Levelling-Up Your Racing Driver Feedback
Whether you are giving or receiving racing driver feedback there are challenges. If you are providing feedback to an engineer, to your team or even just for your own records, it can be hard to know what to say. If you need the racing drivers views, how do you get the most useful information?
Luckily the common aim for all involved is to improve. You all want the package of racing driver and racecar to be competitive. You all want to see that package lap the track quicker and race faster than ever before.
The driver wants a predictable, fast, and effortless racecar to drive.
Those in support want to know that all the speed is being extracted from the racecar, every lap.
Using All Your Data Sources
There are other benefits to getting racing driver feedback.
Of all your data sources, your racing driver can provide the fastest feedback on the state of the racecar.
What you are after is to have the fastest and most reliable racing driver feedback possible.
There is a problem though. Your racing driver’s feelings, opinion and memory can be vague and confused at times.
Even at a Pro level, some teams are missing out on this key piece of information. With many race engineers more inclined to trust their measured data over what the driver has to say.
So what should you do?
My 5-Step Checklist For Great Racing Driver Debriefs
1- Debrief Immediately
As soon as the driver steps out of the car, they are in danger. A driver’s mind will rapidly start to get flooded with extra information and requests.
You want to capture the purity of what is on their mind about the session before that happens – before they have had a chance to talk with fellow drivers, friends or whoever.
The reason is to make sure you get the best information before they forget it.
Get to the racing driver before anyone else.
2- Use A Track Map
Like with measured data, racing driver feedback needs to be in context. If you do not do this already then a good starting point is to use a track map to aid your debrief.
Make sure the map is large, clear and something you can write on – either paper or iPad. See a great example below:
The aim is to use this prop to start to structure your discussions. Do this even if you are working on your own.
You want to note each piece of information at its place around the track. Do not restrict yourself just to words, use sketches and drawings too.
3- Structure Your Discussion
You have the undivided attention of the driver and a track map. Now, where do you start?
This actually came up in my first discussion on the podcast with Ross Bentley. It is worth a listen if you have not heard it before.
Ross suggests getting the driver to highlight one area that they could driver better. This is simple suggestion helps focus the driver’s mind on what is most important.
What Ross’s approach also highlights though is the dual aim of the debrief.
That dual aim is to achieve improvements with both the race driving AND the racecar.
You will have more success if the topic of your discussion is specific and clear.
Discuss one topic at a time (as best as you can). Debrief each topic for the complete lap, before moving on to the next one. Start with an easy one like clarifying gear selection.
Work through your topics and in the same order each time. This will help you get all the information you can, as well as helping you to become more efficient at the debrief process.
4- Add Depth By Using Corner Phases
Many people debrief using the “phases” of each corner. These phases are:
- Braking Stability (in a straight-line)
- Corner Entry (driver starts steering and bleeding off brakes)
- Mid-corner (largest steering, no brake or throttle)
- Corner Exit (unwinding the steering and applying throttle until at maximum)
The race car and race driver have different challenges at each stage. Use these corner phases to help the race driver explain what is happening.
5- Use 1 to 5 Scales To Add Further Precision
Rather than saying the racecar had “oversteer on entry to turn 1″, add some proportion to your statements.
By using a simple 1 to 5 scale you can more precisely communicate, for example, the level of oversteer on entry to turn 1. Adding the level is easy to do and provides a lot of extra depth and meaning.
Use the 1-5 scale for oversteer or understeer that the driver is experiencing in each phase of the corner. With 1 being the least and 5 being the most. You can also use a scale for driver topics too, such as confidence.
Write these scales on your track map at the phase of the corner in question. Then move onto the next corner until you have described the whole lap.
Aim For Great Feedback. Every Time.
Getting great racing driver feedback helps everyone involved. By working through each corner you can quickly identify key areas for improvement.
For the racing driver, it is a chance to share their internal voice. For example, the racing driver might be unsure of how to approach a particular corner, or what gear to be in. They might have no confidence that the car will stick on a high-speed corner. The driver might be worried about the car’s stability under braking into a tight hairpin.
For your support crew, this level of feedback enables them to quickly diagnose solutions. You will have a clearer idea of what to look for in your other data sources. You can work on reducing any driving uncertainty. You can put in place more focused racecar improvements.
To level up your racing driver feedback, make sure your debrief covers both race engineering and driving topics. Apply a systematic approach to the process, especially using the 1 to 5 scales.
Even if you are running solo, having a record of each session like this becomes invaluable.
Best of luck with it. Remember do not be too hard on yourselves if you struggle at first. Keep at it and you will soon get better.
If you do have a go, be sure to let me know how you get on.
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