We’ve all had race weekends, where nothing seems to go right. It happens to every racer at some point. Either you’re off the pace in every session, missing something key on the setup, or the machine just doesn’t seem to want to run correctly. What can be even more infuriating is that you might not have a reason for your performance at the time. It’s just slow!
As a racer, being off the pace and not understanding why is one of the most frustrating scenarios. However, it is important to stay focused, as that track time is still very valuable. If you know how to maximize the opportunities of the situation, you can start to working your way back towards the front of the pack.
Below are three quick tips on how to make the most out of a challenging race weekend:
A few days ago, I wrote an article about the importance of having a good driving coach, regardless of a driver’s skill level. Soon after, I received a reader comment which resonated with me:
- “Loved your article on driver coaching. My friend races go-karts. I wish I could help him more, but I’ve never raced a kart myself, so I don’t think I’d be that helpful as coach.” -Reader Comment
This statement could not be any less true. You could be helping coach your driver right now, and you don’t even have to be a racer!
It doesn’t matter if he’s called Captain Slow, James May really loves to drive. He’s done a rally school with two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, and here is doing a lapping day with three-time World Champion Jackie Stewart.
We love Jackie Stewart here. One of our holy-artists of driving technique, as the herald of smooth driving. Stewart’s driving technique focuses on smooth inputs and efficient driving.
Maybe Alain Prost will teach him how to go ice racing soon.
The art of driving a racing car is largely psychological. The ability for the driver to relax and consistently execute the actions he needs to each lap is key for success on track. A defining element of successful racing drivers is the support structure that he has built around himself.
It is critical for the driver to immerse himself in an environment where he can feel confident in his ability, comfortable in taking on new challenges, and supported through the continuous development of his skills.
A driver should never feel like they are alone. A support structure is critical.
When do you make the best decisions?
Is it when you are tense, upset and stressed? Or is it when you are relaxed and focused. I hope, for the sake of your blood pressure, that it’s the latter. People make better decisions when they are relaxed. By being more relaxed, the brain is able process data with a higher quality, and make more informed critical decisions.
That’s great, but what does that have to do with racing? (I know that’s the question you’re asking…) Being able to learn how to relax is a key skill that allows you to feel more comfortable on the racetrack, and have more confidence in your ability to make decisions when required. When a driver is relaxed, they are able to become ‘fully integrated’ which provides the ability to extract the maximum performance out of the machine.
Relax to get the maximum out of yourself and the machine.
Motor racing is a dynamic sport. This means that the driver is constantly encountering new situations, which require him to make different judgment calls on each lap. The number of data points that he has work through over the course of a race can seem overwhelming at times.
Wouldn’t be excellent for the driver to be able to have a way to take in information more easily, and select what information is the most important? It would make each race slightly easier, if I had a crystal ball to tell me what’s coming up and how to prepare for it.
Preparation is key to being a successful racing driver.
While not being a crystal ball, being skilled at looking ahead up the racetrack provides the driver with the ability to gain a ‘sneak peek into the future’, if only a slight one.
The keys to this skill are preparation and anticipation. The driver must be able to keep his eyes on what is coming up next, not what is happening to him right then. Being able to stay focused enough to tune out the ‘noise’ of the racetrack and anticipate what needs to happen next is one of the skills that define a successful racing driver. (Read more after the bump.)