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SPEED RUSH

The ultimate adrenaline rush is going around a sharp bend at 250kph without slowing down; there is nothing like an intercom voice from your lead driver saying, "Don't let your foot off the accelerator and keep to that speed." Looking at the bend ahead, you really wonder how you are going to negotiate it because if you quickly slow down, the tail of the car will spin around and you'll be heading for the side wall.

We were at the famous Spa Francorchamps Formula 1 track in Belgium, one of the fastest tracks on the F1 circuit. My son Karl had won a full day for two driving the super-charged Audi R8 race car. What an experience.

There were four teams of four, each following a professional leader driver who tested your reaction and concentration at speed, how you handle the car when braking hard at 150kph to see if you can keep in a straight line.



gruelling

Like so many people who are really into cars, you never realise how fit Formula 1 drivers have to be to race those powerful machines. They are seriously fit and have personal trainers, nutritionists and massage therapists on hand 24/7 to prepare the body and mind for the gruelling demand of F1.

The G-force in particular puts great pressure on the neck and shoulders. Remember, your head weighs 11lb on average and if the neck muscles are not strong, you would get a feeling of permanent whiplash, so a lot of exercises are designed for the neck using a neck harness with weight on the end. Rugby players use something similar.

All drivers are cardio-fit and have strong arms, forearms, shoulders and legs. After a few laps, my arms and shoulders were aching, especially, as you are concentrating to adapt your body to the G-force as the car makes you work hard. And when your lead driver keeps getting faster and testing how far and fast you can go, which will determine your next level -- if you get that far. If you cannot stay focussed, you drop a level. To stay focused, you do need strength as any muscle weakness will show when you are manoeuvring around bends and sharp corners.

To stay mentally-focused, you need to sip water or sports drinks to keep the brain hydrated.

Concentration draws all the blood to the brain and the last thing you need is to feel drained when driving fast.

During long journeys, you should sip water and eat slow-releasing foods -- such as fruit, nuts and seeds -- to keep you alert and prevent you from nodding off, especially when driving at night.

The experience of heading down the straight while touching 280 to 300 kph is just exhilarating. Your forearms are screaming and neck and shoulders tighten, yet you see F1 drivers weighing 10st who are super-fit and can control this beast of cars, going around bends at 250 to 400 kph. Their muscles are so toned and they have low body fat and super-quick reactions as the slight lapse of concentration could be fatal.

So what did we learn from this amazing day that we can apply to normal driving?

> Give yourself plenty of space between the car in front of you. Modern ABS braking systems will help with hard braking, but you need space.

>In order to control the car when you skid, you should keep your foot off the break, don't depend on the ABS braking system if you are slowing down from fast speed too quickly. The tail of the car will swing around, particularly in wet conditions. Decelerate very slowly, keeping your distance.

>When at the wheel, your elbows should be slightly bent, if they are too straight any impact will break your arms or wrists.

>Don't sit too close to the steering wheel, you are at a much greater risk of injury in the event of a crash, as the airbag deploys with sheer force and it could really damage your chest, so sit slightly back.

>Keep your knees slightly bent in order to give you force and power to press the brake peddle quickly when the need arises. If your legs are dead straight, you will have no power to press down on the peddles.

>Get all tyres checked weekly for pressure as this keeps the car breaking evenly.

>Do a complete body workout to strengthen all muscle groups, the fitter you are the sharper your reactions will be in an emergency which could keep you and your fellow motorists and pedestrians alive a lot longer. As part of the driving test, there should be a fitness test; it's not only the body that deteriorates when not in use but also the mind.

If you ever get a chance to drive a Grand Prix circuit, grab it with both hands. It's truly an experience of a lifetime. When you put on your own embossed racing helmet, you feel like Michael Schumacher.


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