Using ‘bio-telemetry’ developed to help win Formula 1 world championships, McLaren Applied Technologies has helped give Great Britain’s athletes access to cutting-edge science and technology.
Great Britain’s record-breaking success this summer is a testament not only to the excellence of the athletes, but also to the coaches and sports scientists who enabled them to achieve peak performance when it counted. Formula 1 derived science provided by McLaren - through a UK Sport Research and Innovation programme - assisted Great Britain’s cyclists, rowers, sailors and canoeists with their preparations.
McLaren Applied Technologies has been working with coaches and sports scientists to collect and process performance data from each athlete, which enabled their coaches to fine-tune individual training programmes and race strategies, to maximise the chances of success.
McLaren Applied Technologies programme director, Caroline Hargrove, explained: “The human body is a machine and we can monitor its condition in real time, just as we would with a Formula 1 car. Working with our technology partner, Vodafone, huge amounts of data was transmitted instantaneously back to coaches, to be interpreted and used to inform decisions about training or strategy.
“The systems we use at every Formula 1 Grand Prix, where we may have just seconds to make decisions, can shape the outcome of the race. Now we have been able to apply the same expertise to cycling, for example, where the margins of victory can be miniscule."
UK Sport Head of Research and Innovation, Dr Scott Drawer, said: “We work with the best of British science and technology to ensure we explore every opportunity to ensure the athletes and sports we fund are given all the support they need to reach their full potential.
“The relationship with McLaren Applied Technologies brings Formula 1 technology and know-how to measuring and analysing performance in these sports and has provided valuable new insights in to both the training and race environments."
As the focus turns to the future, McLaren Applied Technologies is developing new and more advanced systems for several sports. “We are continuously working on more intelligent uses of data, so athletes can train more effectively,” says Hargrove. “We’re only at the beginning of that process, so there will be many more gains in the future, for sure."
The technology pioneered for Great Britain’s athletes could also have tremendous benefits for the wellness and healthcare sectors. User-friendly diagnostic systems could, for instance, help with management of long-term illnesses or help doctors prescribe treatments more efficiently.
Another legacy of this summer’s sporting success could benefit the UK as a whole, thanks to a new appreciation of the value of homegrown innovation.
“One thing I hope is that people begin to see the science and technology behind sporting success,” says Hargrove. “We’re passionate about it, and that’s what motivates us to excel. We’re so proud to have been part of the British success this summer. We’ve been a tiny part of a huge effort, but we still get that buzz.”