Show of strength in the cockpit
Timo Scheider is not only one of the most experienced drivers on the DTM grid – no other driver has been racing in the series since the debut season of ‘New DTM’ – but with his age of 36years, he also is the second-oldest. Only fellow Audi driver Mattias is 119 days older than the German. Nonetheless, Scheider is far from being put out to grass. By finishing fourth at the Lausitzring, the 2008 and 2009 DTM Champion recently demonstrated in impressive style that is not yet ready to back down and leave the field to the young ones.
Taking a look at his pulse monitor data, you tend to be amazed. With an average heart rate of 140bpm, Scheider seems to be rather relaxed when driving his 460bhp racer. Only rarely, the heart rate is increased to a peak level of 160bhp but usually, the winner of six DTM races seems to be more or less unimpressed. Over the course of the 60-minute race at the Norisring Scheider burned 828 kilocalories – representing the amount of energy of three and a half hamburgers provided by one of the well-known American fast-food chains. What is the secret behind Scheider’s cool-headedness? Does this mean that contesting a DTM race isn’t more exhausting than jogging?
The former professional racing cyclist Martin Kiechle who has been working as Scheider’s trainer for four years, now, explains: “Had the pulse monitor been given to any other driver the result probably would have differed a lot. Timo’s data are the result of a tough long-term training programme and he increased year by year. In former times, he also had a heart rate of 170 and the data we see now are the result of his disciplined work on his fitness.”
To achieve this fitness, Kiechle and the DTM ace consequently working on his stamina. “Good staying power is important for him to make sure that he can stay fully focused until the race is over. In addition, the lactate concentration in the blood also is increased during the long-term stress of a race. To give the body the capability to cope with that and quickly break down the lactate it needs interval training with strain peaks.”
Formula 1 drivers often talk about their special neck training. According to Kiechle, however, this far from being everything. “It goes without saying that the torso and neck musculatures are important but actually, the entire body must be strong – from top to toe. Therefore, cycling is very good training programme. If you are cycling on a mountain bike it isn’t very helpful if you have got the power in your legs but you arms give in. And it’s just the same in the car: here, Timo also must be able to keep the tension high until the race is over.”
At the Norisring, the drivers hang particularly often in the belts of their safety harnesses. Other than – for instance – Zandvoort’s circuit with its fast corners, the corners at the Norisring are tight and must be cornered at low speed. On the straights, the drivers accelerate to top speeds of up to 260kph but then, approaching the ‘Grundig Kehre’ hairpin, they have to decelerate extremely. By 200kph, to about 60 kph. If you want to do so with the perfect timing 73 times in the race without losing it and going straight on or crashing into one or several of your rivals, you have to be fully focused and need maximum stamina.
To get Scheider in that shape, fitness coach Martin Kiechle has got his own formula. “I don’t sit down and say to him: ‘Become an entity with your body’ but I motivate and pressurise him when he is working hard. In spring, for instance, we jointly competed in the Cape Epic, the most gruelling multi-stage mountain-bike race of the world. And again and again I said to him: ’Give your very best, give it everything! You’re doing this for DTM.’ Therefore, I always demanded 100 percent concentration from him. Even when we already had been cycling for six hours, I wanted him to complete every single-trail with a clean line and regard even the smallest detail.
On the racetrack, sum of all these efforts may possibly bring exactly those crucial tenths of a second that could make – in the right moment – the difference between win and defeat. And for Timo, the moment when he will take the chequered flag as race winner certainly will be worth all the hard work he had to execute to get there.
And according to Martin Kiechle, one thing can be taken for granted: on the ergometer, his driver would be the No 1 already today. “I would bet any money that nobody in the paddock will be able to hold a candle to him when it comes to the stamina.”