Super-athletes in fast cars

Do you think lightning reflexes, great technique and tons of talent are enough to put you behind the wheel of Lewis Hamilton's or Fernando Alonso's McLaren?

Racing drivers certainly don't just sit back and put pedal to the metal. They're athletes in their own right as these fast facts show.

    300 km/h
  • At a speed of 300 km/h a racing driver covers 80m a second - every time he blinks he's 80m further along the track and if he's not careful he could miss a curve. That's why drivers learn to flicker their eyes instead of blinking.
  • A racing car is no place for someone with slow reflexes. Racing drivers hone their already fast reflexes with special eye and hand exercises.
  • Racing drivers follow intensive exercise routines to keep their upper bodies strong. A head weighs 5kg and a helmet another kilogram. When the driver goes around a curve, his head effectively weighs four times more because of the centrifugal force. So drivers need to develop neck and shoulder muscles strong enough to support a head and helmet weighing 24kg in total.

    2 litres

  • Racing drivers lose two litres of sweat during a race. That's why they're advised to drink one litre of fluid before, two litres during and two litres after a race to prevent dehydration. Nelson Piquet was so dehydrated after the 1982 Brazilian Grand Prix that he fainted on the podium and had to be rehydrated intravenously.
    • 50ºC

    • That's how hot it gets inside their fireproof racing suits.

      200 times a minute

    • That's how fast a driver's heart beats during a race. That's enough to make the fittest among us keel over. The average person has a heartbeat of only 70 beats a minute while the average gym enthusiast's heart beats between 120 and 160 times a minute while exercising.

      Slimline

    • Racing drivers have to be careful not to build bulky muscles because muscles weigh a lot and take up space. A top racing driver's body fat percentage is about 7 percent - the same as that of a long-distance athlete.
    • Racing drivers, just like athletes, need to regulate carefully the carbohydrates and proteins they ingest. During a weekend of racing they usually eat a lot of high-carbohydrate foods, to give them the necessary stamina.

    This story originally appeared in YOU Pulse. Buy the latest copy, on newsstand now, for more fascinating stories in the world of health and wellness.

    YOU Pulse; Spring, September 2007

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