Speed Secrets: How to Improve – Part 4

By Ross Bentley

December 06, 2017

In this final article of this series, it’s time for a little reality check. If you could do just one thing better this upcoming season as a driver, what would it be?

Would you want to be more consistent? Attack the track more, be more aggressive in your driving? Drive smoother? Or, just plain faster? Do you want to make better decisions on the track? Be better at passing? Provide better feedback to your team about how the car is handling so they can help you tune it better? Be better in qualifying? Better at race starts? Be a faster driver in the rain?

To be a better all-round race driver, do you need to be more of a team-builder – someone who motivates his team (Michael Schumacher was brilliant in this area)? Do you need to be more marketable? Be better at networking to enhance your ability to attract a better drive? Be better at finding and servicing your sponsors? Do you need to be more physically fit? Or, better prepared mentally, focus better in the car, be more confident, and have that ability to get into the zone?

I throw those questions out just to get you thinking. Obviously I could fill this entire magazine with questions aimed at covering all the areas of possible improvement any race driver could use. The key to your improvement – and preparation – for this coming season is you asking yourself these questions and determining a plan to make these improvements.

I often have race drivers ask me why they can’t get to the next level with their driving, why they can’t seem to improve or fix that one little thing that’s keeping them from having superstar speed. At least 90% of the time the driver is missing one of two things: MI or A.

I believe, and have proven it time after time coaching race drivers of all levels, that the key to improvement in any physical activity is using what I call the Learning Formula: MI + A = G. MI stands for Mental Imagery, A stands for Awareness, and G is the Goal you’re trying to achieve.

You see, our brain/computer has this almost amazing ability: if we have a very clear Mental Image of what we want to achieve, and a realistic Awareness of where we are now – how close to that Mental Image we currently are - our brain/computer seems to automatically bring the two together. It’s as if your brain/computer says, “he wants this, and we’re currently here…let’s do this to make them match.”

For example, let’s assume you’re slow in Turn 1. Comparisons to other cars/drivers show, either visually or by use of a data acquisition system, that you seem to slow too much for the corner. You know that at the logical, conscious level. And yet, every time you get to Turn 1, you seem to brake a little too hard, too early, or too long, causing your car to over-slow. Again, you know it, and yet can’t seem to fix it as quickly as you’d like. Oh sure, you could just tell yourself to stop being a wimp and get at it. That might work, but most times it doesn’t – at least not as quickly as you’d like.

Step 1: If you recall from my first article in this series, I asked you to use the onion concept. That is, peel the layers of the problem away until you get to the core of the problem. That’s part of the Awareness process. Dig deep and find out the real cause of the problem. Whereas you may define the problem as you “over-slow for Turn 1,” that’s not deep enough. Ask yourself where you are braking, how hard you’re braking, and how long you’re braking. Keep asking until you define the core of the problem.

Step 2: Get a clear Mental Image of what you want to do. For example, it may be braking at the exact same point as before, but braking 10% lighter. See, feel, and hear yourself doing that over and over again in your mind (see the second article in this series). Build a mental program for braking lighter. If you can’t do it in your mind, you’ll never be able to do it in the car.

Step 3: Drive the car with the sole focus and purpose of comparing what you’re physically doing in the car to your Mental Image of what you think is perfect – 10% lighter braking in this case. Each time you brake, ask yourself how hard you’re braking. Ask yourself to be Aware.

Guaranteed within a few laps, if you have a clear MI and are becoming fully Aware, you will achieve your goal of carrying more speed through Turn 1. That’s what MI + A = G will do for you.

To wrap up this series on preparing for the up-coming season, do something different. Identify your weaknesses, use “actualization” to improve your mental programming, raise your awareness, improve your sensory input, and focus on your performance. Combine that with having fun, and you’ll have a great season ahead of you.

SIDEBAR

Have you ever wondered why almost every athlete in the world has a coach, and yet most race drivers don’t?

Sure, there are race driving instructors – especially in the racing schools - but they aren’t coaches. There are great for helping drivers learn the basics. They are teachers of the basic knowledge and skills required to get going. But from there, it’s typically “learn through trial and error” for most drivers.

Besides the notion that having a coach is not macho, perhaps the single biggest reason drivers don’t have coaches is because coaching is so difficult to do well. And the biggest challenge to a coach is that one can only see the result of the driver’s action. It’s a bit like a football coach only being able to see the actual goal being scored to determine how his team let it happen; or a golf coach only being able to observe the ball going in the hole, and then having to interpret how his player swung the club.

A few exceptionally good driver coaches have found some strategies, some tools, for dealing with this limitation. Helping the driver become more aware of what they’re doing is one of those all-important and critical techniques. The interesting thing is that just about anyone – even yourself - can help you do this to some extent. How? By asking questions. Each and every time you get out of the car, either have someone ask you questions to increase your awareness of what you were doing, or ask yourself.

Each time you, or someone asks you a question, you become more aware. Of course, a trained coach may ask better questions, but just about any question is a good question.

Ross Bentley

For more information about Ross’s tips, coaching, eCourses, newsletter, Virtual Track Walk videos, and other resources to help you drive at your best, go to www.SpeedSecrets.com