The race season is now into full swing as we have already completed the first 3 rounds of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup. There is currently a four week break between my last race in Utah and our next event in Ohio on the Father\’s Day weekend.
One question I get asked a lot is \”What does a race car driver do when they are not at the track\”? In my last blog I talked at length about the realities and trials that each young driver must face in regards to the business side of auto racing. So much of a driver\’s time is taken up with that. But there IS more to racing than just driving and business.
Take for example the fitness side of things. At first glance, one would think that being a driver means you simply have to sit in a seat and steer a wheel. Admittedly I used to be under that impression as well until I got into the sport. But I quickly realized after my first season of racing karts that if I were to move up to the fast 125cc machines, it was going to be a necessity for me to begin physically training.
I have done many different things in life and played a wide variety of sports, but I was shocked at how physically demanding it was to drive a race car on the limit lap after lap. In the Jetta TDI Cup cars it isn\’t as bad as a single-seater race car (F1, Indy, etc) but in a closed cockpit car there is the additional element of heat that a driver needs to deal with as well.
Some race cars are simply so fast that the strain on a human body is massive. A Formula 1 car can create upwards of 5 times the force of gravity while under braking, corning and acceleration. So imagine picking the car up and holding it by the rear wheels so the front is dangling freely towards the ground. Now imagine you are sitting in the cockpit of that car, strapped in and dangling from the belts. The force of gravity would cause your neck to fall forward and you would need to overcome a force just to raise your arms. Now imagine piling 5 of yourself on top of you while hanging there. It would be all you could do to even hold your head up at that point-this is 5 g\’s and a normal braking force felt in a Formula 1 car.
A driver must be able deal with the extreme braking forces going into a corner, then handle the lateral forces when going through the corner, then face the sheer speed of the acceleration coming out of a corner. If a race track usually has over 10 corners in one lap and a race is 1.5 hours long, you can quickly realize how physically demanding it is to last for an entire race distance.
As a driver, if you are not in peak physical condition you will be exhausted towards the end of a race. The problem is that when you get extremely tired your mind will start to focus on how tired you are rather than on driving the car at it\’s maximum potential-it clouds your judgment, mistakes happen, and this is often where races are won and lost.
If I want to compete in the fastest cars, at the highest level, I need to be ready to go when the opportunity arises and not have to quit a test session early because my neck or arms are too sore. Physical fitness and training is a career long commitment for any aspiring race car driver.
Fitness training is just one of the additional things which I need to work on when not taking part in a race weekend. It\’s a necessity of the career I have chosen.
David Richert was selected by Volkswagen as one of the top up and coming young race car drivers in North America. David will compete with Volkswagen for the entire 2009 Jetta TDI Cup season. This marks the second season that David has competed in Volkswagen’s ‘Clean Diesel’ powered race series. For further information and updates on the career of David Richert, please visit www.richertracing.com.