Race teams spend up to $100 thousand searching for a tenth of a second in their car’s speed, but Rainmaker Solutions, Inc. believes they may be able to help deduct as much as a full second of lap time from driver performance with consistent hydration from their FluidLogic system.
A recent study by Dr. David Ferguson, PhD ACSM-CEP at Michigan State University’s Spartan Motorsports Performance Laboratory, suggests inconsistent hydration contributes to slower reaction times in regard to braking ability and increased driver error toward the end of long green flag stints, which costs valuable time.
“Racecar drivers routinely compete in hot environments while wearing fire protective suits,” said Dr. Ferguson when recently announcing the preliminary findings of his new study. “The thermal strain can increase core body temperature by four degrees Fahrenheit, eliciting seven pounds of sweat loss.
“This type of strain can induce mental and physical fatigue, impacting their performance and reaction time. Consistent and proper hydration during competition can help mitigate these impairments. Unfortunately, most drivers hydrate on an inconsistent basis throughout a race, with methods that do not provide the precise amount their body needs when they need it.”
Ferguson studied 20 drivers from IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR and Formula E and found that drivers using a more traditional ‘drink bottle and long straw’ system were much more likely to hydrate in bursts near the beginning and end of a stint – becoming distracted from the body’s need while concentrating on the task of racing.
The FluidLogic system was used in the 2021 Indy 500 by seven drivers they named the “Hydration Nation”, which included Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay (who has been using the system for more than a year), Stefan Wilson and James Hinchcliffe from Andretti Autosport, as well as Dalton Kellett from AJ Foyt Racing.
“The FluidLogic system is amazing,” said Herta prior to the race. “It’s essential to be well hydrated during the race and it is much easier now to get my water supply and stay hydrated. Rather than reaching for the water bottle and getting the straw to my mouth, now I press a button on the steering wheel, and water squirts into my mouth through the nozzle mounted on the in-helmet microphone. More importantly, it doesn’t distract from my focus.”
Ferguson’s research involved a professional racing simulator located within an environmental chamber to control temperature, humidity, car setup and track changes. Over the course of a simulated race, Ferguson found that drivers often lose up to 3.5 percent of their body weight to sweat in a two-hour period. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a 1 percent drop is enough to impair their performance.
“If you’re subjected to these really high-heat stresses, coupled with a lot of sweat loss, it increases your risk of a heart attack or a myocardial infarction,” Ferguson told NBC Sports in a Zoom meeting earlier this week. “Another scary part of all of this is there is not a lot of sports medicine literature on racecar drivers. This is kind of the first of its kind to do it.”
Utilizing a programable system that integrates with drivers’ existing airflow tubes inside their helmets allowed them to take on water in smaller, scheduled increments – keeping their mouth and lips moistened. The system can currently be programmed and adjusted to achieve optimal hydration and eliminate the toll that dehydration takes on the brain.
Future iterations of the system may interface with biomechanical measuring devices to automatically adjust the frequency based on real world output.
An LED light mounted on the steering flashes when it is time to hydrate. The driver pushes a button and a precise amount of water or sports drink squirts into their mouth via a hose positioned directly in front of their mouths that is integrated into the same tube that currently delivers fresh air.
The FluidLogic system was developed over the course of three years by Ed Jaeger, an entrepreneur and racer, and his company, Rainmaker Solutions, Inc.
“As a racer myself, I saw how dehydration can take a toll on a driver, both during and after a race,” said Jaeger, CEO and President of Rainmaker Solutions, Inc. “By the end of a race it can definitely effect your reaction time. Drivers tell us that they can now focus more on driving without having to think about getting the proper amount of fluids.
“They delegate that responsibility to the FluidLogic system. The end result is they can focus more and perform better during the race and feel better afterwards.”
The system adds a little more than two pounds of weight to the car, but the designers feel that is more than offset by allowing teams to take on a precise amount of water.