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.
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
, 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.
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
) compared with Formula 1
(62.0 ± 6.0 mL·kg−1
(58.05 ± 6.40 mL·kg−1
), and NASCAR
(53.2 ± 4.1 mL·kg−1
). Isometric neck strength was the highest in Formula 1
drivers as compared with IMSA
GTD and NASCAR
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.