Lockdown has slowed the pace of life everywhere. But the shift in gear is arguably felt by no one more acutely than a racing driver. Life in the fast lane is very much on hold so the W Series drivers – like all athletes – have been forced to adapt their fitness routines to the confines of their homes. While the W Series Esports League – now just two weeks away – will not be as physically demanding as real life racing, the drivers are still focusing hard on their physical health, to ensure they’ll be ready when life gets back on track. So how have they been getting on? We sent the phenomenal F1 photographer for Getty Images, Mark Thompson, to visit four of them – social distancing measures in place – and find out.
Jamie Chadwick is not used to spending so much time at home. In fact the travelling involved in her work life means it’s normally difficult to keep a routine, and in this respect lockdown has provided a positive change. She can get up and train every morning, the way she wants to. The lack of access to a gym has forced her to be creative with the little space she has in her flat. Jamie has always enjoyed cycling, often as a social activity, but has now done a healthy dose of it within her own four walls (hooked up to a turbo trainer.) A few weeks ago she completed a 100 mile bike ride in her flat, in aid of the cancer care charity, Hope For Tomorrow. “We may not be able to go out in cars but at least I’ve got two wheels to satisfy that need,” she laughs. Jamie misses the racing madly, and the travel that comes with it, but is pleased to say that she’s stronger, fitter and more focused than ever. “If we’re called to race tomorrow I will be ready.”
In some ways Alice Powell was prepared for this lull, because of the four years she spent out of racing, prior to gaining a place in the inaugural season of W Series in 2019. Compared to the uncertainty she experienced during those four years, the past two months have been a doddle. “I have the odd day when I feel lethargic, but then I remember I will definitely be racing at some point, whether it’s this year or next, and I pull myself into action.” Usually she would be playing hockey and football in local Cotswolds teams; all the running around involved in both those sports keeps her fit. Without the team sports she has had to make a more concerted effort to stay fit, and she is training more than ever, sometimes twice a day. Variety is important for Alice, she’s been doing lots of cycling and running, as well as weights, which she thankfully acquired just before lockdown. She says that cycling has become a lot more comfortable now that she has invested in proper kit. She had been wearing a hand-me down pair of men’s cycling shorts, and in her own words “that padding is not meant for women!”
Jessica Hawkins misses getting her adrenalin fix, not just in single-seater racing, but also stunt driving. She has taken a van driving job during lockdown delivering essentials as far as Dundee (and back in one night – a round-trip of about 800 miles.) While the van might not quite reach the speed of a single seater racecar, it still allows her to get behind the wheel, which she says is a joy in itself. One of the silver linings of this period is the time that’s been afforded for fitness, while in normal life she has to fit training around her work as a stuntwoman in film. She’s been doing a mix of weights and cardio, the latter being something she didn’t enjoy until lockdown got her more into cycling. But the bike serves another purpose. Jess couldn’t keep away from stunt life for long and has been using it to practise tricks, including jumping off a homemade ramp. She concedes it’s a struggle dealing with the uncertainty of when work and racing will resume, but that the key is to “dig deep and push through it.”
For Abbie Eaton the lack of certainty regarding when she’ll be racing again is a big challenge in terms of focus. “Usually when I train it’s towards something tangible, a specific date.” Consequently, her fitness regime in lockdown has been “a lot less intense” than usual. She normally does three or four sessions with her trainer every week, with a particular focus on heavy weight training. “Without the right equipment it’s not possible to maintain that level of intensity,” she says, “I’ve had to replace it with a lot of bodyweight exercises.” Abbie has also taken to running more frequently, something she would ordinarily do on a cardio machine. Since the start of lockdown her approach has been to maintain a sufficient fitness level so that when restrictions are eased she will be ready to train harder than ever. She has also been working for the same delivery company as Jess, and has come to realise that the long hours in the van have been something of a saving grace. “It’s a bit of a mental escape, it’s my own space for the time I’m in the van, and the drive to Scotland is beautiful.” The thing Abbie misses most is what she describes as ‘soul food activities’, like rock climbing and wakeboarding. “The sort of things that keep you fit and active, but are mainly just good fun.”