Cassie McColl brings Human Performance to Hertz Team JOTA

by Petrol Mum
Cassie McColl Human Performance Hertz Team JOTA

Hertz Team JOTA will be competing in the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship and at one the world’s largest sporting events, the 100th edition of the legendry Le Mans 24 Hours. The team brings together the pedigree of one of the most experienced sports car teams of recent times in JOTA and a collective of global partners including title sponsor Hertz, California luxury brand Singer Group and Tom Brady’s next-generation apparel brand BRADY™.

JOTA are the reigning LMP2 FIA World Endurance Champions and have secured 10 podiums in the last nine years of Le Mans 24 Hours. In 2023 Hertz Team JOTA will be running a Porsche 963 in the Hypercar class category in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Endurance races may be held over many hours, but every second counts and no more so than during the pit stops. With around 27 scheduled pit stops at the Le Mans 24 Hours these critical seconds can quickly add up to minutes.

Previously JOTA had been struggling with their pit stops, with a lot of injuries for their mechanics and their pit stop times weren’t improving. This was when Australian Cassie McColl, an Exercise Physiologist, was asked if she could provide an analysis to improve their stops and reduce injuries. Cassie had never worked in motorsport so was really excited for the challenge in a new sporting environment.

Hertz Team JOTA pit stop Portimao

“I was invited to a race meeting and from the analysis I performed of their stops I trained the mechanics in two key areas. They improved by two seconds, from then on that was my role at JOTA,” Cassie shared with Driven Women Magazine.

Cassie studied Exercise Science at Australian Catholic University and went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Applied Exercise Science. Almost six years ago Cassie moved to the UK with an opportunity to travel and learn something new. After working for several years in a clinic and loving her role helping people Cassie decided she wanted to complete further study in biomechanics and so she went back to university to complete a Master of Research.

“During my time at uni, I worked with a lot of different athletes in all disciplines of sport, analysing movement to enhance performance and reduce injury. I really enjoyed the experience, and I was able to apply my clinical knowledge with the technical side of research to help a lot of athletes,” said Cassie.

Cassie has achieved many career highlights to date. Prior to motorsport, Cassie won a prize at a biomechanics conference for her research with adolescent ballet dancers and for her work in YMCA community gyms. In the motorsport field, winning the 24 hours of Le Mans last year (2022) followed by winning the LMP2 World Endurance Championship are up there as well. JOTA was the fastest pit crew in 2022 and spent the least amount of time in pit lane, which was their aim.

Within JOTA Cassie’s title is ‘Human Performance’ and her role is to specifically train the mechanics to further improve their pit stop performance. From running pitstop practice sessions, to gym sessions, to performing movement analysis. Pitstop or Human Performance in not very common in endurance sports car racing.

“There are a lot of physios that do look after drivers and crew; however, I am directly involved in improving the movements of our mechanic’s performance to reduce injury and ensure we are the fastest team in pit lane,” said Cassie.

At the factory Cassie’s work is split between training the crew, data analysis and admin work. The crew arrive for their work day and begin to warm up in the gym then move into a pit stop practice session. During lunch breaks Cassie is training the crew and assisting with injury recovering with a focus on conditioning training in these sessions.

A day at the race track varies for Cassie depending if the JOTA team are on track for a practice session or the race. Cassie does a lot of analysis on pit stops, organises meals for the crew, looking after team kit and generally ensuring the crew keep hydrated and motivated during the long days.

“What I do love about my job is the crew. They are highly motivated and believe in what we want to achieve as group. Because of the training we complete at the workshop and their belief, we are achieving pit stops times I never thought we would. I can’t complain about being able to travel the world either!” Cassie acknowledged.

Improving the performance of the pit stop crew is Cassie’s favourite and most challenging aspect of her work. In beginning the crew saw a lot of improvement and dropped seconds off their stops. Now they are looking to reduce their stops by only fractions of a second. To further improve their stops, it is important for Cassie to understand how the crew members are moving, and the impact this is having on the performance of the stop.

“I am very lucky to work with some of the most advanced sport science brands. We have support of a company called Movella. They specialise in 3D movement and athlete management software. We use Xsens to capture 3D motion of a pit stop, where we can understand the velocity and angle of each movement during the stop.

“This has greatly helped to simplify and streamline our training sessions. The crew also really respond to watching their avatar on the computer when we watch the stops. I also use Kinduct software for athlete management. I can track the wellness of the crew, their training loads and hydration. We have also had the opportunity to work with Perform 2 Achieve, using the MX3 hydration analysis system this year. This will allow us to take an in depth look at hydration of the pit crew throughout the entire season,” revealed Cassie.

The new Hertz Racing Gold livery was designed by Singer and celebrates the centenary year of the Le Mans 24 Hours bringing 100 years of racing heritage into the modern era with Hertz Team JOTA’s first race car. The 100th running of the iconic Le Mans race takes place on the 10-11th June and the biggest challenge for Cassie during the event will be to manage the mental and physical fatigue of the crew.

“For the 24hours of Le Mans, the race doesn’t start until 3pm on the Saturday, (when we have already been at the track since 8am) and we don’t get out of the track until about 7.30pm on the Sunday evening. Therefore, we are awake for at least 36 hours. It’s tough, and we don’t get any sleep as we are in the pits every 45 minutes during the race.

A lot of work goes into training to condition the mechanics physically and then we need to manage food throughout the race to ensure our crew are always hydrated and fuelled. Without this the fatigue levels are too high and we lose seconds every stop,” explained Cassie.

For Cassie motorsport is one of the most challenging, but also one of the most heartbreaking and exhilarating sports she has participated in thanks to the long hours and working in tough climates.

“In 2021, we were leading the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup event at Brands Hatch and had 15 minutes left then another car tried to overtake and completely crashed into us and sent our car flying over the barriers and into the trees. Your heart sinks all that work and we are out of the race. But then the next race we win and it’s the best sport in the world,” shared Cassie.

Hertz Team JOTA won their inaugural race at the 1000 miles of Sebring in March, taking victory in the first LMP2 race of the 2023 FIA WEC season. More recently at the Portimão 6 Hours the #48 Jota ORECA took fifth place in LMP2 class.

The six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps is where Hertz Team JOTA will debut the Porsche 963 in the Hypercar class and then it’s on to 100th running of the 24 hours of Le Mans in June. Australian Cassie McColl will be there playing an integral part in the success of the Hertz Team JOTA crew.

Photographs by Drew Gibson Photography. Render by NICK DUNGAN PHOTOGRAPHY.

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