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V˙O2peak, Body Composition, and Neck Strength of Elite Motor Racing Drivers


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 12 - p 2563–2569
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001961

Purpose Automobile racing is widely known to be physically demanding; however, there is no published information comparing the physical fitness variables of elite-level race car drivers across various competitive championships.

Methods We documented the body composition, peak oxygen consumption (V˙O2peak), and isometric neck strength in a sample of elite race car drivers currently competing in Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, and International Motor Sports Association sports car racing (IMSA GTD), to determine current human performance benchmarks and establish goals for drivers wishing to compete in these series.

Results Percent body fat was significantly (P < 0.001) lower in Formula 1 drivers (8.1% ± 1.7%) as compared with the other series, with IndyCar (17.4% ± 1.7%) and NASCAR (17.3% ± 4.6%) being less than IMSA GTD (24.9% ± 1.8%). Percent lean mass followed the same trend as percent body fat. IMSA GTD had not only the highest percent body fat but also the lowest (P = 0.001) V˙O2peak (45.2 ± 2.1 mL·kg−1·mL−1) compared with Formula 1 (62.0 ± 6.0 mL·kg−1·mL−1), IndyCar (58.05 ± 6.40 mL·kg−1·mL−1), and NASCAR (53.2 ± 4.1 mL·kg−1·mL−1). Isometric neck strength was the highest in Formula 1 and IndyCar drivers as compared with IMSA GTD and NASCAR drivers.

Conclusion These results support the hypothesis that the varying physical demands of each competition series require different physical fitness levels of drivers. These benchmarks can be used by exercise professionals to better prepare athletes for competition.

1Hintsa Performance CH AG, Zug, SWITZERLAND

2Pionered Athlete Performance, Guildford, UNITED KINGDOM

3Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Address for correspondence: David P. Ferguson, Ph.D., R.C.E.P., 308 W. Circle Dr. Room 27S, East Lansing, MI 48824; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2018.

Accepted for publication February 2019.

Online date: February 26, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine