Precision Fuel & Hydration has a history in motorsport. Our Founder, Andy Blow used to be the Team Sports Scientist for the Renault and Benetton Formula One teams and our company actually grew out of the Porsche Human Performance Centre at Silverstone, the home of British Motor Racing, where we still have a Sweat Test Centre today.
So, over the years we've personalised the hydration strategies of a number of elite motorsport athletes, including Eugene Laverty. Eugene's an Irish motorcycle road racing pro from a family of superbike riders. He was runner up in the Supersport World Championship in both 2009 and 2010. He won his first World Superbike race at Monza in 2011.
He's currently racing in the Superbike World Championship on a Aprilia RSV4. We chatted to him ahead of his latest race at Magny Cours, France this weekend just gone...
So, Eugene, you're from a family of successful motorcycle racers, how did you and your brothers get into the sport and how much has sibling rivalry driven you on?
I’ve been riding motorbikes longer than I can remember! Our father raced himself before we were born and so there were always bikes around. My elder brothers Michael and John put me on a motorbike when I was three years old, before I’d removed the stabilisers from my bicycle, and I just took off and never looked back.
I can honestly say there’s no sibling rivalry between my brothers and I. Our parents brought us up to support each other in our racing. The first person I want to beat is my teammate because he’s on the same machinery as me, I can never understand it when one brother is so desperate to beat their sibling!
Brotherly love, like it! How's your season been so far?
The start of the season was a disaster but I’m proud of how we’ve regrouped and turned our season around. We’ve had to develop the bike in a short space of time and finally we’re on the verge of our first podium finish.
I’m only 10th in the standings following such a poor first half of the season but last time out in Portugal I crossed the line in 4th position.
You had a near miss with a crash at Imola, jumping off the bike at high speed to avoid colliding into the wall. But you raced the next day and went from P10 to P7.
You then did pretty much the same thing at Laguna Seca. How do you shake off incidents like that and get the job done?
Strangely the incident in Imola didn’t affect my mindset one bit. My brakes failed following a small collision with another rider so I had to jump off at 160kph. The next morning I was back out there riding to the limit without giving it a second thought.
It’s not the first time that’s happened to me though, so perhaps that’s why it no longer rattles me. My brakes failed on me 18 months ago during testing in Malaysia and that was the only time in my career that I’ve actually been scared to get back on the bike. It took me a few days of riding to really get my confidence back...
What training do you do to get race fit Eugene?
The majority of my cardio work is done on a bicycle. During the season I feel it’s best to just tick over and an two hour ride is enough. During the winter time and the summer break, however, I will tally between 15 and 20 hours of cycling per week in order to build my base fitness. For me, the groundwork is vital as once the season starts you don’t get the chance to boost your fitness level again.
My strength training is all done with my own body weight. However, flexibility is becoming more important than out-and-out power nowadays, as our riding position is becoming almost crablike. We don’t just drag our knees through corners but also our elbows.
I also like to ride a motorbike once per week be it supermoto, trials riding or motocross. I am a motorbike racer after all!
It's been a couple of years since you had a Sweat Test at Porsche and found out you're an incredibly salty sweater. How has knowing this helped you perform at your best?
It has literally transformed my life. I moved to Monaco for the 2013 season and that’s when the problem really grabbed a hold of me. Training in warmer climates meant that I was sweating so much more than what I used to when I was training in Ireland.
After two years of really suffering, I began to figure out the problem at the end of 2014. Then shortly afterwards a racing driver friend of mine told me about the Sweat Test at PHP, so I flew there right away to get the test done. I’d had blood tests previously but nothing had highlighted the issue of just much sodium I excrete until I carried out your Advanced Sweat Test.
Amazing, well I'm glad we could help. Were you suffering from cramps or other hydration issues before you started using our stronger electrolyte drinks?
Talk us through those issues and how that affected your performance…
I mostly suffered cramps in my biceps and so my arms would literally lock up when I washed my hair in the shower after a race! It’s pretty funny looking back at it now.
I could just about deal with the cramps ok, but the major issue was the feeling of a hangover every morning when waking and then continually feeling sleepy throughout the day. My electrolytes were so out of whack that I never knew whether I was tired and in need of sleep or just drowsy. Therefore my sleep suffered, I wasn’t able to train consistently, and at times just holding a conversation required huge effort.
What's your hydration strategy during training and a race weekend these days then?
I often preload on the Thursday of a race weekend with the 1,500mg/l electrolyte drinks. On race weekends it's not so difficult to keep on top of my hydration. But on testing days, when the track is open from 09:00 through to 17:00, it's a bit tougher to regulate.
The toughest time to keep hydrated is when I’m training in Monaco during the summer months, as I lose two litres of sweat every hour. If I’m training with others they can manage the entire ride with just two water bottles, whereas I’m always on the lookout for the next water fountain! I weigh myself on the scales before and afterwards, numbers don’t lie.
Misano and Laguna Seca are particularly hot races being held in the middle of summer, do you do anything differently before those races?
For the hotter races I always begin preloading first thing on a Thursday morning 24 hours before Friday practice. The hardest part of all, however, is cutting back on diuretics like caffeine as I’m a big coffee fan!
Round two in Thailand this year saw the warmest conditions that I’ve ever raced in so I was grateful of having a hydration system in the hump of my Alpinestars leather suit!
What's your nutrition strategy before and during race weekends?
I make sure that my meals are well salted and in general I eat little and often. Saturday is a hectic day with practice at 08:45, qualifying at 10:55 and Race One at 13:00. It’s not easy to fit meals in between, but a breakfast of granola, greek yoghurt and fruit at 07:00 usually sets me up for the morning. And yes, even my granola is pre-salted...
What's your favourite race on the World Superbike Championship schedule?
I absolutely love the Portimao circuit. It’s much like a motocross track covered in tarmac so it’s lot of fun to ride. The last two double-apex corners are incredible; you exit onto the main straight flat out in 4th gear then wheelie over the crest just before the finish line. It’s the best end to any lap in the world.
A lot of Irish and British fans travel to the Algarve for the race too, so in many ways it feels like a home round. The Parkalgar team, which was owned by the CEO of the Portimao circuit Paulo Pinheiro, launched my world championship career back in 2009 so I have a special bond with the track.
Nice. You've got 3 rounds left in the season, including another hot one in Qatar, what are the team's targets for those races?
Our clear target is to finish on the podium before the end of the season. A race win would be sensational but we still have some work to do before we can realistically target the top step.
I would really like to improve my championship position of 10th as it just isn’t a true reflection of where we are right now. We have good momentum behind us following a 4th position last time out so we’re confident of finishing the season on a high...