Thursday, 11 May 2017

How much race preparation is enough? Ask Alonso....

Something just caught my attention on Fernando Alonso's 'rookie' orientation for the Indy 500 live stream.

Mclaren Boss, Zak Brown, was asked about Alonso's preparation for Indy, he replied with something like:

"...on the plane he watched Ed Carpenter's entire race on-board"
"...he's watched 25 complete races"

So, on top of all the standard training a professional racing driver does, arguably the world's best driver will sit and watch a 3 hour on-board video of a track with 4 corners! (I realise there is a lot more to the Indianapolis Speedway than 4 corners - but it's not like he is learning the layout)

Then, after he's watched 24 Indy videos, he thinks "oh, I've got a spare 3 hours on the plane, I'll watch a whole race on-board"

Just think about it, Alonso has done it all and can choose to do anything he likes, at any time. Can you imagine how valuable every second of his time is?

However, to him, another 3 hours more watching on-board of Indianapolis is going to pay off so big, that it is worth it....

So, just in case you are wondering how much detail the very best drivers go into when studying race tracks between races, the answer is they go very very deep...

...and every little bit of extra time you put into understanding a race track is going to pay off, big!!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Racing drivers are superior humans to any Olympic gold medallists I can think of

The Olympics is on TV at the moment and we are all supposed to marvel at the super human efforts of all the athletes.

Fair play to them, but they are not a patch on what a regular cash strapped karter has to become if they want to succeed!

Here is what the young racing driver has to cope with that athletes don't.

1) The other guy gets a huge advantage from spending more money than you could ever dream of earning.

Usain Bolt doesn't run away from you because he just laid out ten grand on a pair of trainers yesterday and found an immediate 4 tenths.

Racing drivers have to live with this potentially devastating reality daily and motivate themselves to keep striving on.

2) You can do everything perfect as a driver, and the kart breaks

Athletes and drivers train hard and risk the possibility of physical injury.  But athletes don't face the possibility of losing everything because of a random chain snapping event.

Drivers live with equipment failure as a constant possibility that is totally beyond their control.

3) Danger

I don't remember the last fatality in an athletic event.  Even karters have to face the possibility of broken bones and pain, as well as fears of crashing.  We've all has at least one 'biggie'.

4) The racing environment

The 'at the track' racing environment is hard-core.  Athletics is run by very protective, psychologically aware coaches.  Racing drivers have no such luxury and do their competing in a very tough environment where generally nobody gives a monkey's how you feel - and in many cases the driver is blamed for everything that goes wrong.

5) Money

Yeah athletes struggle for funding but they can apply for government or lottery funding handouts to get by.

A racing driver has to find big money before they even put a wheel on the track, and they have to effectively become exceptional entrepreneurs to do so.  Nobody helps and nobody is giving money to racing drivers for nothing.

The racing world is the toughest environment I can think of full of unfairness and corruption alongside tremendous highs - and that is why it has the potential to develop very special people, who manage to use that environment to reach the pinnacle of human development.

My job is to help you develop the skill and tremendous resilience to thrive in the hardest game on earth.  Find out more at

Thursday, 21 May 2015

If a karting picture can paint a thousand words.... this is it!

Oliver Scullion - Winner F100 pre 2000 Fulbeck 2015 - Photo credit Alex Evans EVSRR

Blimey, it's been over a year since I've written any articles here, or anywhere else! I haven't felt inspired until now, today, when I saw the above image that encapsulates the raw and pure beauty of what a zero-compromise race tuned kart does.

That picture contains everything you need to know about driving the most perfectly adapted racing machines on the planet - the 100cc racing kart.

These are the only machines in existence that can connect you to the art of driving so directly, without numbing your senses or protecting you from the brutality of the insane revs and vibrations that bruise and deafen you.

It's all there in a finite moment -  the delicate balance of braking and slide, the sheer grip trying  to pull the front tyre off the rim and the slight over-steer angle betrayed by the middle spoke of the steering wheel.

You know he is moving fast, the pull on the tyres show you that, but you also sense the poise of the driver from his posture.  He is fully in control and put the kart in that position with confidence. You also sense that despite the angle of the kart seeming to point at the steep kerb, that he will have that front left tyre describing a perfect arc around the base of the kerb without upsetting the stability of the machine one iota.

You can see where he is, and you know where he is going without the need for correction or reaction. He's going to carry that slide all the way to hit a late apex, and the kart will straighten up and pre-load ready for the following right hander.... it's all in balance and harmony.

