Circuit Training On The Champ Car Circuit Mercedes Drivers, Engineers Take Physical Conditioning Seriously MONTVALE, N.J. (June 7, 1999) -- You might think that getting into a car and driving 250 to 500 miles at more than 200 mph is not...
Circuit Training On The Champ Car Circuit Mercedes Drivers, Engineers Take Physical Conditioning Seriously
MONTVALE, N.J. (June 7, 1999) -- You might think that getting into a car and driving 250 to 500 miles at more than 200 mph is not an athletic endeavor, especially when you don't even have to pump your own gas. But for Champ Car drivers competing in the highly competitive FedEx Championship Series, a race is anything but a leisurely ride.
"Driving a race car, unlike most other sports, requires mental toughness as well as the ability to handle heart rates up to 150-200 beats per minute along with dehydration and high heat levels," said Jim Leo, team trainer for PacWest Mercedes drivers Mauricio "Big Mo" Gugelmin and Mark Blundell. "If a basketball player gets tired and makes a mistake, he can sit down. If a race car driver gets tired and makes a mistake, he could hit the wall and be out of the race."
The sport of auto racing requires its human participants to possess a premium blend of muscular strength and aerobic endurance. With a grueling 20-race schedule contested on four different kinds of circuits -- short ovals, super-speedways, permanent road courses and temporary road courses through city streets -- the competition and physical demands for drivers are intense. In the past few years, CART drivers have taken note of the extensive physical training favored by Formula One drivers, and have adopted this strategy for themselves. Leo, who received his bachelor and master's degrees in exercise physiology, develops customized fitness approaches to keep his two drivers in top competitive form.
"The goal before the season starts is to have their endurance up to handle a race in the high heat, and strong enough to not fatigue during a race," said Leo. "Mark and Mo have different likes and dislikes, and I factor this into my scheme. 'Big Mo' likes to do things outdoors, such as jogging, swimming or biking. Mark is more inclined to work out in the weight room. Both of them are former Formula One drivers, and they take their training seriously. Good physical conditioning correlates to good performance in the car that's just the way it is."
Leo also pays a lot of attention to the drivers' diets. He designs menus that are well balanced, and which shift toward an even higher ratio of carbohydrates as race day draws closer. Meals are small, but more frequent, as this aids in digestion and reduces major spikes in blood sugar levels. On race day itself, he starts them off with a high-carbohydrate breakfast, then weans them closer to a liquid diet as grid time draws near.
"You want to go into the race a little over-saturated, because if you start off a little behind, you'll never recover. You need at least six quarts of water for a 500-mile race. The drivers are in the bathroom every half hour, but once they're in the car, they sweat it right off."
This season, Leo will extend his focus and develop a program exclusively for Mercedes-Benz' trackside engineers. Leo will perform comprehensive health evaluations of all team members, recommend dining guidelines for the hectic race weekends and design a fitness center for the newly opened Ilmor Technology Center in Plymouth, Mich., the state-of-the-art facility which builds Mercedes-Benz' IC108E Phase III racing engines. The goal is to keep the engineers in pit lane operating at their peak performance throughout each race and the grueling summer racing season.
Mercedes' Latest Mountain Bike Gets "Big Mo" In Driving Shape
Mauricio Gugelmin uses a combination of outdoor activities -- from jogging to water-skiing to skin diving -- to keep in the top physical condition that auto racing demands. One of his favorite training methods is a ride on his Mercedes-Benz Special E55 Edition Mountain Bike.
Co-designed by Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design and AMP Research, the bike features a full suspension system with a carbon-fiber front fork, patented disk brakes and top-of-the-line Shimano componentry. Painted in vibrant "Illusion Blue" with a Harlequin metalflake finish, the striking off-road machine matches Mercedes' latest on-track high-performance vehicle -- an AMG E55 Pace Car.
"The Mercedes bike is so smooth, it's not like riding an ordinary bike," said Gugelmin. "This bike is something special; you could climb a wall with it if you wanted to." True to his competitive racing nature, he adds, "If there's somebody riding ahead of me, I make sure I demoralize them."
Eat To Win: The Mercedes-Benz Trainer's Race Day Menu
Breakfast: -1 cup orange juice -1 cup oatmeal w/water -1 piece wheat toast w/one tablespoon of peanut butter
Snack: -Sports Drink (12 oz)
Lunch: (about 3 hours before the race) -2 cups plain pasta with tomatoes, mushrooms, oil -1 cup fruit
Lunch until race: Sip 6-8% carbohydrate solution up to the start of the race, and during pit stops.
Total-approximately 1200-1500 calories
Mercedes-Benz has a rich motorsports heritage dating back to 1894 and the world's first auto race -- long before drivers started carbo-loading and practicing customized exercise routines. This season, Mercedes-Benz provides racing engines to five teams in the FedEx Champ Car Series, defends its Constructor's Championship in the Formula One World Championship and showcases its new CLR prototype in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 12-13.
Mercedes-Benz also competes in the highest levels of professional golf and tennis -- sponsoring the PGA Tour's season-opening Mercedes Championships in January, and the ATP Tour's Mercedes Super 9 series, nine tournaments among the richest and most prestigious in the world.