Archive for November 2011

Yamaha KT100 SRC Test @ Zhuhai International Circuit, Nov 29, 2011   Leave a comment

Testing a Yamaha KT100 for the first time from SRC Racing at Zhuhai International Circuit. I was kindly given a test by Joseph Yuen, owner of SRC [www.sunnyracing.com]. SRC opened operations at the ZIC’s kart circuit last month and is going to run a KT100 karting championship at ZIC starting in Jan 2012.

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Posted November 29, 2011 by peteolsonracing in Uncategorized

China Formula Grand Prix [CFGP] F2000 Race Highlight Video, Ordos Int’l Circuit Jul2011   Leave a comment

Posted November 18, 2011 by peteolsonracing in Uncategorized

Ferrari 458 Italia at ZIC – Right Place at the Right Time/Perks of the Job   Leave a comment

SO WE FINISH ANOTHER DAY OF TESTING, 3 drivers today, super busy, then as I’m downloading data the team office manager comes over to me and says there’s some VIP that wants me to show him how to drive the track, can I do it? I say ‘sure, no problem, let me do 5 laps and then we pit and he drives and I’ll coach riding shotgun. What kind of car is it?” He didn’t know.
So a few minutes later the guy pulls in the pits in a brand new, shiny red [of course] 560hp, 0-60mph in 3.4sec, 202mph Ferrari 458. Needless to say I jumped in the car and yelled ‘someone get me my helmet!’. Left the pits and dropped the hammer. What a fun car, far lighter and more nimble than the Lamborghini. What impressed me most of all wasn’t the incredible [and ultra smooth] acceleration, high speed, lightning fast F1 paddle shift, or the sweet music of a Ferrari V8 at 9,000rpm, but rather the handling – it handles like a race car should – quick, instant turn in response and reaction to control inputs. Unfortunately it didn’t stop as a race car should, as the brakes were a disappointment- they were a bit soft and didn’t slow the car quickly enough from about 250kph/155mph, but from what I’ve read [and heard] about the car, likely the brakes needed some maintenance as the owner seemed to have no problem taking the car onto the track. Air in the lines, worn out pads or likely both. Anyhow too bad I couldn’t make a video but there wasn’t time. What an amazing, outstanding car.

Posted November 16, 2011 by peteolsonracing in Uncategorized

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PHYSICAL TRAINING FOR RACE DRIVING   Leave a comment

AS AN INSTRUCTOR, MANY TIMES I’ve been asked two things: 1. By drivers, ‘what should I do to get in proper shape for racing?’ and 2. By non-drivers, ‘You don’t have to be in good shape to drive a race car, you just turn a steering wheel right?’ I will answer #1 in a minute, but as for #2, nothing could be farther from the truth. To explain:

In a competition pro kart, yes, ‘go kart’, you will normally exceed 1.5Gs in cornering force, constantly, while driving. To explain what 1.5Gs feels like, well if you’ve been in an aircraft making a very sharp turn, that’s roughly it –so multiply that highest you’ve felt in your life, about every five or ten seconds, a few hundred times, and that’s what you feel driving a pro kart or formula car for a day.

In another comparison, going around a corner on the absolute limit of traction in say, a Dodge Viper, you will only reach 1.1Gs. So, imagine that amount of cornering force a dozen times during a single lap in a kart, while you are putting in the physical effort to steer the kart, without power steering. When the driver moves up to Formula cars, the G forces become higher, as high as 3.5Gs in a Formula Renault, or 2.5Gs in typical Formula 2000 cars. Though the steering effort is not as high as a kart in the formula car, the G Forces are even higher. Needless to say, this is where fitness comes in. And on top of the cornering forces that you experience, while steering through corners, the braking force that you physically apply in a formula car is significant: for instance, a Formula Renault is capable of braking at a maximum 2.1Gs – this is the G Force you will ideally reach under maximum late ‘threshold’ braking. To reach this amount of deceleration at maximum braking, due to the aerodynamic downforce of the car, this means that your initial braking application must be as hard as you can press your foot on the pedal – literally. This is with no power assist like a street car. So once again, imagine doing this a dozen times, lap after lap, pressing on a non-power assisted pedal as hard as you can possibly press your leg/foot down– you get the idea.

To further expand on general physical conditioning required: the average person in reasonable shape can make it through a single day of testing in a kart or formula car, say several sessions. They will be physically tired at the end of the day, but more importantly, by day two they will start to really feel the fatigue, which of course, results in a performance loss because of mental focus, concentration, muscle reaction time, and muscle contraction speed, all of which are equally important to lap time, or even general safety at the extremes of fatigue – and this is in a sport where a few tenths of a second is often all the difference in the world between a fast lap and being halfway down the grid.

Furthermore, for the driver who is able to make it through a single day in reasonable shape- race weekends, or even typical testing, is not done over a single day, at anything over the ‘I just want to try a race car’ level. Typical testing will be at least several days of driving, and a race week at minimum around a dozen sessions that include practice, official race practice, qualifying, and one or two races – and you of course need to be able to offer absolute peak physical performance most importantly in qualifying and those two races, which are at the very END of the week. Thus, you should be in a high enough physical condition to ideally finish the last lap of the last race, after at least several full days of all out driving, in enough shape to get out of the car [ideally to stand at the top of the podium] and feel minimal fatigue. Remember, by the time you start to feel fatigue, its like dehydration: its already too late, you have already fallen off mentally and physically performance-wise.

