CHAMPCAR/CART: Papis dedicated to fitness and racing

MCI Driver Max Papis: Dedicated to Fitness and Racing RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (June 17, 1998) - A typical FedEx Championship Series race consists of nearly 30 cars circling a track at speeds high enough for a jet plane to take off. The...

MCI Driver Max Papis: Dedicated to Fitness and Racing

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. (June 17, 1998) - A typical FedEx Championship Series race consists of nearly 30 cars circling a track at speeds high enough for a jet plane to take off. The athletes who pilot these Championship Cars have to not only maneuver them safely around the circuit for great distances, they also have to do it faster than anyone else! If the driver is the true variable between finishing a race first or just finishing, then he needs every advantage possible to be the best. That is where Max Papis, driver of the number 25 MCI Racing Team/Arciero-Wells Reynard powered by Toyota, has the competition beat, thanks to a rigorous fitness routine that rivals anyone's on the circuit.

Papis, 28, grew up in Como, Italy, participating in several sports; he has always maintained an active lifestyle. At age 12 Papis realized that the same physical activities which helped him get through a soccer game could also help him drive a race car, for three hours, faster than anyone else.

"When I was younger and driving in Formula 3, I found that my mind was not clear because of fatigue and putting too much effort into driving the car," Papis explains. "I knew then that I needed to work on my body because it is my tool."

Just as the car has several parts that need to work in concert to achieve maximum performance, so does the human body.

"A driver has his body and his mind as his throttle, brake and gearbox," added Papis. "The engineers and mechanics work very hard to give me a great car so I must be able to get 110 percent out of the car. To do that one must be clear in his mind but to be clear in his mind he must be fresh in his body, first."

Since committing himself to fitness off the track in order to be a winner on it, Papis has worked tirelessly to achieve maximum physical performance. His work has paid off, resulting in a body fat count of just seven percent. The secret to Papis' success is a strenuous workout program combined with a high-complex-carbohydrate and low-fat diet.

To help keep him in line with his routine is a team of three doctors, Dr. Arcelli, Dr. Castiglione and Dr. Bassi.

"My doctors are like my mechanics," Papis explains. "Dr. Arcelli is the general manager, Dr. Castiglione helps me prepare my physical body and Dr. Bassi helps me train my mind."

The Italian-based group, which counts Olympic skier Alberto Tomba and several other top Olympic athletes among its patients, has helped Papis, both physically and mentally, prepare himself to be the best-conditioned athlete in the CART series.

"My doctors have a tremendous amount of experience in training the mind and the body," said Papis, who has worked with the doctors since he was a teenager. "They have taught me a lot, including always to look for something better, never to be satisfied with my performance and how to turn negative situations into positive ones.. Since I was young, they have had me read books about top-level athletes and taught me what other athletes are doing to perform their best. They have helped me to have more confidence inside and to be a stronger person and a stronger driver. They have been a big part of my career as a driver and an athlete."

The one constant that has managed to keep up with Papis through his prolific racing career, from go-karts, Formula 3000, Formula One, International Motor Sports Association World SportsCars and the FedEx Championship Series, is his team of doctors that stays with him to help maintain his peak performance.

When Papis straps himself into the MCI Racing Team/Arciero-Wells Championship Car, he knows that he is in for a two to three hour ride, with speeds ranging from 100 mph to 240 mph. It is not a sprint, it is an endurance race and his heart rate is kept at a high level throughout the race.

To keep his heart rate at the level where it needs to be, Papis' workout routine is focused on strength and stamina, which prepares him for the endurance he needs to complete a race in, sometimes, very hot or humid conditions. A typical workout includes a minimum of one hour of running or bicycling while maintaining a heart rate of 170 beats per minute. Papis uses a heart monitor during the workout to record data, which goes into a computer. He then sends the results via e-mail back to his trainers in Italy.

Hand in hand with the aerobic training for Papis is weight training. And just as in the aerobic training, endurance is the key. In that light, Papis uses a circuit of 12 different weight machines, using the minimum optimum weight and performing more repetitions of each exercise. While moving from machine to machine, he does not rest; this helps keep his heart rate high, ideal for endurance and stamina training.

"The key to my workout is to be stronger, mentally, and to be prepared to suffer when I drive the car, because sometimes a driver can experience big pain," says Papis. "I must be prepared to overcome the pain and rely on my body, knowing that I can get the most out of my body and even a touch more."

"I think of myself as an athlete," says Papis. "If I weren't a race-car driver I would still be involved in sports."

Fortunately for Papis, his body is prepared and primed for any ride.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis