One of the big questions in race driving is how well can you really expect to do? How should you be setting expectations? What does success look like for you?
It is tough for you to know what expectations to set. Your seat time is limited. You have lots of other demands on your time. Age is also a factor – young or old.
Is it reasonable for you to aim for within 1%, 5% or 10% of the best? What if you had more track time or more sim time, what should you expect then? How about if you feel you’ve plateaued and don’t know what to do next?
Your Goal = Get The Most From Whats In Your Control.
Race results and lap time comparisons to the front runners are the recognised measure. But what you really need is a better way to measure your individual performance.
You want to know:
- how well you did with what was in your control.
- how much lap time you left on the track, and then
- where & what you could do about it!
How Do You Drive Fast Anyway?
There a certain mystery to driving fast. Consider it as an experiential puzzle.
You try things. Sometimes they “work.” Sometimes they don’t.
Your real challenge is knowing what worked. Really knowing it.
For example, you might feel you are flat-out everywhere. Then either you get overtaken like you are standing still or the “quick boys” go and completely smash your lap times. Its not a great feeling.
Be heartened. It happens to us all, even to the Pro’s if you listened to Matt Neal on the podcast recently (from approx 13mins)
Matt talks about “plugging in a new [driving] chip” – in other words needing to learn. And this from a guy who has done over 300 BTCC races and been multiple champion.
What Feels Fast Isn’t Always Fast.
Driving faster isn’t about being more heroic. If you listen to any of these links below, you will hear many of my show guests saying this:
- Ross Bentley (Speed Secrets) at approx 8mins
- Scott Mansell (Driver 61) at approx 40mins
- John Kirkpatrick (Jim Russell Racing School – MIA) at approx 26mins
- Perry McCarthy (ex-F1 & The Original Stig – Top Gear) at approx 18mins
- Rob Wilson (coach to 75+ F1 drivers) his whole show!
As you know a distilled summary of all the best advice nuggets is in The Motorsports Playbook but they all say, driving faster is the result of you being:
- more deliberate,
- more precise, and
- actually less heroic.
Develop A Better Mental Model
Putting this into action is hard. I feel that the reason is because of your mental model. Of what you feel you need to do to drive fast in the moment. Sometimes your model is completely spot on. Other times it is way off.
When it is off, like Matt, you need to break it down and start again.
Unfortunately you will never really know how to do this.
That is unless you get a better measure of the effects of your driving inputs – the lap time effect of your driving experiments on track.
How Can Data Help You?
Whilst preparing The Complete Beginners Guide To Motorsports Data Analysis I spent a long time asking myself: “What value does racecar data really offer you?”
After all, your track session is over by the time you get the information. You cannot go back in time and change what happened. What is the point of you spending any time to learn about data to discover what you could have done? You have no way to do anything about it. So data is pointless, right?
But if using data was pointless, then why does every professional racing team on the planet use it? Why do all the best pro drivers increasingly rely on data to get the most from their car? What does data offer them that you could benefit from too?
There are several reasons why data might be useful to you. The most useful – in my humble opinion – is data’s ability to give you certainty in your analysis.
- know what you did – and didn’t – do.
- quantify that in lap time gained or lost – not just opinion or feel.
- highlight opportunities for you to get better – on the brakes, line, on throttle.
- help you to determine what risk level is really required to go faster.
Data = Shortcut For Your Learning
Data is tool for identifying and measuring your improvements. A method to objectively understand what you did that worked. A method to identify where your best improvement opportunities are.
The reason the pro’s are using data is to:
- shortcut their learning times.
- reliably know how well they performed.
- inform their next driving experiments.
- set expectations … and then,
- measure their improvements (hopefully!)
You Can Do This Too …
You have access to the same information.
Astonishing insights that what could help you to set and monitor your own driving expectations. Then the ability to self-assess and self-improve your own driving more quickly.
For me data is not about being nerdy. Data is purely a means to an end.
A method to help you build a better mental model of what your car can do and how you can drive it faster.
What is your opinion on this? How are you setting expectations for yourself or someone you support? Are you using data already?
I would be fascinating to get your thoughts on this.
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