Britain’s Allan McNish took time out from fine-tuning his new diesel-engined Audi sportscar to personally get himself up to speed by attending Audi Sport’s annual winter fitness training camp last week (12-19 Feb).

McNish has been testing his Audi racecar in readiness for the season-opening Sebring 12 Hours in Florida next month (19 March) but spent seven days in the mountain region of Ofterschwang, Germany, to ensure his physical fitness is in absolute peak condition.

The Scotsman, along with his Audi “factory” team-mates, went through the pain barrier in various activities. These included skiing and mountain walking in snow shoes plus intense gym sessions featuring running, weights, spinning, soccer and volleyball.

Allan hopes the hard work will pay off in his racecar’s cockpit when the Dumfries-born ace begins a hectic seven race, nine month Intercontinental Le Mans Cup campaign.

“It is always a hard weeks training but also a good week to get to know and understand your team-mates a better in a non-racing environment,” commented McNish. “Tom [Kristensen], Dindo [Capello] and I are all strong and fit enough but there is still that healthy element of competition between us which makes it a fun week.”

To start the winter camp, the drivers were subject to a medical examination, in which the blood values and stamina were checked on a bicycle ergo-meter. “For every driver who has been with us for a number of years it’s possible to draw good comparisons over that time,” says Audi Sport’s team doctor Dr. Christian John.

“We’ve often won races over the last few years, particularly at Le Mans, because our drivers are fit and can drive four consecutive stints at night without any problems. The competition has caught up a little in this respect – but I believe we are still a little bit ahead.”

The daily programme at the Sonnenalp was always in two parts: 30 minutes stretching followed by endurance training with the focus on skating, cross country skiing and “snow shoe” hiking during the morning with team sports like football, tennis or volleyball later in the day.

Audi competes with a “closed” sportscar for the first time since 1999 at Le Mans in June, a fact not lost on Dr. John. “The regulations stipulate that the cockpit temperature may not exceed a certain value,” he says. “But the air in the cockpit is drier and warmer than with an open sports prototype, which is why it will be important to carry a drink bottle on board.”

In general race drivers must be able to drink a lot of fluid before a race to withstand the heat. “Endurance training helps the body to compensate for both,” says Dr. John.

“A driver’s neck is heavily loaded, which is why the neck and shoulder muscles must be specially trained. There are exercises and devices specifically for this which all our drivers have at home. Arms, legs and the neck must all be seen as one. Long-distance running is a particularly good exercise for race drivers, which is why I am very pleased that many of our drivers regularly take part in marathons.”

McNish will share a diesel-engined Audi R15 TDI with regular co-drivers Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Dindo Capello (Italy) and sets out to score his fourth and Audi’s 10th race victory in the season-opening Sebring 12 Hours race on 19 March.

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