The Race Driver’s Vital Statistics

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Most people see a racing driver navigating a bend and think, “I could do that.” But what really goes into performing that turn?

  • What makes a great race car driver?
  • Why does it seem like you see more portly athletes in sports like baseball, football, and golf than you do racing?
  • If soccer players injury their ACLs and basketball players injure their ankles, where on the body is a driver most prone to get a sports injury?

Well the reason why drivers need athletic bodies is pretty obvious to anyone who takes a ride in a race car. Trying to navigate a turn under high g-forces requires muscle. Maintaining a fast reaction time at high speed in a constantly vibrating car requires a mental focus that leans heavily on your physical conditioning. Let’s break it down.

Being in a race is like being a pressure cooker. The heat alone is nauseating. Drivers need to maintain at least 60ml of oxygen in their lungs to make sure they are in control of the steering. While you do go faster in a private jet there isn’t nearly as many things to hit.

The forces of gravity affect the neck most. A driver’s body is demanding he protect his neck while his life actually depends on keeping the car on the road. Blood is forced up into the brain or down into the feet at different points during a turn. Although a system of cords, nicknamed “bungee cords” inside the helmet try to limit the actual strain on a driver’s neck when a car goes round a corner various lateral and latitudinal forces play havoc on the man trying to master the machine.

auto-racing-558089_1920.jpgIt’s more than skill at the wheel that keeps a driver alive and in first place. It’s the ability to notice and react to the smallest item on the track, all while tracking what the pit is feeding in his ear piece. This takes a rare combination of neurological system and reflexes.

You’d think that the least worked part of a drivers sitting body are the legs. Until you realize that the left leg has to control the brake and the right leg has to control the throttle. Imagine balancing on your posterior and stabilizing with your stomach and moving your legs to work brake and gas in rapid alternation. But since more power is needed to deal with brake than the throttle this creates an imbalance. It wouldn’t be easy to do if all you had to do was tap a button with your big toe, but a driver must actually judge the right amount of pressure to apply to either foot at the right moment. It’s all about judging it right, every few seconds, under extreme pressure.

The shoulders need to be raised in order to sit upright in the car. Although this sounds obvious, the force from the rest of the car increases the tension in this area.

Even in go-kart racing, where most drivers start fitness training is a factor in winning. All car racing involves g-forces and vibrations which a body must train for.

Every sport requires athletic training and favors one body type over others. For racing it’s about being as skinny as possible. Because of the G-force issue, their BMI or Body Mass Index is constantly checked to see if they aren’t carrying excess weight. The diet is described as strict and hard. Formula One even created rules for a minimum weight this year.

swimmers-79592_1920Where many athletes spend a lot of time in the gym there is usually some flexibility in style. A swimmer for example, may need to deal with drag as a result of bulking up, but may feel the power from the extra muscles justifies it. There are specific gym activities racers cannot do, muscle weighs more than fat and too much muscle will take you out of the race. Some people’s natural weight, even when healthy makes it impossible for them to be a top racer. It takes a skinny frame and high power-per-pound capability. It can be easier to start with a naturally skinny person and add muscle.

 

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Great Classic Car Race (Part 3)

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For those who missed a post from us yesterday, we didn’t post because we were out covering the Great Race! Instead we’re posting today!

 

Welcome to our coverage of the Great Race…

We had a fantastic day at the Vancouver, Washington stop on the Great Race. If you’re in Astoria, Oregon right now stop looking at the computer and get yourself down to the Maritime Museum and check it out live for yourself.

By lunch today the cars should be stopping to eat on Commerce Avenue, Longview, WA. Then tonight’s layover will be in Spanaway, WA. at the LeMay Family Collection about 5:15 PM.

The Final Finish Line is LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, WA. @ 1:30 PM Sunday.

190628_GR_0082For more details on the rest of the race stops click this link.

If you want more details on all the cars in the race, click this link.

Here’s some photos from the event here in Vancouver, Washington where we watch the lead cars come in so far. But first lets give a big thanks to Ron Wade of the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) for being a great host. We not only saw some great cars, but we had great conversations with owners, listened to live music, and ate great food from local food trucks. The Coffee Via food truck is one of the great food trucks available here on a regular basis, and we’re excited to come back do a deeper dive on the museum and the food trucks.

