Racing hopefuls get gruelling training for success

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The future stars of motorsport are being given top tips in a gruelling one-of-a-kind training course.

Ten of the world’s most promising young drivers face a series of intense physical challenges at the Edinburgh University programme, part of the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy.

Drivers work out in the Edinburgh University heat chamber. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Drivers work out in the Edinburgh University heat chamber. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Drivers hoping to succeed in a number of disciplines – including Formula One and rallying – will take part.

Demanding physical exercises include an early morning run around Arthur’s Seat, followed by a workout in the university’s heat chamber, where temperatures exceed 40 degrees.

The sessions are designed to highlight fundamental training principles, such as how quickly dehydration can occur, and what happens to the drivers’ mental performance in punishing race conditions.

Academy performance manager and former F1 driver Alex Wurz came up with the idea for the programme. He said: “It teaches the drivers the skills they need to get to the top and gives them a little bit of a safety network as well. After the course they can be road safety ambassadors or coaches.

“It gives them a chance, if they don’t reach the pinnacle of their careers, to support themselves.”

Now in its third year, the programme will involve students from countries around the world, including Venezuela, Lithuania and South Africa.

Competition to get a place on the course is fierce, with only the very best succeeding. This year sees the first Indian driver, Akhil Rabindra, taking part in the academy and the first woman to participate, Danish-born Michelle Gatting.

Ms Gatting, 19, said: “It was a big relief to find out I had made it on to the course because it’s such a great opportunity for me and my racing career. My ultimate goal to become a professional racing driver, to wake up every morning and know that this is my job.”

The workshops will be led by physiologist Dr Tony Turner and psychologist Hugh Richards from the university’s Institute of Sport PE and Health Sciences at Moray House School of Education.

Dr Turner said: “The drivers will be pushed hard both physically and mentally, as would be expected in the high performance motor sport environment.

“There will be a lot of ‘hands-on’ work with the drivers learning about the physical and mental demands of motor sport through experience, followed by development of individual take-home strategies that they can start implementing straight away.”

The programme has already identified young drivers who have gone on to achieve great success in various types of motor sport including Alexander Rossi, current F1 Test Driver for Caterham and Andreas Mikkelsen, who drives for Volkswagen in the World Rally Championship.

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com