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Motorsport requires a high level of physical and cognitive performance whilst experiencing substantial environmental, physical and psychological demands. These can include physical work against considerable gravitational and physical forces in confined spaces, climatic conditions, safety clothing and the pressure to succeed (Turner 2015). Athletes subject to these conditions not only experience repetitive perturbation and horizontal g-forces to the head and whole body, but are required to sustain visual performance for long periods of time.
A number of factors cause strain on a driver’s body by increasing heat stress, therefore challenging the cardiovascular system and adding to fatigue. Further to this, fire protective clothing/suits add insulation, impede heat loss and challenge the cardiovascular system due to the increased demand for greater skin blood flow in order to dissipate heat (Carlson et al 2014). Constant pedal work alongside the isometric muscular activation of the neck, trunk, abdomen and legs to act as a counter against the acute exposure to gravitational forces, contribute to an increase in metabolic heat and cardiovascular strain. Fluid loss (of approximately 1.5% – 1.8% of body weight reported per race), will increase the susceptibility to fatigue, induce muscle cramps and further impair perception and the ability to make quick reaction decisions through weakened mental alertness, thus degrading the performance of the driver’s actions and furthermore this could lead to impaired muscle activation (White 2013).
With these elevated body temperatures, substantial sweat losses, significant thermoregulatory stress and increased thermal load that can lead to performance impairment, it is clear to see why training to regulate these consequences is of high importance. Carlson et al (2014) suggested that drivers should consider strategies to improve cardiovascular fitness, heat tolerance/acclimatisation and should monitor fluid replacement, in order to meet the thermoregulatory and cardiovascular challenges of motorsport.
According to Owen et al (2015), it has been reported that there has been a great focus on mechanical performance with the safety of driving coming second. The level of performance of the driver is imperative in order for a race team to make gains over other teams and for championships to be won. With all drivers experiencing the fore-mentioned consequences to the demands of motorsport, an individual can train their body’s in order to counteract these effects and ready themselves. Ballasts within many race series are placed in a compulsory position that is unable to be moved, and this means that if there is a heavier driver within a series, all remaining drivers have the additional weight added to the car (passenger foot well in many cases). This positioned weight is regarded as ‘dead weight’ when it comes to the driver/car weigh in as it is of no use to the driver. If the driver increases their lean muscle mass, this dead weight will be reduced and all though there is a heavy driver, the weight will be used in muscle activation, enhancing strength whilst racing and thus leading to a further enhancement of performance. Strength and conditioning, massage, and an adequate nutrition intake can allow for a higher level of strength, endurance, lean muscle mass and therefore, a greater improvement in performance.
If you are looking for guidance in an aspect of motorsport conditioning or nutrition whether it is a personalised training or nutrition plan specific to the demands of motorsport, strength and conditioning sessions, sports massage, testing or race day support then visit our motorsport page at or give us an email for a discussion: