Dario Franchitti: So You Think Driving An Indy Car Is Easy? Try Braking – Part 1
The old yarn about whether racecar drivers should be considered as elite athletes has, I hope, been put to rest.
If the status of “athlete” is afforded to those who get paid to swim or pedal bicycles, surely it’s deserved in a sport that involves the use of every major extremity, lightning-fast reflexes, unparalleled levels of hand/eye coordination and depth perception, strategical thinking and included the ever-present risk of injury and death.
Despite being secure in his place on the athletic landscape, that didn’t stop three-time Indy 500 winner and four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti from inquiring about the exact forces he withstands and exerts in the cockpit.
Specifically, the Scot wondered what kind of workout was required to drive a 1585-pound Indy car at the most recent race in Mid-Ohio.
The 85-lap race, as it turns out, puts a P90X routine to shame.
“You hear that talk about whether drivers are really athletes, and I get asked that from time to time, so I wanted to have some concrete numbers to go off of,” the wiry, 5′ 9″ Franchitti told RoadandTrack.com. “And I’d always been curious myself, so now I can tell people exactly what we’re dealing with inside the car.”
Run in sweltering humidity and temperatures over 90 degrees, Franchitti asked his engineers at the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team to use their on-board data acquisition system and the dozens of sensors installed through his Honda-powered Dallara DW12 chassis to quantify the stresses and strains he endured around the 2.2-mile, 13-turn road course.
To start, the findings zeroed in braking and steering, the two biggest functions that involve sustained effort over the course of a race. Franchitti and the other IndyCar drivers had three hard braking zones to deal with on every lap, and used the brake pedal to a lesser degree in three additional corners.
Focusing on the three major braking efforts, Franchitti generated 1375 PSI of line pressure at his peak under threshold braking, and with the motion ratio of his brake pedal factored in, that equates to 135 pounds of force applied by his right foot in each instance.
For those who’ve gone to the gym and used the leg press, it’s the equivalent of putting three 45-pound plates on the sled and using the ball of your right foot—the contact point between a driver and the brake pedal–to do the lifting. But that doesn’t tell the full tale.
Those three major braking events at Mid-Ohio last a second or more, so hold each repetition up for a few seconds. And here’s the other part to consider: The Mid-Ohio race lasted an hour and 39 minutes and had no caution periods. Other than two quick pit stops for Franchitti, he had no time to rest.
With an 85-lap race, lap times taking just over 60 seconds apiece and three hard braking efforts per lap, that equates to approximately one single-leg 135-pound exertion every 18 seconds—and holding the weight up momentarily between reps–for an hour and 39 minutes straight.
Altogether, that’s 255 reps generated in 18-second increments while watching the remake of “Total Recall” from start to finish (on second thought, watching that flick might actually be the harder task to accomplish).
Once you’re done with the leg exercises, you’ll find that steering an Indy car around a physical track like Mid-Ohio is even more grueling.
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- Dario Franchitti Wins the 2012 Indy 500 – Trackside at Indy 2012
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