SCORE Journal


SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 57 of 81

THE IMPORTANCE OF MOTORSPORTS HYDRATION A New Study Shows The Dramatic Connection Between Proper Hydration And Winning Races   Story by Stuart Bourdon Photography by FluidLogic, Michigan State University, and Honda Racing Team The importance of hydration in sports is indisputable. Hydration studies connected to sporting activities have been conducted for decades and prove the positive effects of proper hydration in maintaining peak performance levels throughout a sporting event. However, there has never been a scientific study that looks specifically at hydration’s effect on driver performance in motorsports– until now. Race Car drivers compete for several hours inside hot cockpits. It’s not uncommon for the inside of a racecar to get up to approximately 120 degrees in addition to the drivers, who are also wearing fire suits, making it feel even warmer. That type of thermal strain can be dangerous to the driver’s health and can hinder their performance. Drivers are trying to go as fast as possible while constantly making split-second decisions, causing hydration to become low-priority, or sometimes, overlooked entirely. Hydration systems in race cars are nothing new. Water bottles or hydration-bladder packs are commonly used but they present a few issues. First, the driver must remember to access them and drink regularly. According to many drivers, when the adrenaline is pumping and the race is on, hydration isn’t on the top of their minds. Bottles and bladders also require the driver to take a hand off the steering wheel or handlebars, to access fluid. In a perfect scenario, hydration during a race is best when regulated. The driver needs to take in enough liquid to keep the body and mind in perfect working order, while not getting so much at a time that the need to urinate becomes a problematic distraction. New Motorsports Hydration Study    Preliminary findings from a recent study conducted at Michigan State University on the effects of hydration during a motorsports event confirm the idea that just about any human endeavor, including motorsports, can benefit from appropriate hydration. More specifically, the study looked at the difference in hydration levels the drivers in the test maintained using a water bottle versus an automated fluid delivery system. We spoke with Dr. David P. Ferguson, Assistant Professor for the Department of Kinesiology at Michigan State University, about the study he directed. “We wanted to answer two questions: How effective is an automated hydration system compared to the traditional water bottle system, and how does hydration influence driving performance,” said Dr. Ferguson. “For our test, we used the FluidLogic Flush360 system manufactured by RSI Inc. for our testing in the racing simulators. The FluidLogic system is integrated into the helmet, prompts the driver to drink, and delivers a measured amount of fluid. The driver never has to take a hand off the wheel to get a drink. We have a robust racing simulator in our lab. It’s on a movable chassis, has hydraulic pedals, and a direct drive wheel, so it offers all the sensations that a driver feels in the real race car. We brought in professional drivers from various disciplines such as NASCAR, IndyCar, and Formula E. The drivers were with us for two days in the simulator, starting with a typical sports bottle one day, followed by a day with the FluidLogic system.” Ferguson explained that the environmental chamber in which the driving simulator was placed, was heated up to 100 degrees. The drivers were outfitted in their full fire suits as if they were getting into a real race car. It was as close to an actual race car cockpit during a real race as they could get and still maintain control for testing purposes. “We measured a lot of variables on the drivers,” said Dr. Ferguson. “We measured their core temperature, logged heart rate, breathing rate, and skin temperature. Finally, we assessed how hydrated they were by looking at their urine’s specific gravity.” During the hydration study, Dr. Ferguson’s team looked at all of the measurements to determine the drivers’ state of hydration. They also ran the software in the simulator that measured all the parameters on the racecar. “We could watch everything on the car like tire pressure, tire wear, and engine oil temperature. But we could also see all the driving variables such as brake pressure, throttle position, and steering angle. Then we used statistical software to overlay hydration data on the driving data and the car data, to see how they influenced each other.” FluidLogic Hydration System  The basis of the study was done with the FluidLogic system, a race-proven hydration system that is programmable and designed to eliminate the thought process of when and how much to drink during a race. “The FluidLogic system is the brainchild of Ed Jaeger,” said Austen Figueroa, Marketing Director at RSI Inc. “Ed has been racing for more than 20 years and the development of the FluidLogic system was all about his struggle to stay hydrated while racing and riding on his motorcycle. To take a drink with a water bottle or bladder, Ed realized you must take one hand off the handlebars or steering wheel to drink. So you either stop drinking, or risk crashing. When racing, the problem of hydration became exponentially more difficult for him, and he thought there had to be a better way.” With help from champion racers like Ricky Johnson during the early development stages of the FluidLogic system, other innovations such as the magnetic connections (Maglock Air), high-pressure pump, and Bluetooth wireless operation came about. “The FluidLogic Coaxial system is incorporated into the MagLock