190628_GR_0204The Friday began in Warm Springs, OR near Bend when the route took the racers to Hood River, OR for lunch. After a bite, racers were treated to the scenic highway 30 through “The Columbia River Gorge” and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

As racers reached the finish line at WAAAM in Vancouver, each car, driver, and navigator was announced and trivia was told. The day was hot and the crowd was excited. Excitement and congeniality blended to bring an atmosphere unique to car culture.

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Please enjoy tons more photos on the Kicker Facebook Page.

Great Classic Car Race (Part 2)

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The Columbian Newspaper here in Vancouver, WA is covering the great race we mentioned on Monday. You know we’ll be there this Friday. It’s going to be fun, I hope some of you come down and join us. (If you don’t live local, just google your local car shows and check one out.)

Activities start at 10 am technically, when the Museum opens, but don’t expect to see any cars at the finish line until about 5 PM. In the mean time there is a cruise-in at 2 PM and eventually live music by King Brothers.

The finish line for the overnight layover will be  WAAAM West Cars by Ron Wade at 1015 N.E. 78th St., Vancouver, WA. 

The Great Race began 36 years ago and is a Time/Speed/Distance Rally. It began in Riverside, CA. this year and will end in Tacoma, WA. Each stop is free.

For an Update on Day Four Progress here’s a link.

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“Classic Car” New Great Race (part 1)

Welcome to the first installment of our coverage of the Great Race.

According to the race organizers official blog:

Teams and cars from Japan, England, Australia, Canada and every corner of the United States will converge in Riverside in mid-June with vintage automobiles dating back as far as 1916.”

This will be the first year that the race will start and finish on the west coast. It began today in Riverside, CA and ends Saturday June 30 in Tacoma, WA.

Here’s a link to the full route.

Link to route
The 9-day, 2,300-mile adventure will bring 120 of the world’s finest antique automobiles to 18 cities in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. More than $150,000 will be awarded to top finishers in multiple divisions.

The event was started in 1983 by Tom McRae and it takes its name from the 1965 movie, The Great Race, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk. The movie is a comedy based on the real life 1908 automobile race from New York to Paris. In 2004, Tony Curtis was the guest of the Great Race and rode in his car from the movie, the Leslie Special.

Cars built in 1974 and earlier are eligible, with most entries having been manufactured before World War II. In the 2017 Great Race a 1932 Ford won the event from Florida to northern Michigan. The 2019 winners will again receive $50,000 of the $150,000 total purse.

Over the decades, the Great Race has stopped in hundreds of cities big and small, from tiny Austin, Nevada to New York City.

Every stop along the race is free to the public and you can be sure when it rolls through Vancouver, WA. This Friday the kicker blog will be there to cover the event.

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Street Racing

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For many people, the idea of street racing creates bad vibes especially if it’s an illegal event. As an event, it precedes cars by several centuries as there were many illegal horse races and chariot races on the roads before the invention of the motor car.

The heyday for street racing was in the 1960s with a race that should have taken place at Woodward Avenue Drag Strip in Detroit, Michigan. However, because the racecourse was often unavailable the organizers took it to public roads instead. This was only the beginning of their problems.

Organizing Chaos

The consensus among street race organizers is that it’s best to avoid the busier areas of the city and suburbs. This might have to do with safety or it possibly could have something to do with not getting caught!

Apart from that, there seems to be a whole spectrum of how an event can be held. Some are almost spontaneous; others are planned precisely over several months-it all depends on who the organizers are.

hot-rod-875524_1920However, it comes together and despite the best planning things can still go wrong. In an event in Southern California in 2018, several bystanders were killed as well as a number of the drivers. One of those killed was to a nineteen-year-old returning from Disneyland.

As for the money aspect, the amount of money being bet on these events is staggering. It’s a ready-made audience of gamblers.

As well as racing another activity bet on is the “side-show” or “takeover,” which refers to a crowd of cars associated with the organizers who will block a junction just ahead of the racers coming through. As the racing cars need to get as close to each other as they can, crashes often occur. Side bets get placed on that as well. Basically when it comes to street racing “High Stakes” is measured in peoples’ lives.