Assuming you would like to emulate this artful way of driving a kart, here's how you can do it.

Master the art of trail braking for maximum style points.

Ollie Scullion is superb on the brakes, especially at putting the kart into a slide when he firsts hits the brakes and holding that slight angle as the kart enters the corner.  He does it in the photo at Fulbeck into a tricky little chicane and into tight hairpins elsewhere with seemingly little effort.

It's mesmerizing to watch, and despite having worked with some of the best karters in the world I still marvel at the guys who can do this, lap in lap out.  I haven't worked with Ollie myself, and am just an admirer of what is to me the most entertaining aspect of watching drivers at work.

How to do it

The key to getting this skill is in appreciating  the importance of how to release your braking pressure as you enter a corner.  You need to lock the rear a little when you first hit the brake, which is the easy bit and amply described in previous articles of mine.  But the tricky bit is regulating the brake after that initial lock up.

When you get into trail braking you might find at first an overriding temptation to release the brakes suddenly to bring the kart back into line.  However if you want to hold that slight degree of slide all the way into a late apex so you look like an seasoned pro, you'll need to learn how to resist that temptation to suddenly get off the brake.

Instead, practice gently regulating the braking pressure just enough to maintain the angle of the kart.

Release the brakes too much and you will straighten up requiring you to steer the kart into the corner. Use too much brake and you'll need extra opposite lock leading to some ugly angles caused by the extreme geometry built into karts.

You need to find a sweet spot, where you will be able to directly control the angle of the kart with your left foot.  You might be making multiple tiny adjustments of pressure to hold the kart at an angle, or you may be able to hold the pressure almost constant.

When you get the hang of holding a kart at an angle using braking pressure, you will feel like the kart is saying 'yes!! this is how I want to be driven'.  Karts love to be put in a set like this and they will reward you with a lovely sense of constant grip and stability, and will guide you through a corner without drama.......if you let it.

It is not easy at all, in fact I think it's what separates a good driver from a master so it will take time and patience - but when it clicks you'll be buzzing like never before in a kart.

Understand the hidden benefit of trail braking with style.

These days on 'modern' karts there is no great requirement to brake so stylishly.  You can brake in a straight line mostly, and carry your braking gently into an apex without having to set the kart into any kind of over-steer.

However, if you learn to trail brake and hang the rear out ever so slightly you can develop a heightened awareness of pre-loading a kart, and ultimately push the development of your senses beyond those of other more regular drivers.

You'll be able to extract that little bit extra out of your kart because you will have developed a finer sense of grip and an ability for timing that isn't normal, it's extraordinary.  Learning how to initiate the turn in of a kart aiming at a late apex not by steering more, but by holding onto the brake while the front tucks in is a special skill well worth learning.

In my opinion this will set you a cut above, even if you don't exercise this skill every time you drive a kart.

And by the way, if you want to taste karting in its ultimate form head over to the F100 website.  Big grids of karts from the sport's pinnacle era. True no limit karting is alive and kicking.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Secret to High Speed Sport Success Revealed - Track Notes Make Gold Medal Winners

Here is a deeply significant insight into the mind of a champion, who has won the Olympic gold in Skeleton.

It's absolutely instructive to karters because it is about going as fast as you can on a well learned track on a very simple machine.  Did you miss it?????
"As soon as I finished on Friday I started writing my track notes, it's something I always do. It sounds crazy because I won by nearly a second, but I've been thinking about the four runs and how I could have got them faster. There is so much to improve on."  Full article here
Taking track notes is so important to Lizzy Yarnold's success that she felt absolutely compelled to update her notes after her gold medal run before celebrating the biggest result possible in the sport.  She didn't drop everything and get carried away with the euphoria of conquering the world, she was so wrapped up in her secret to success that she sat down with pen and paper and wrote down what she learned about the track.

I doubt her coach would approve of her revealing such an important part of her success, and I bet all the other competitors will be diligently updating their notes after every run from now on!

However although writing track notes is a big help, that is NOT the big secret to success! Here is the real secret:

Lizzy Yarnolds comments are like having the key to the mind of a champion that allows us to see the treasure trove of her winning approach - it's obvious to me...

She wasn't sliding for a gold medal, she was sliding to see if she could go a bit quicker on one or two turns. She found out she could, she knows how, and while she was at it she got some clues about where she might go faster next time.  She wants to write that down and go and give it another go.... she's like:

'oh a gold medal, that's nice but just wait while I write this down. If I have another go I reckon I can find a bit more!'
So, the real kicker is this:-

When you take notes you have a blueprint for how to get around a lap pretty well. BUT, you also mark on your notes some question marks that mean 'I reckon I can go quicker here'.

