Hyperbaria - Latest advance in Sports Car racing

Speed itself is not the only way to win endurance races. It is usually done with a combination of thorough preparation, fast equipment, teamwork and great strategy. Now you have to add physiology and understanding the human half of the equation to the list. Long distance road racing requires driver a to spend long periods behind the wheel enduring high "G" loading with elevated heart rates accompanied by dehydration. These factors place a huge amount of stress on the body's metabolism and reduce the ability to perform the task without errors.

Hurley Haywood climbs in the Brumos Racing hyperbaric chamber.
Photo by W. Robert Phelps, III.

Enter the science of hyperbaria. Simply put, a hyperbaric chamber is an enclosure that surrounds an athlete allowing the introduction of an oxygen rich mixture at a higher pressure than is possible at sea level. The benefits derived from the use of the chamber are related to a fast recovery from the effects of a high stress activity such as motor racing. The most valuable factors are the rapid removal of lactic acid from the blood stream, rapid re-hydration and a return to normal fitness levels.

John Gleddie, a Doctor of Chiropractic practicing in Ontario, Canada specializes in sports performance physiology. He has pioneered the adaptation of this technology to Horse Racing and Endurance Motor Racing. The Brumos Team, whose reputation in motorsport is legendary, has retain Dr. Gleddie exclusively for this event to give their drivers every possible advantage. Generally a driver stays in the car for a stint of about 2 to 2.5 hours which can rob him of his mental quickness and cause uncharacteristic errors.

The chamber is a portable device that can easily transported and set up in about 10 minutes. Once the driver is secure inside it can be sealed and pressurized to 1.25 atmospheres or approximately 18 pounds per square inch. Aviation quality oxygen is added as the driver relaxes in the 7-foot long enclosure on his back during the treatment. Most find it soothing enough to sleep, but it is possible to read or talk on the phone. In order to maintain pressure and constant flow there are calibrated outflow valves incorporated in the chamber. The time spent to achieve the maximum effect is between 40 and 45 minutes.

One of the road racing's most successful drivers, Hurley Haywood, summed it up best by saying" It's like getting four hours of restful sleep in a forty- five minute treatment."

With regard to human factors, this is a physiological advantage that is sure to gain acceptance quickly amongst the teams looking to have every legal competitive edge they can utilize.