Not too long ago, Ford set out to uncover the differences between a professional racing driver’s brain, and the brains of ordinary Joes like you and I. Ford researchers, working with researchers from King’s College London, conducted a study where they took EEG (ElectroEncephaloGraphy) readings to study the brain activity of subjects as they ran a racing simulator. Some of the participants – such as five-time FIA WRC winner Sébastian Ogier, and three-time FIA WTCC winner Andy Priaulx – are seasoned racing drivers. Others were ordinary, everyday drivers.
“The study data revealed that when traveling at high speed and in a state of high focus, racing drivers’ brains performed up to 40 percent better when it comes to ignoring distractions than yours or mine,” says King’s College London Neuroscience Researcher Dr. Elias Mouchlianitis. “The interesting thing we found, however, was that when normal people performed some simple mental exercises, they were also able to reach this higher level of performance.”
Those “simple mental exercises” included breathing and meditation exercises, along with a visualization technique that had participants focus on keywords describing the driving task. Together, they helped ordinary drivers boost their focus and performance by up to 50 percent, Ford says.
Now, Ford is applying these findings to their racing programs. The automaker is developing a special racing helmet with integrated EEG equipment to provide real-time data on each factory driver’s brain activity while they do a stint. In that way, Ford hopes to supply its racing teams with yet another tool to help them make important decisions like driver changes at the track.