Examining the differences between male, female race car drivers

November 20, 2017
Samantha Tan prepares for a race in her car. Photo courtesy of Lucas Scarfone.

Samantha Tan prepares for a race in her car. 

Ongoing research from the Michigan State University Department of Kinesiology aims to determine the differences in physiological stressors in female and male race car drivers.

The research is the latest from Assistant Professor David Ferguson. Racing is among Ferguson’s research specialties; another study on advancing athletic excellence and diabetes research in race car drivers was featured in the 2016-17 New Educator magazine.

Assistant Professor David Ferguson

Assistant Professor David Ferguson

This new study will measure the heart and breathing rates, and the skin and core temperatures of seven female drivers and seven male drivers from various car types to examine how their bodies react differently during races.

“Recently, there have been conversations on social media about how females are not fit enough to drive race cars,” Ferguson said. “Our data seeks to disprove those comments.”

One of the drivers who is participating in the research is 20-year-old Samantha Tan from Gormley, Ontario. Making her racing debut in 2014, she is currently a student at the University of California at Irvine. Tan has been actively racing for the past three years in the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) Series.

Photo of Samantha Tan

Learn about Samantha’s career: http://www.samanthatanracing.com/

“I thought it was really interesting and fun to be part of the MSU study,” Tan said. She worked with Ferguson during the PWC Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.

“I got to see my peak heart rate and body temperature, and where my heart fluctuated on the track … It was confidence-building because the information showed I was anxious before sessions, but once I got into the car, my heart rate slowed down completely and I got more calm and focused. It also gave me insight into why my heart rate was going up in those certain corners—and how to solve it. It was all about confidence. I’d like to thank Professor Ferguson and everyone involved at MSU for selecting me in this research.”

Drivers from all across racing are participating in the MSU study: Ferguson aims to collect data from individuals that race in sports cars, stock cars and in the IndyCar series.

“We have completed half of our data collection,” said Ferguson, who will continue the research in Spartan Motorsports Performance Lab on MSU’s campus. “With the help of Samantha, we now have a great representation on female physiology during sport care racing.”

Samantha Tan photos courtesy of Lucas Scarfone.