Next session you carry those questions in your mind with possible solutions.  You give it a try, and find out if it makes you a little bit quicker.  If you go quicker you remember and update your notes with what you just found out.

Then the process starts over.  Every time you head out on track you aren't driving round in circles trying to avoid mistakes.

You are heading out on a mission.  The mission has a strategy and a detailed plan to find a little bit of time on a specific corner with a specific method.

If you are lucky you can use data logging to prove the results.

And when you drive like this, your mindset is completely different - you are highly motivated to find time in a very specific and methodical way - you are driven by this motivation and your sessions fly by.

You always feel like you want another run to see if you can go even faster again, it becomes a never ending process of improvement.

Are you making track notes and are they effectively driving you forward every session?

Contact me to embark on a program that will give you a system that turns every track session into a mission with specific objectives and measured outcomes.  Make going faster an unstoppable compulsion!

Contact me:

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

They say you have to drive subconsciously and in the zone to be quick.... but what about when you can't!!

Non-Thinking Driving, The Zone, Subconscious Driving..... These are all the Holy Grail of driving. But they can be deadly to your performance!  Here's why....

Getting in the zone and driving subconsciously is all the rage with coaches and sports psychologists.  It's what we are all chasing because we know that when a driver reports being in the zone, they really are fully on it....

The theory goes that when we are 'in the zone' we are driving using subconscious processing.  Simply put, when we drive on auto-pilot we are using a part of our brain that works much faster.  Therefore we drive faster.

Another way to describe it is non-thinking driving.  When you drive without having to think about it you are quicker.

I'm always banging on about it, especially because it feels absolutely great - and drivers do go faster.


BUT, getting in the zone is not simple.  There isn't a switch you can flick to drive subconsciously, there is no 100% guarantee that when you next drive you will drop into the zone early enough in the race, or even at all.

Simply starting to think can throw you out of the zone and back into the world of being an ordinary driver, things come at you fast, you lose concentration and you make mistakes.

And what if you are totally dependant on being in the zone when you drive?  Does that mean that unless you enter that magical fairy world where time disappears and everything is easy, you will be crap?

For some drivers this is the way they live, they are slaves to the zone!!

Zone Anxiety

This is what I call the feeling that drivers experience when they know that today they just aren't feeling it.

They start to think about the consequences of not being able to get in the zone.  They know they aren't as quick unless they can tap the mystery feeling that comes and goes, and the surest way to chase away the zone is to become anxious.

Once you get zone anxiety, you've had it! You start to think about how to get back in the zone, you think as you drive.... But the zone by definition is subconscious, which means it comes without thinking.  If you think about the zone you kill it.

The Cure - Thinking is human, don't deny it and become the best thinking driver you can!

People think continuously, you can't stop it.  If you obsess about becoming a non-thinking person you get yourself into an impossible vicious circle.  Thinking is your primary function, and you can't escape it - it is what makes you, you. There isn't much left of you if you aren't thinking!

To associate thinking with poor driving will kill your confidence.  If you associate thinking with being slow, you are undermining your self as a person.  It's almost like saying, 'when I am conscious and aware, when I am thinking and trying, I'm a bit rubbish'.

That is almost the perfect recipe for creating a driver with low confidence, self-doubt and all the things that hurt performance.

So, here is my cure.

Embrace thinking when you drive - Create very detailed driving plans that require your thinking mind to work hard.

This means consciously studying the track inch by inch, think about lines, draw diagrams.

  • Memorise braking points, turn in points apex, and exits.  Know exactly where you want to be at every point on the track.
  • Know what your plan for the race is, know how you will make the start work, where you will over-take.
  • Know how hard you will use the brakes, how you will apply the throttle.
  • When out on the track, mentally recall your corner diagrams 

Learn to depend on your thinking mind to drive fast, trust your thoughts and make them work for you!

And when you fully trust your thinking mind to get you round the track as fast as possible, you no longer NEED the zone.  You don't need the magic to come, you (the normal everyday you that you are familiar with) are in control.

Ironically, since showing this approach to drivers they are far more relaxed and confident and find themselves driving in the zone much more!!  Go figure.....

If you want to make sure you head to your next event feeling like you are on a mission, fired up and ready to slap down the opposition -  go here

Friday, 25 October 2013

If You Don't Have Absolutely Clear Objectives, You'll be Driving for Somebody Else's!

