Qualifiers put through their paces

During the four days of track action on the Circuito De Almeria in Spain last week, the W Series driver hopefuls were put to the test to determine who will be selected to race. They worked hard both on and off track, making the most of each session and opportunity.

During those days of testing, all drivers got to know the team behind the team and in particular two companies whose input is vital.

W Series has formed partnerships with businesses at the top of their particular fields, and these are Hitech GP and Hintsa Performance. Put very simply Hitech GP looks after race operations and Hintsa Performance the drivers’ fitness. However, there is much more to what they do than this as Pete McKnight, Coaching and Sports Science Director of Hintsa Performance, and Oliver Oakes Hitech GP Team Owner explained.

Hintsa Performance were at the Almeria test to continue the work started in Melk which covers elements of fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery, jet lag management and psychological skills to help the drivers perform in the pressured environment that is motorsport. The team delivered training sessions that included bodyweight-based exercises for full-body conditioning, floor-based work, trunk exercises, rubber bands to add load, stretching techniques to mobile stiff joints, as well as playing a hybrid of netball and handball, followed by tag rugby to work their cardiovascular systems.

They have devised a regime for the drivers that they can follow between events, including a programme to do at home that will be sent via a mobile app for ease of access anywhere in the world. Each individual will receive videos of exercises with the exact number of sets and reps that they are required to complete. This will be followed up with a weekly Skype call to make sure they are on track with their training.

Pete McKnight, Coaching and Sports Science Director of Hintsa Performance said:

“We have been able to assess where they are at in terms of physical abilities. From our point of view, we need to determine the drivers’ fitness so we can help them develop at the highest levels. It’s clear that they have gone back home after being in Melk and done some work. They have taken on board the advice that we have given them and have worked really hard.”

“Moving forwards, it is our responsibility to set appropriate training programmes to help the drivers prepare for the demands of racing. We need to educate them on warming up, mobility and flexibility, how to structure a cardiovascular and strength training sessions, and how to recover well so their performances are optimised. They now need to work smart as well as hard”

“We know there can be lot of negative connotations around fitness and training, and often limited knowledge is available on how best to train. One of our tasks is to educate them on how to train in both an effective and fun way to enjoy what they are doing, and to be motivated to work hard to get the results they need. They need to be well engaged, committed and focused and we want them to see this as a really important part of their preparation. We have tried to be creative during this camp to demonstrate numerous ways of getting them fitter without sending them on a ten mile run!”

For most teams preparing two cars for each new season of racing would provide them with a few challenges. However, for Oliver Oakes and his team at Hitech GP multiply that tenfold, as the driver selection event in Almeria meant preparing 20 identical cars.

The process for Hitech began just two months ago, and it is testimony to the level of hard work and professionalism that on Saturday 23rd March all the 28 W Series hopefuls were able to have their first taste of driving the Tatuus F-318 Formula 3 car.

For both W Series and Hitech, the importance of providing fair and identical equipment for all qualifiers is paramount. To ensure this, Oliver has put together a diverse team of 56 people to work on this project. Each driver has been allocated a race engineer and to ensure that these engineers can support W Series qualifiers from many different racing backgrounds, Oliver has recruited some of the best in the business.

Oliver Oakes, Hitech GP Team Owner:

“We arrived in Almeria with six trucks and 56 people, ready to set up the garages and shakedown the cars ahead of the first track session on Saturday.

“The anticipation of the first run Saturday was high – some drivers had never driver a single-seater before – so there were a lot of unknowns. However, once all the drivers got comfortable and settled into their second or third runs, they all looked confident. By the end of day two there was a buzz in the engineering office, everyone comparing notes. Testing had well and truly begun.

“My task with finding the right race engineers was to make sure they work within Hitech’s DNA. The number one ethos is not about working for themselves but working for the team and all the drivers. Our job here is not just about finding performance, but to give all the drivers the same tools to do a good job. By tools, I mean a car that is reliable and competitive and an experienced race engineer to help their development.

“The task was to find the final driver line-up from the 28 shortlisted qualifiers, so we want to give them all the right coaching and the right opportunity to really show what they can do – regardless of their experience or background. Everything is structured so all drivers use our software and all have access to the same videos, data and information.”

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