to ensure that you stay hydrated and our friends at Demon Tweeks will help you with that. This is obviously important if it is a particularly warm day, but even on those colder events, keeping yourself hydrated is essential to helping you maintain your concentration and focus.

Many studies have shown that as little as 1% water loss, known as mild dehydration, can cause cognitive impairment. It might not be much but a split second earlier or later on the brakes and you are not optimum. A split second later to full throttle because you don’t feel the car moving like you did at the start of the stint – these all add up in little chunks of time that will hurt in a 20 minute race but destroy your chances in an endurance. As well as this, excretion of vital body salts through sweating causes cramps and muscle aches which will leave you feeling bad at the end of a stint and without the resources of a Le Mans team, so no masseuse or physio, you will be gradually getting worse and worse.

As part of staying hydrated, there are certain nutritional products that can help to improve muscle performance as well as improve your alertness and endurance while driving. I would also suggest looking out for techniques, nutritional tips and products from other sports; after all we are all athletes and so boosts that help brain or body from any sport will have some use to us – in racing there are shortcuts but looking over the fence at how the others are doing it should be part of your program.

So, how committed are you to cutting your lap times? You need to be disciplined and healthy if you’re going to succeed in this highly competitive sport so think first about how your lifestyle, diet and even your sleeping patterns affect your performance!

Take a look at our blog for more tips on shaving your lap times next time you’re at the track.

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