Episode 4

“Racing is Just Mental. Literally”

Driving fast whilst in close proximity to others takes a lot of mental capacity to ensure there’s not a resulting bonfire. So how do I train my brain?

Everybody’s aware of the stereotype that men can’t multitask, and for the most part, with myself at least, I would say it’s true. Take cooking for example. At the outset, having three or four individual foods all requiring different cooking methods for varying lengths of time doesn’t seem particularly difficult, it just needs a little bit of organisation. However, in practice, it never quite seems to work out. Maybe it’s a saucepan boiling over whilst I’m turning over what’s under the grille, alternatively that’s the moment when the microwave starts yelling it’s (thankfully pre-bleeped) expletives at me. Finally, regardless of what else happens, I can almost guarantee that the one thing in the oven won’t be ready when everything else is already dished up. If you hadn’t worked it out yet, I don’t cook much…

Luckily for me, this week’s episode isn’t about cooking. It is however, about multitasking, mental agility and decision making. A lot can happen very quickly whilst on track with a grid of other racers, meaning not only must I be able to focus on what my car is doing, but I also have to be aware of what’s going through the minds of those around me. Am I catching the car ahead? Will they try to defend their position? Is there someone behind me who I’ll have to be wary of? Are they trying to dive-bomb me?

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Whilst taking part in a race there are hundreds of variables that could curtail my fortunes in an instant, so it’s in my best interests to be aware of these potential problems, to be able to actively avoid them. A lot of accidents happen due to a lack of awareness, particularly when novice drivers and standing starts are involved. It takes time to learn the skills of awareness and anticipation, yet they’re two of the most key in the world of motorsport.

Luckily, considering my lack of actual race seat for 2020, I have a fair amount of time to train these skills. This should mean that, when the opportunity does present itself to climb in the car, I will have had ample preparation, and therefore should possess a slight advantage over the competition. An easy way to begin training my brain to be more aligned to the skill set required is through the use of brain training apps, however they’re designed for the average person to test themselves, rather than being tailored specifically for sports-related mental agility.

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A novel idea that’s more racing-focused could be to watch onboard footage from actual races. For example, watching onboard footage of an LMP2 prototype during a WEC race would give me a look into the thought process of a driver who has to manage weaving through the slower sportscars, avoiding their charging LMP1 counterparts and maximising their own strategy all at once. The busy field during an event can make a race mentally fatiguing, yet drivers must still be able to pick their way through without any mistakes. Having prior knowledge of when and when not to pass will accelerate the learning curve during my future on-track experiences, leading to better race-craft and hopefully less chance of a crash.

To wrap things up, whilst cooking may not be a vital weapon in a racing driver’s armoury, multitasking certainly is. The ability to not only focus on your race but the races of those around you is an invaluable asset to avoid on-track altercations, and one that I must possess to stand any chance of being a successful driver regardless of what series I am competing in. To prepare myself brain training is a must, yet in the absence of on-track acclimatisation I need to think of some unconventional alternatives. No matter how disconnected the method may be, it will prove to be fruitful, as it’s all in the name of the #RacingGrind!

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