Rally is not only about fast cars. With intense competitions lasting several days, the body must work at its optimum - physically and mentally.
Through the Pirelli Star Driver Programme, sport scientists Hugh Richards and Dr Tony Turner in the School of Education use their expertise to develop talents from all over the world. The programme is run by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and is delivered in collaboration with Scottish based company Elite Sport Performance Ltd (ESP). The Pirelli drivers get access to six World Rally Championship competitions over a year as well as a tailored development programme. A three day residential workshop held in Edinburgh in March introduced the drivers to the breadth of knowledge and skills needed to compete at world level. Postgraduate students helped develop individual training programmes based on the results of tests that were conducted.
One aspect addressed in particular was hydration. “Being dehydrated hampers physical performance but also cognitive abilities with consequences for speed as well as safety,” says Hugh Richards. Strategies based on both physical and psychological aspects may help deal with the problem. This multidimensional aspect is key to the programme that, to Dr Turner and Richards’ delight, has now become a model for driver development within the sport. The programme also benefits their teaching: “Too often students leave the classroom and go to the lab without seeing the connection - by using experiences from the Pirelli programme we can show how several components come together in an elite performer and how sport science helps with that.”
This article was published on Dec 15, 2010