Greensmith heads Ford research

M-Sport Ford driver Gus Greensmith has been at the forefront of cutting-edge technical work with the Blue Oval to monitor brain activity and raise in-car performance levels to new heights.

Greensmith, who has driven both World Rally Car and R5 Fiestas for the British team this season, spearheaded development work with researchers aimed at giving top-level drivers a vital advantage in the heat of stress-filled competition.

The Briton, who was joined in the project by world champion cyclist Gee Atherton, drove a Fiesta R5 at M-Sport’s Greystoke Forest test area and in a simulator while experts monitored his brain activity.

Ford, King’s College London and technical partner Unit9 joined forces to create an EEG-integrated crash helmet capable of measuring brain data.

King’s College neuroscientist Dr Elias Mouchlianitis explained: “The EEG helmet uses sensors that measure electrical activity from the brain associated with cognitive functions such as memory, attention, speed of processing and other states such as fatigue.

“We’re looking at the brainwave called ‘alpha’. This is a brainwave we know from years of research that’s associated with sustained attention. Keeping low and steady alpha across the track helps you to perform your best.”

Knowing Greensmith’s baseline alpha levels was the first step of the process, so he was strapped into a simulator where Mouchlianitis and his team monitored his brainwaves.

Greensmith and Atherton were put through a series of simulator tests

Once a base level was established, Greensmith was put through a series of tests, followed by further simulator time, to see which helped most when it came to keeping a low and steady alpha.

Specific breathing techniques made the biggest difference, reducing his alpha levels and, more importantly, boosting performance in the simulator.

Whether that translates into the real world remains to be seen. The helmet won’t appear on rallies until it has FIA certification but it gave Greensmith, who celebrated WRC 2 Pro victory in Turkey shortly after the research work, an edge when he finally strapped himself into the Fiesta R5.

“I wanted to see what I could achieve when I really committed myself to pushing hard and taking risks,” he said. “It’s always easy to call yourself back and not stray too close to danger, but sometimes you have to accept you’re going to go hard at something and throw everything you have at it.”

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