Air forced-air connector that runs inside the helmet’s air hose for quick-disconnect safety and efficiency,” said Figueroa. “It can be set up and programmed easily using the free FluidLogic mobile app. You can adjust everything from the dose amount of fluid delivered, to how often that next shot is ready for delivery. And the fluid is delivered right to the nozzle that fits around your helmet’s microphone.” The FluidLogic hydration system has been thoroughly tested and is already in use by many NASCAR, IndyCar, SCORE, and Sports Car competition and recreational vehicles. According to Figueroa, the FluidLogic system is currently available in two versions. The Flush 360 System (like the one used in Dr. Ferguson’s study) includes the FluidLogic chin bar for helmets with non-forced air installations. The Coaxial System allows the fluid tube to integrate into the air hose for forced-air installations. Both are easy to install and can be set up for operation in just a few hours. “Some of the inconsistent ‘windshield washer pump’ systems we’ve seen spit out a mix of air and water, or spray like a fire hose in the helmet,” added Figueroa. “The FluidLogic system delivers the same amount of water every time you hit that button. The programming set up through the app sends a signal that lights up a button on the steering wheel to remind you it’s time to drink, and you can do so without removing your hands from the wheel.” Hydration Study Results According to Dr. Ferguson, all the test drivers could set and maintain quick lap times using either hydration system right from the start. The surprise came near the end of the subject’s driving sessions in the simulator. With the traditional water bottle, lap times became less consistent over time, especially during the last ten laps. Using the FluidLogic system, drivers maintained their lap times and were quicker and more consistent overall. “We saw that with the water bottle, the drivers had an elevated core temperature and a higher urine specific gravity, which means they’re more dehydrated,”said Dr. Ferguson. “Even more interesting was the drinking profile data when they used the water bottles. They would get in the simulator and drink a lot of water right away. Then they would stop drinking, get increasingly more dehydrated, sweat more profusely, and then realize they should start drinking again. By then it was too late in their session, and they were already recording inconsistent lap times.” “When using the FluidLogic system, the light turning on every two minutes on the steering wheel prompted the test drivers to drink. The drivers drank about the same amount over the elapsed time of the driving sessions. However, they did not have the same performance characteristics. Once the large-scale test result correlations were completed, the data showed inconsistent driver braking profiles while using the water bottle. They couldn’t modulate the brake pressure as well as they could early in the testing period. When they came into a corner, they would run the car wide or would have trouble exiting the corner.” Dr. Ferguson elaborated on the results. “As you dehydrate, you lose the ability to elicit contraction from your skeletal muscle. The big leg muscle that is doing the braking became impaired, and the drivers didn’t have the fine-tuned control of the car they had earlier in the testing. When the drivers used the FluidLogic system, and hydrated regularly, they didn’t experience that late-race muscle control loss and consistently had shorter lap times.” Off-Road Racing Creds While the study was primarily done with road race drivers, it still correlates directly to what off-road racers have to contend with. Considering that the recent SCORE off-races during the 2021 season have been won or lost by a matter of seconds, it comes down to the racers who make the fewest mistakes on the course. Jeff Proctor, Honda Racing Team owner and Class 7 driver, has been using the FluidLogic hydration delivery system in his championship-winning Honda Ridgeline for a while, and is a big fan of it. “I was drinking the entire time behind the wheel during the 2021 SCORE San Felipe 250 (about 5-1/2 hours), and I maintained consistent energy levels throughout the entire race. The best part was I didn’t ‘crash’ at the finish line, and after the race, I didn’t have a headache.” SCORE Trophy Truck driver Ryan Arciero, who trains for off-road races with a mix that includes long-distance mountain and road biking. He understands the importance of drinking consistently to maintain proper hydration and also uses the FluidLogic system. “The FluidLogic in our newest Herbst/Smith Trophy Truck is integrated into my air hose with the MagLock magnetic coupler,” said Arciero. “I can connect or disconnect three systems (communications, air, hydration) with one easy movement, and it makes hydration maintenance so much easier. I also like the fact that I can program how much and how often to drink based on my training. I can even use my own fluid that has added protein, electrolytes and more.” Performance Proven Hydration  Satisfying hydration needs during a long, excessively warm, physically exhausting, and mentally stressful motorsports event is critical to driver success. Scientific and anecdotal evidence demonstrates how an effective hydration strategy has a positive effect on overall performance. With Dr. Ferguson’s study, it’s now proven that proper hydration helps a driver stay alert and energetic from the starting line to the checkered flag. That clear-headed driver is better at making the right decisions in a hurry and has a much better chance of standing on the podium at the end of the day. SJ

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of SCORE Journal - SCORE-Journal-Aug-2021