Drivers get so much input (usually well meaning) from all over the place when they are at the track.  And most of the advice is contradictory.

For example, a coach would be trying to help a driver maintain focus and be relaxed, whilst his mechanic might be saying 'just get in there and kick some butt - get mad!'. Meanwhile Dad says 'with your attitude I'm not sure you want this enough' whilst Mum says 'take the pressure off yourself, just do your best'.

Now, who does the driver listen to?  Usually everyone and no-one, it all becomes a confusing mess resulting in a tired and demoralised driver, surrounded by people who say he doesn't listen.

This is a recipe for disaster!

An alternative approach - Decide for yourself what your mission in racing is, and have a clear plan on how to achieve it.

I've been working with drivers for years and years, and I haven't found a way to shield them from the constant barrage of 'helpful' advice. In fact, all the contradictory chatter that surrounds drivers is just part of the environment they have to live with.  Everybody wants to tell drivers how they should live, how they should behave and how they should drive..... it comes with the territory.

And if you don't have a strong sense of why you are racing and how you will achieve what you want YOUR way then you will be constantly pushed around by everyone around you.

Eventually you will lose your own sense of why you are driving, in effect you will be driving for someone else's purposes, and that will kill your motivation and confidence.

If you are going to be successful in karting your need your own sense of purpose, absolute certainty of why you are racing and what you want to achieve your own way.  Otherwise what is the point?

If you have that you will be able to extract quality advice from people when you need it, you won't feel attacked or disrespected.  You will be able to relate what you are told to your own goals, reject the advice that doesn't clearly help and use the advice that does.

And people around you will see you are on a mission, they will respect you more and treat you differently.

I help drivers build bullet-proof mental strength - I don't preach or lecture, I listen and help them reflect on how they can make things work.  Both in terms of the details of driving and in their whole career strategy.

It is absolutely amazing the difference it makes to drivers, when they can see that their own personal reasons for racing make sense and are going to work.  Their confidence goes through the roof!

Go here if you want help building your own bullet proof mental strength, and super clear driving plans so that you are in control of your driving and karting future.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Bring on the rain

PF at the weekend - nobody knew what track conditions would be for any session.

This is the new norm for summer karting - dry track with blue sky, and a huge rain storm closing in fast!

In conditions like this you are never on the right tyres, and you never have the right set up.  If you are on wets the track is drying too fast, if you are on slicks have you got the pressures right etc.  A nightmare for the mechanic, and a dream scenario for drivers who are confident they excel in difficult track conditions.

This is exactly the type of situation that highlights what your state of mind is.  Do your pre-race nerves create a feeling of anxiety and doubt, or do you feel psyched up?

If you want to feel psyched up with a 'bring it on' attitude, here's some help.

Get off the rubber
Heavy braking areas are coated with rubber, when you approach a braking zone put your kart on a different part of the track when braking.  Usually down the inside is good enough.

Minimise time that lateral grip is needed
Drive lines that minimise the time spent actually driving the kart in an arc.  For any given corner you need to maximise the time spent driving a straight line, especially when braking or accelerating.

Maximise straight line braking
For hairpins you can brake in a straight line, turning and braking will be treacherous.  For medium speed approach corners, (eg the esses at PF or oblivion at Whilton Mill) you can brake gently in a straight line and make the apex by aiming the kart straight at the apex very early.  

Maximise time in traction
Plot your corner exits in order to maximise the time spent getting maximum exit traction.  Extreme cut back lines apply, where you straight line the exit as much as possible.

Use herbs
Some kerbs that you wouldn't dream of using in the dry are essential in the wet.  When you are trying to drive in straight lines you will need to cut a lot of corners.  Be prepared to scrape the bottom of your kart and upset the mechanic!

Be prepared to use maximum steering lock
Karts are awful when the track doesn't supply the required grip to make the chassis lift the inside rear wheel. You may need to force the kart to work by using the maximum steering lock. Some guys will never have turned the wheel so far, so in the wet dont be afraid to turn the steering as far as it will go when needed.

Eliminate wheelspin
Wheelspin is the ultimate enemy of the karter facing slippery conditions.  Each wheelspin incident costs you about half a second.  So, your meaning of life is to exit corners without letting the rear wheels break traction.

Minimise rear sliding
When you allow the rear wheels to slide mid corner, you then have a much harder time exiting the corner without wheelspin.  Plan all your cornering in a way that allows you to exit without wheelspin.

Example approach wet  PF 'esses'. Beware, track conditions are organic - nothing is set in stone!