So, what do you need to do to get in the proper physical shape for maximum racing performance? There are a ridiculous amount of theories on this, and I think I’ve read just about all of them, from F1 driver programs to pro karting. But amongst all the theories, there are a few points that stand out:

1. Muscle building: Obviously, endurance is extremely important. However, an important point is that strength is also very important. Obviously F1 drivers are not big muscle men as muscle and cardio endurance is the focus. However, it is a proven fact that a strong muscle [Type II fibres as opposed to Type I endurance fibres] contracts faster than a type I fibre muscle. Thus, while the focus should be on muscular endurance, you should integrate some strength training into your workouts;

2. Cardio Fitness: You need to do both endurance and strength training with free weights and/or machines from part 1, but obviously there is an entire cardio component you need for your workouts that is just as important for the driver. Whether its running, swimming, bicycle, stairmaster, whatever- good cardio fitness is a must;

3. Flexibility: of course, flexibility is an often overlooked part of general fitness, being extremely good for long-term health of muscles, bones, etc. But also, for a driver there is a very important component to it: a muscle that is more flexible will contract faster from rest position than a muscle that is less flexible. Like how the strength weight training component of your workout helps your reaction time when the signal from your brain goes to the muscle to tell it to say, slam on the brake pedal from 200kph/124mph, when you are traveling 55.43 meters per second in the race car, a couple of tenths difference in reaction time means you will brake approximately 10meters/32.81feet later – a significant difference. You should do stretching for the entire body: calves, thighs, chest, back, shoulders, forearms, biceps, triceps;

4. Pre-driving stretching and warm-up: once again, proven in many studies, this is a no-brainer, something that you did since [or now] high school sports. Not just to prevent injury, but to improve performance. Especially in qualifying, you need to be able to set your fastest lap ideally in the 3rd or 4th lap when the tires are at their best – this means warmed up mentally and physically. Once again, the pre-driving stretching [as well as warmed up muscles] will help reaction times, and a physical warm up will loosen up muscles, get the blood flowing, to your brain as well, and help you get ‘in the zone’. Needless to say, don’t ever eat within an hour before driving, as your body will direct blood flow to aid digestion, slowing mental acuity and reaction time. If you must, make it a small snack; better yet, time your meals properly, and eat light small meals on driving days [though obviously its healthiest in general to eat 5 or even 6 small meals a day then overload your body with the traditional big 3 meals].

Summary: you need to integrate [1] weight training workouts that combine muscle endurance training [15-20 reps per set], as well as strength training [4-6 reps per set], at least 3 days per week; [2]cardio fitness [minimum half hour], at least 3 days per week, and [3] stretching exercises. Actually, stretching exercises are the most convenient as its something you can just do while watching TV in the evening – once again at least 3 times per week full body stretching, at least 40 seconds per stretch to get the full benefit [but don’t overdo it, you should feel the stretch but not to the point of pain].

My own routine and philosophy: I have been told that I tend to take things to extremes, but I consider that if your desire is to be a professional driver, you should be in top physical condition, now, not ‘when I get to such and such a level’. From the lowest levels of karting to any formula car level, you should be in enough physical condition to do an entire day of testing, a couple of hours full out in the car, and be able to have the strength, endurance, and energy to go and do at least an hour workout after your testing. To put it another way: Michael Schumacher set the contemporary standard: while winning all his F1 Championships, he would do 4 hours of testing in an F1 car, followed by 4 hours in the gym on muscle endurance, strength training, cardio, and stretching. Obviously it paid off with 7 World Championships.

It amazes me how many drivers I have met or instructed who are just holding themselves back through poor fitness. I am certainly not talking about the guys who hit the track to just have some fun, but rather all the guys I’ve seen who are looking to go pro or who are even being paid to race [I won’t name names] who are overweight, out of shape, and would likely pass out trying to run 5 miles – drivers who would, without a doubt, be at a higher performance level with even a good 3 day a week routine – and needless to say, improve car performance by being at a proper weight, in a sport where yes, 10kg of weight does effect performance, no matter to what extent.

My cousin, an ex-Navy SEAL, told me some time ago to always remember that “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”, the SEAL motto. And the Navy SEAL training goes by the philosophy that training should be so physically and mentally demanding that when you get into combat, the demand seems easy. I think any serious driver should follow the same philosophy, as Schumacher did for his 7 F1 World Championships. Imagine how much easier it was for Schumacher to do a race weekend compared to his testing routine, of 4 hours in an F1 car followed by 4 hours in the gym?

For myself, well without being paid to stay in the gym half the day like Schumi, I train 6 days a week, in the morning an hour and a half of weight training at a rapid pace [60-70 sets], combining strength and endurance, and in the evening do a half hour swim, with stretching throughout every gym workout. I figure it’s the minimum shape I should be in. Obviously if you aren’t working out at all, or much right now, you need to build up progressively, starting off with working out a three days a week, getting a good day of rest after each day of working out, then gradually building up your time in the gym/pool/running etc – and taking days off when you are really wiped out, as overtraining actually makes you lose fitness rather than gain it. For more specifics, do your research on physical training, or better yet get a program and some coaching from a physical trainer who you can discuss your goals and fitness level with, and who can set up a good routine for you.

I hope this has been helpful to any aspiring pro out there – when you are standing at the top of the podium with a smile on your face and feeling on top of the world while you see the other drivers wiped out, it will all be worth it.

Posted November 10, 2011 by peteolsonracing in Uncategorized