The phychophysiology of the racing driver

J. M. Henderson
1968 British Journal of Sports Medicine  
since the dawn of motor racing, each era has had its heroesmen such as these, whose exceptional skill has been recognised by their competitors and supporters alike. What is it that sets these men apart? Can we say, each year, that the 'top twenty' are indeed the finest racing drivers in the world? As sportsmen, racing drivers are unique in the combination of mental and physical stress to which they are subjected. Who do some, apparently gifted, never succeed in Formula One racing? Just what is
more » ... o different physiologically and psychologically, about the top class racing driver? Basically, he is faced by a clearly defined task. In competition with other drivers in similar vehicles, his aim is to control a racing car around a closed circuit with all possible speed and avoiding errors. In so doing he works as an extremely adaptable computing system, analysing information and feeding signals to the car as part of the whole man/machine complex. The efficiency with which he performs this task defines his ability as a racing driver, and is closely related to his mental and physical make-up, his relationship with the car, and on the task itself. The Man Psychologically, racing drivers of the top class have been shown to form a clearly distinguishable group; predictably, the more successful the driver the more he conforms to the pattern of this group. The successful racing driver is a high achievement individual and would tend to succeed in many other activities, but successful men from other sporting and academic fields have clearly different personality patterns. The successful driver is an independent man who relies on himself rather than on other people, whom he tends to dominate. Contrary to popular opinion he tends to be reserved, with little need to be part of a group despite high leadership potential. He has great capacity for thinking in abstract terms, one of the factors which determines his above average intelligence. But what shows above all is a burning spirit of competition, indicated by a continual need to surpass his own past performance and the performance of others, and to grapple with any problems presented by the environment. In contrast, less successful drivers score badly in psychological tests which determine the above personality factors. Retrospective surveys have shown a correlation of personality and racing safety, whereas attempts to relate physiological factorssuch as reaction time and visionto a history of racing success have been less successful. Physically, there appears to be nothing out of the ordinary in the successful driver. Men of this calibre tend to maintain a high standard of physical fitness, which will aid their ability to perform well under stress. Studies among groups of aircraft pilots have shown no relationship between somatotype and operator performance, and the same result 41 copyright. on 22 July 2018 by guest. Protected by
doi:10.1136/bjsm.3.2.41 fatcat:dm3kttwyd5dwjkrlchftj5ldjm