Think of any movie where a ship or a submarine is taking on water and one of the crew members has to open a hatch to get out or seal a flooded compartment. While Hollywood tends to make the turning of the hatch wheel an only-Superman-has-the-strength-to-accomplish-this affair, doing the same with an Indy car wheel for the aforementioned hour and 39 minutes does require extraordinary strength and fortitude.
The forearm- and core-busting twisting effort can be traced to a few different factors, including the Dallara's front suspension geometry, Firestone's gummy 10-inch-wide slicks, a lack of power steering and enough downforce to grind the bottom of the car into the track surface.
To replicate the steering forces, says it involves a bit more than one might expect.
"It's not really holding the weight out, but lifting that and rotating weight with forces pushing back on your lead hand," he remarked. "In Turn 1, you have to pull down with the left and push up with the right to overcome 35 pounds of force, then do the opposite for the right-hander in Turn 2, and so on. Imagine a string tied to your hand where you have to pull that 35 pounds up or down constantly. There's tremendous kick-back through the steering wheel on the new Indy car, and there's no power steering, so every movement of the wheel requires a lot of energy."
With little time to rest between Mid-Ohio's corners, the steering effort is akin to exerting 35 pounds of twisting force, putting the weight down on the straights, picking it up again and repeating that process 13 times a lap.
That multiplies out to 1,105 burning reps during the race, with crunches included due to the torqueing motion drivers use from their core to assist their arms.
Using Mid-Ohio's 150 mph scary-fast Turn 1 to quantify the loads Franchitti and others experience, his produces 2800 pounds of downforce through the corner—approximately nine Shaquille O'Neals sitting on the car.
And with his weight (155 pounds), driver equalization ballast (30 pounds to get Franchitti up to the 185-pound standard), the Dallara's curb weight (1585 pounds) and a full tank of E85 ethanol (124 pounds), that's 4,694 pounds to be dealt with via the steering wheel.
Next time you feeling like emulating and driver, borrow a Honda Ridgeline pickup truck, head to Mid-Ohio, disconnect the power steering and try navigating Turn 1 at 150 mph to see if you have what it takes to steer an Indy car.
Frankly, the 1,105 reps with a 35-pound weight might be a more attainable goal.