Profile: Christophe Trier and Willy Verhoeven: Effort and well-being-- As the man responsible for the physical and mental preparation of Peugeot Sport's Finns, Christophe Trier tones up both their muscles and brain cells. Meanwhile, Willy ...
Profile: Christophe Trier and Willy Verhoeven: Effort and well-being--
As the man responsible for the physical and mental preparation of Peugeot Sport's Finns, Christophe Trier tones up both their muscles and brain cells. Meanwhile, Willy Verhoeven ensures that their rally weekends pass off as smoothly, calmly and comfortably as possible.
Christophe Trier: sparring partner
Christophe has been Marcus Grönholm's personal trainer since his World Championship debut, so it was only natural that he should remain with him during his successful career with Peugeot Sport. This year he also looks after Harri Rovanperä, as well as the two Finns' respective co-drivers.
"The driver's job is more physically demanding than that of the co-drivers, but the latter also have to be in tip-top shape in order to perform all the duties they have to do in the right-hand seat as efficiently as possible. That's why the exercises I give all four are practically identical. Even so, each one has his own specific metabolism and mental approach and you have to take that into account during training.
"Both drivers have programmes that are tailored to meet their individual needs and this is revised every two months according to progress. However, the two co-drivers have radically opposite needs. Timo can be a little wound up, while Risto is laidback. At times it seems excessively so. Occasionally I would like to take a bit of one's character to give to the other, but at the end of the day it is clear that they are both the perfect complement of their respective drivers."
Unrelentingly, Christophe makes sure the crews he looks after never stop working-- "I give them exercises to do when they get home after a rally. The frequency of this work depends on the time they have available before the following event. It's important to maintain their level as they progress and to keep adjusting the programme. During events, we do a daily one-hour physical workout which concentrates notably on boxing.
"Marcus enjoys that, and Harri is beginning to. Boxing is a sport that calls for a number of skills that are useful in rallying-- fast reactions, notably visual, as well as concentration, because the exercises are actually quite complex. An hour of boxing is tiring too, so it's good to develop endurance.
"We naturally monitor their pulse at all times, and it's interesting to see that all four have very different heartbeats. Risto can get up to two hundred beats a minute; Marcus and Harri much less. That doesn't have a major effect on their overall efficiency, but it does serve to control the time they need to recuperate. In addition to boxing, they also do weight training, swimming and cycling--".
Christophe also looks after the crews' mental preparation: "Here again, I adapt the way I work to match he needs of each individual. For example, Harri can find it difficult to get to sleep, while that's not a problem for Marcus. The big challenge for me is the night before a leg when both drivers are close together in the provisional standings and in a position to win.
"Psychologically, you have to be very subtle! The fact that Marcus and Harri are good friends helps a great deal, although their careers were very different before they met at Peugeot. But their rivalry is very healthy and the same goes for Timo and Risto. They're almost like a family."
What methods does Christophe employ to keep their morale high?
"Nothing obscure. There's above all a lot of discussion and conditioning, as well as breathing and concentration exercises with a view to mastering nervous tension or potential adrenalin rushes. I essentially help them understand how far they can go when it comes to taking risks, and that often entails mental visualisation exercises. Marcus, for example, has a test stage in Finland that he knows very well. He imagines he's on the stage and talks himself through it. When he says 'OK' I note his time. We then compare this virtual time with the actual time he set previously on the stage. The aim is for them to be practically the same!"
Do the drivers tire more easily when times are tough than when they have just won a rally?
"The difference is not as big as you might think. Our regular work together means they have a good grasp of the different mental strategies they can use and they succeed quite well in optimising their motivation. It's more when they have their mind tied up by a problem with their car that they tend to forget their personal programme. I have the advantage that I don't understand much of the technical side, so I can pull them in the opposite direction to ensure they are in the best frame of mind both physically and mentally once behind the wheel whatever is happening around them."
Willy Verhoeven: the crews' nurse
A long time rally fan, Willy is one of those people who can turn his hand to almost any activity. He has marshalled during rallies in Belgium, he has been a physio, as well as a chef and motorhome driver-- A member of the Peugeot Sport team squad since the beginning of 2002, he is today entrusted with looking after the crews' well-being:
"I go to rallies the day before they arrive to look after their room arrangements, making sure they are quiet and not right next to a disco or with a dog barking all night in a nearby garden. I pick them up at the airport, then drive them by minibus to wherever they need to be during the rally. I also look after their schedules, from public relations activities to briefing meetings with the engineers. I try to make certain all their needs are met, even pre-empting them even whenever necessary.
"During the event, I look after getting their race suits and laundry cleaned so that they have clean clothes at the start each loop of stages. After the rally, I take them back to the airport before starting the whole cycle over again at the following rally."