Motorsport: Racers given a polish

By Eric Thompson

Young drivers learn to think like winners in Dunedin

Rally driver Emma Gilmour is an Elite Motorsport Academy graduate. Picture / Ron Burgin
Rally driver Emma Gilmour is an Elite Motorsport Academy graduate. Picture / Ron Burgin

Driven was in Dunedin this week to observe the Elite Motorsport Academy training young drivers to conquer the world of motor racing.

This is the 10th year the academy trustees have run the week-long intensive course academy, this week's training helping nine young drivers become professional racers.

There is little, if any, actual driver training. It's not the academy's function to make the nine students go faster, but to focus on preparing their bodies and minds for high-performance, high-speed sporting careers.

Hayden Paddon, Brendon Hartley, Shane van Gisbergen, Mitch Evans, Richie Stanaway, Emma Gilmour, Daniel Gaunt, Nick Cassidy and Chris Pither are a few of the 90 graduates who have made careers in motorsport.

"I have been lucky to have the support of the Motorsport Trust and the Motorsport Academy," says former Production World Rally champion Hayden Paddon. '

'The lessons learned through the week-long camp, and the follow-up courses, were second to none. Being a successful driver is about the 'whole package', which I learned at the academy.

"Without it, I would not be competing in the WRC. The academy helped me to develop into a 'complete driver' and the ongoing support that I have received since has helped me to continue to develop.

"Without a doubt, the academy has produced internationally recognised drivers in all forms of motorsport."

The programme, running since 2004, provides a comprehensive toolbox of vital physical and mental skills to help drivers cope with the high-pressure demands of world-class motor racing.

They are bombarded with physiology, mental skills training, nutrition, media training and life management skills at the camp.

On completion, they receive on-going advice and direction with access to a two-year, individually targeted programme of skill development. Included in this is a two-day follow-up refresher camp after year one.

One of the students, Callum Quin, has competed in his second season of racing BMW E30s and finished rookie of the year in the 2011/2012 season.

"Being chosen to go the academy is a great opportunity for me, especially looking at the drivers who have been through in the past like Mitch Evans and Shane van Gisbergen," says Quin.

Another selected for the course is David Holder, who won the open class 2WD New Zealand Rally Championship in his rookie season last year.

"It's pretty full-on, physically and mentally," says Holder, "with our days starting at 6.30am and running right through to 9pm with homework sometimes after that.

"Obviously, the aim of the week will be to take away as much learning as possible, but they do run a competition so I'll be having a crack at taking away the win."

All the high-end performance testing is at Otago University's Human Performance Centre, with other sessions and seminars at the High Performance Sport NZ headquarters.

The programme uses a comprehensive range of facilities: personnel, resources and research capacity that includes simulating race conditions, appreciating how drag works in the flume (where Michael Phelps tested the one-piece swimsuit before the Olympics) and WOMBAT training.

This innovative software from the university's cognitive ergonomics and human decision-making laboratory is normally used for research into air traffic control and commercial flying.

The test examines drivers' decision-making abilities while being confronted with multiple sources of information.

At the end of that test, most of the drivers would have been accepted into flight school.

- NZ Herald

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