A self coaching racing driver can struggle to work through what is needed to drive faster. Even if you are not a racing driver but a serious track day or HPDE driver, you can face the same challenges. In this article I share some experiences and lessons I had as a self coaching racing driver myself!
If you have not already, click to sign up for my weekly Ahead of the Curve email, and let me know what you think ? … What are your experiences here? How have you dealt with the same situations? Let me know!
Lessons From A Self Coaching Racing Driver
Leading up to the two races on the weekend, I was going okay. And then in Race 1 the conditions became changeable – kind of in between wet and dry and changing every lap.
I found myself backing out and was quite slow compared to my true pace.
Much discussion and mental soul searching later we came up with an idea to explain what we thought was going on, plus an idea to do something about it.
Read on because it worked!
The Uncertainty vs Risk Profile
Firstly, if you imagine a chart (see below) of uncertainty versus risk. When I became uncertain in the race, my appetite for risk reduced and made me cautious.
The issue wasn’t this trait per ce, everyone slows down in the rain.
The issue was my propensity for taking risks reduced much more than my fellow race drivers.
We realised each driver has their own profile and the difference is your relative performances.
Yes this is a bit “engineering-think” but identifying concepts is the first step in improving them.
Every driver will take a different level of risk for any give level of perceived uncertainty.
And if it is perceived, then you have something to work on…
Why Do Drivers Have Different Profiles?
Trying to work out why I was more cautious than my fellow drivers took a lot more soul searching…
What we stumbled across was my lack of confidence using my right foot to brake.
I’ve a car with gears and a clutch, and I haven’t developed the confidence to use the left foot to brake in races as I’ve had some bad situations where I forgot which pedal my left foot was on and stood on the brakes when I was looking to change gear. I believe this is fairly common!?
Gaining Driver Confidence From Karting Experience
What is interesting though is that I’m left-handed and left-footed.
In a kart I have no worries about the conditions. I really enjoy left foot braking and even back-to-back on the sim I’d say when I brake with my left foot I’m about 0.5 second per lap faster.
More than that though, I’m SO much more confident to stick the car into an uncertain situation, confident I can sort it out – compared to braking with my right foot where I kind of get caught hesitating between pedals.
I’ve been on at my guys to rig up a hand clutch for me for ages but now I know why – I am currently so much more intrinsically confident braking with my left foot.
On a scale of 1-10, I’d say I’m 9/10 with my left and 7/10 with my right – or even less in conditions where I’m having to juggle uncertain grip on corner entry.
Clearly, we couldn’t change the car to a hand clutch before Race 2.
What we came up with was to try this….
Using Mental Imagery As A Self Coaching Racing Driver
I got in the car and did mental imagery of the whole lap.
I pretended I didn’t have gears and did all the braking with my left foot.
I also narrated, out loud, how I was feeling as I went around the lap and we recorded that audio.
I then switched back to braking with my right foot whilst doing another mental imagery lap.
We recorded how I was feeling using my right foot for braking.
Listen to my left foot audio here.
Turns out I was totally unsure of what to do and hesitant – even though I was still sitting stationary in the paddock! Wow!
Transformational Increase In Driver Confidence
Finally, we then played back me narrating my assertive left foot braking lap whilst I was imaging doing the track again with my right foot. The idea was to get me to kind of coach myself around the lap.
I’m not sure how effective that last step was. Certainly though, the feeling I had when I was imagining my lap left foot braking was transformational.
The upshot is that in Race 2, I was in a really great frame of mind; super positive and close to as confident as I am in a kart. I got away from the start well, had some good battles in the lead pack, took over a second off my fastest lap time, and even overtook our current champion – on the brakes into the hairpin.
Smiles all round!
Try The Approach Yourself (And Let Me Know!)
Unfortunately, an oil leak over one of the rear tyres slowed me down during the second half of the race, but the good thing is I still pushed and didn’t drop back to my Race 1 mentality, even though every corner became a new adventure with the oil on the tyre! I did drop back, but still finished in the top 10.
More than the result was building the confidence to address an issue around uncertainty I’ve had with my driving (in cars) for as long as I can remember. I’d still like the car changed so I can brake with my left foot(!), but at least I’ve a strategy to try and train my right foot (and mind!) that it will be okay.
The idea now is to apply this left-foot-mental-imagery-training approach ahead of any race in any conditions. Plus, we are trying to think of ways to reduce the time delta between my left-foot-braking and my right-foot-braking lap times.
Fun to be always open to learning, hey!
If you are a self coaching racing driver, or someone who has experienced something similar, maybe give this mental imagery approach a go.