Physiological responses to high-speed, open-wheel racecar driving

Patrick L. Jacobs, Stephen E. Olvey, Brad M. Johnson, Kelly A. Cohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


High-speed auto racing has been demonstrated to produce accelerated heart rate (HR) during competition. However, it has not been determined whether the increase in HR was due to physical work efforts or a result of emotional stress. Purpose: The purpose of this investigation was to examine the physiological responses associated with open-wheel automobile driving at competitive speeds. Methods: Oxygen consumption and HR were assessed in seven professional automobile racing drivers during two incrementally paced driving sessions. A portable metabolic analyzer and EKG were directly attached to the subjects as they participated in driving tests on an oval speedway and a roadway course. Maximal physiological responses of the subjects were also determined during a graded treadmill test. Results: During treadmill testing, maximal oxygen consumption (V̇O2max) ranged from of 42.0 to 59.7 mL·kg-1·min-1 (mean ± SD = 47.6 ±8.1). The road course and oval speedway testing at competitive speeds elicited mean V̇O2 values of 38.5 and 21.9 mL·kg-1·min-1, respectively, which correspond to 79% and 45% of V̇O2max. Road course driving produced mean HR values of 152 beats·min-1 with 142 beats·min-1 recorded when driving at competitive speed on the speedway course. Conclusions: Professional open-wheel race drivers possess cardiorespiratory capacity similar to athletes participating in sports such as basketball, football, and baseball. The V̇O2 and HR responses to road course driving were similar to those previously reported in traditional sports settings. The findings of this study suggest that professional open-wheel racing drivers should be regarded as athletes that encounter significant physiological stresses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2085-2090
Number of pages6
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002


  • Driver
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Racecar
  • Road course
  • Speedway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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