Prac in pit lane
Driven by her own competitive trials and boundlessly fascinated by human potential is how Shannon Chilman has tackled her dream professional practical placement with the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
Australian Catholic University Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology students Shannon Chilman and Samantha Parker have linked with the eight-time V8 Supercars champions for the coronavirus disrupted 2020 season.
The internships are part of a research partnership with ACU’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences that is already providing sport science grunt to the team behind champion drivers Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen.
Originally from California, Shannon has a high performance pedigree through her work with basketball, volleyball and water polo programs in US college sport.
But it was her often painful experience as a competitive Irish dancer that first sparked a curiosity to explore the body’s full potential.
“I was always getting injured so I’m fascinated how the body heals and how it can perform,” the budding clinical exercise physiologist said.
“I’ve always been around the fitness industry but it’s my mission to get into the clinical side. I want to help people, to get them to connect with their bodies.”
In a first for the motorsport category, Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology students from ACU’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences will provide evidence-based health guidance for Red Bull’s high-performance pit crew and drivers.
They will collaborate with ACU biomechanists to prescribe exercise programs and injury management for the crew, and eventually race day support when COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
A myriad of options
A dreamy Sam can only pinch herself as she turns her gaze to the shiny, multi-coloured decals adorning the Red Bull V8 Supercars that surround her.
It was not that long ago that she was weighing up her ‘where to next?’ dilemma after graduating from ACU with a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science.
Pursuing a career in the Australian Defence Force was one option. Further study can be a daunting prospect however Sam’s appetite for knowledge led to a masters and a surprise launch into motor sport.
“I was shell-shocked when I got the position,” Sam said.
“The set-up here at Red Bull is very professional. Everyone exudes high performance and it’s somewhere I could see myself working.”
Sam had previously worked as a strength and conditioning coach with the Brisbane Lions’ AFLW team but is now assisting a different breed of athlete – Red Bull’s pit crew.
Seeing mechanics and engineers as athletes has been an extension of her passion for sport.
“I was always the sporty kid. I wasn’t elite but it was always something I was interested in,” she said.
“The pit crew are the brains of the team but also the body. In one hand they have a heavy tyre gun and in the other a 22kg wheel. These guys have to perform incredible feats in only a few seconds.”
Sam Parker and Shannon Chilman
As part of the research partnership between ACU and Red Bull, crew chief Kris Goos and his team have already participated in fitness testing and movement analysis at the Brisbane Campus’s Exercise Lifestyle Clinic and in the biomechanics lab. The experienced wheel man believes he now has the sport science oomph to gain an edge over the field.
The lab’s motion capture technology and support from the interns could deliver strategies to make the RBHRT pit crew’s performance safer, faster and more efficient when handling 22kg wheels and 6.5kg rattle guns.
“It’s going to be a massive deal for us,” Gooey said. “With the changes in the rules due to COVID-19 restrictions and short turnarounds, we will take a hundredth-of-a-second. We should be able to shave tenths-of-seconds out of this easy, just by having everyone on the right level.”
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