Coaching is, without doubt, the fastest and probably the most successful way to get faster in a racecar. Regardless of the tools being used (from right-seat driving through to data analysis), coaching brings out the best in a driver and, in turn, their on-track performance. I am the biggest proponent of coaching and, as someone with amazing friends who are coaches, I utilize them as often as I can.
For the purposes of this article (and next week’s, as the topic is so lengthy that we’re breaking it up into two), let’s take a look at that last sentence a little more, in particular the last few words “… as often as I can.” The challenge with coaching is that despite being worth every single penny, it’s expensive – something very few can do often, a number can do every now and again and, for many, something that may never be available to them.
This article looks at a possible way of breaking down your on-track experiences when you don’t have coaching that weekend, or in-between sessions with a coach, all the way up to those who may never have a coach themselves.
Do you need to be a coach to help yourself find improvement?
If you can’t have a coach with you, the question is: what can you do? I’d argue that every racer has at their disposal all of the tools to become their own coach. The question is how to use those tools to improve your driving and finding continual improvement.
I am a huge fan of the most modern equipment available to racers to improve their driving. Data acquisition and video analysis are the most available self-serve tools you can get to determine how you are driving. Having raced the spectrum from ChumpCar to the Continental Tire Series, I can tell you that these two tools are by far the most commonly-used. The other beautiful thing is the cost of entry is now minimal and requires absolutely no mechanical know-how to install.
How do you use these tools to coach yourself to improvement?
I like to look at things in a simple way. When I study data, there is so much information available, it could arguably be confusing. However, what I’m looking for is as simple as it gets; am I faster or slower than [blank]? Now, I leave that blank for a reason. Many racers would fill in that blank with ‘my fellow competitors,’ but even if you didn’t get your hands on their data or information, you could just as easily say ‘my fastest lap.’
Let me put that into context with some questions. Have you ever done a single lap time that’s much faster than anything else you are turning, but for the life of you, you can’t figure out why? Have you ever slowed up in a corner more than you thought you needed to because of lapped traffic, but when you cross Start/Finish, you’ve put in a faster lap time? Have you ever noticed that on your cool-down, you are not that much slower than you were when you were giving it as much as you had?
One of the biggest challenges that racers face is consistency and repeating their fastest times on a track. Often it’s not the outright fastest driver who wins a race, but the most consistent. In an endurance race, if you get a collection of drivers who can do this together, then you are in a great place for a good finish. As drivers (and I generalize), we oftentimes don’t focus on our own driving, but fixate on what our competitors are doing. To overcome this, we must figure out how to coach ourselves to our best performance. Does this mean you can’t learn from faster drivers? Heck no, but if you can’t find your own consistency, you won’t be able to take advantage of their data, anyway.
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