Law Enforcement Response

The police are trying to fix the problem using a special task force but they face challenges including that they are likely to suffer assault while physically attempting to break up events. Even when they do raid a race they may find the ringleaders are elsewhere, remember that it is a virtual event too. The task force must look at the big picture.

With modern social media and the ability to generate flash mobs many, it can tough for police to prevent a race. Organizers have plenty of incentive to keep it up too, because there’s a lot of money in it, as we’ll return to in a moment.

Modifications

Race organizers sometimes move to a whole new area where police haven’t had a chance to prepare. An event in Sweden was covered by filmmaker Stephanie Benini who used a reality TV style way of broadcasting to focus on the event itself. The video shows a number of police cars at the scene. The whole thing lasted nine hours, between 11pm and 8am and police weren’t able to shut it down.

If racing weren’t dangerous enough inherently, experts viewing the movie footage have observed some of the cars have been massively upgraded. One Volvo, for example, has rear tires in the film that don’t match any Volvo being sold on forecourts. Maybe improper customization will play a part in future street races and future race accidents.

Even though it is an illegal event the organizers tried to be as sensible as they could be, closing down roads for the racers. But as stated above, the danger aspect cannot be removed completely.

Legal Races

As an interesting side note, racing returned to Woodward in 2018. Here’s a story on the topic.

Running a Profitable Race Track

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The most traditional method, of course, is ticket sales. But that’s just scratching the surface.

To examine how a racetrack operates let’s look at one of the more popular race tracks in the country; Daytona International Speedway. You can get a decent idea on how such a track makes its money by studying who it caters for. Although it is usually publicized as a NASCAR race track, especially the worldwide renowned Daytona 500 there are many different races that it hosts, including ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) and SCCA (The Sports Car Club of America) as well as Moto America Superbike and bike events with  Motocross.

auto-racing-583032_1920It cannot rely on simply one track but the largest one is a tri-oval shape, similar to an egg with a pointed base. The reasons for the shape was to create the best sight lines for spectators and in so doing create the best event.

For fans, there are “access all areas” style events where the garages and all the background activity is on show to the general public. They generally include live entertainment and various displays. It’s all just another way to make the facilities work.

Another income stream comes from giving bachelor/bachelorette party’s couple of circuits around a racetrack. These usually come in two levels amateur or advanced.f1-1605909_1920.jpg

If golf courses can offer pro-shops where you can buy equipment or talk to a pro about your game, then race tracks can and have upped their simple gift shop to offer in-house performance tuning and fabrication services to private consumers.

It is not just racing that creates capital from the site; there have been a number of football games for the local team which has also occurred here. Flexibility is everything in running a business.

How the Race Track Increases Performance

 

auto-racing-558065_1920NASCARs, and similar racing cars outperform normal cars because of their engines, right? Well, yes, in part. Is it design? Mid-race maintenance by a pro pit crew? Neither of those, well, not entirely, anyway. Even if you add it all up you’d still be missing performance contributions by the race track itself.

Banking

Perhaps the most noticeable assets of the racetrack which improve the action is the banked curves. Having a bank allows cars to attack the turn with greater efficiency. In the IMS tracks are banked between 23 and 36 degrees. More recently, some oval tracks are progressively banked, which allows outer cars to maintain higher speeds through the turn, making the race more competitive.

Some banks have nicknames like “wall of death” and it is easy to see why.

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The Groove

By far the least well-known track performance feature is the “racing groove.” This is the name given the ideal route around the track and it removes or shaves off several precious secrets. But even that isn’t as simple as it sounds. The grove shifts about depending on weather and track conditions.

If you want to see the grove, look for a thick black line coming out of the turn, which is rubber left from the high-performance racing tires. This rubber is actually the biggest reason why the groove shifts. The extra rubber on the track can increase tire grip or make it slicker depending on temperature and other factors.

So on some days, a racer has won by staying in the groove the entire race, but more often racers have one from reading the track conditions and knowing when to alter their line into and out of the turn to by on groove or not. It’s a balancing act because the new optimum line might take you across the older grove which can cause a slide out. Add in the fact that all the other race crews and drivers are attempting to improve their groove and you’ve got a recipe for some big wrecks.