Racing is a mental activity. Everything is processed through your brain. Some of it consciously, and some unconsciously. Some automatic, and some with a lot of effort. The most effective and efficient way to improve laptimes is not to spend thousands of dollars on more powerful engines or sticky tyres, it’s to spend maybe thirty dollars on a book and invest the time required to learn and practice the knowledge contained within.
That racing is a mental activity is well understood by the world’s most successful racers. Those at the top level know that having a mental edge can be the difference between winning and being mid or rear field. They spend a lot of time and money on coaches, training and psychology in order to win. You can tap into this too, and for a tiny fraction of what the top guys spend.
There are a handful of racers willing to write down all the things that they have spent countless hours and dollars learning in order to win. Many of you will already have at least one Carroll Smith book. Most of you will have learned about ‘Think Fast’ by Neil Roberts from us last year. Now we’ve teamed up with Jon Newell to get the word out about another fantastic opportunity.
Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley is an awesome series of books sharing many of the secrets he learned while racing CART Indycars, and winning the Daytona 24 hour race, and even more that he has learned since in his quest to figure out what separates the winners from the also-rans. Ross Bentley has combined all the most useful parts of his earlier books into one essential volume - Ultimate Speed Secrets.
www.speedsecrets.com.au are giving away a copy of Ultimate Speed Secrets at each round of the 2012 Independent Race Series. The book will be awarded to the driver judged to be considered ‘most promising’ at each round. The book went to Peter Robinson at Round 1. If you want to know all the secrets now (and you should), you can buy a copy here, and it’s also available as a Kindle eBook here.
And if you really want to take it to the next level, head over to speedsecrets.com.au and sign up to their mailing list to receive all the information about the Ultimate Speed Secrets seminars that Jon Newell is collaborating with Ross Bentley and iRace to organize for 2013. You can also get information on Ross Bentley's terrific iPhone Driver Coach app.
At iRace we work hard to promote hard, fair racing. We want the drivers in our series to develop, and to gain the maximum benefit from racing with us. We've evolved a variety of different race formats, including rolling starts, reverse grid races, and perhaps the most beneficial of all, the handicap race format.
The handicap race format allows cars and drivers of all different speeds to race together, and for everyone to have a chance of winning. The basic concept is that the slowest cars start first, with faster cars released in groups at calculated time intervals. In Acuform Muscle Division and K-Mac Touring Car Challenge, we spend a lot of time trying to perfect the groupings, and the time delay. We work out the delay based on the average laptime for each group (taking the fastest time for each member of the group and then averaging from there), and such that the groups should all come together at around 80 percent race distance. This leaves the remaining 20 percent of the race for overtaking. For example in a 10 lap race, we'll try to get everyone to merge on lap 8, with laps 9 and 10 where all the action happens, and the final race result is decided. Occasionally things work out perfectly, and we'll have the whole field covered by 10 or 20 seconds as they greet the chequered flag.
How can drivers maximise their chance of winning? Consistency. If you are able to put in the same laptimes lap after lap, you'll give yourself the best chance of being at the front at the finish. Spin, make a mistake, or lose time on the odd lap trying to hard, and you'll struggle to either: a) hold onto the lead you have (if you started at the head of the field), or b) make up ground on the slower cars ahead. Consistency is the key.
Some other top tips include: try not to lose time being overtaken, the best option is to brake a little early and let a faster car by - this will lose you the least amount of time (unless it's the last lap and you have a chance of keeping the lead!), if you are chasing, be patient - it's tempting to go hell for leather trying to catch the cars you can see so far ahead, but try to pace yourself, drive your markers, and put in smooth consistent laps (pushing too hard risks making mistakes and losing time). If you are out front early, just put your head down and go, go, go.
When you get it right, and handicap race can be the most fun you'll ever have in a racecar. It offers racecraft, strategy, overtaking, being overtaken, and best of all, a thrilling finish.
We were able to put together the following video, showing the perspective of cars at either end of the field as they make their way through a handicap race. Enjoy!
Overtaking is a tricky business. It’s part of motorsport, and one of the most exciting aspects. With the diverse range of cars in the Independent Race Series we see even more overtaking than most other circuit racing.
Done poorly, overtaking can cause unnecessary delays for both cars, and in the worst case damage and DNFs (think Vettel and Webber at Turkey last year). Done properly, and with respect, overtaking can be safe, efficient and exciting (think Webber and Hamilton carving through the field at China this year).
The aim of any overtaking manoeuvre is for the overtaking car to safely pass the car in front, and for both cars to continue on. Our previous feature article looked at how to avoid contact in general, click here for a refresher. Building on that information, let's have a look at some of the complications of overtaking.
For the overtaker:
- The car to be overtaken is in your sights for a long (relatively) period of time - your attention is out the front of your car, so you see the car ahead for a significant period of time. This can lead to a failure to appreciate that the car you are approaching does not have the same awareness of your presence as you do of his.
- You may be behind the car for long enough to see a sense of his rhythm. If the car ahead deviates from the normal rhythm you have observed, you may misinterpret this as him either giving way to you, or a small lose that you can take advantage of. This can cause problems if it was simply a small error or missed gear, wires can get crossed, and contact can occur.
- Frustration may set in, and you may start to get impatient.
For the overtaken:
- Your attention is naturally on the road ahead. Nobody drives fast by looking in the rear view mirror. A faster car may suddenly appear in your mirror (if you check it), or alongside you. In your eyes he came from nowhere, but in his eyes he was watching you for some time.
How to be passed
There is a right way and a wrong way to be passed, or perhaps better phrased as a fast way and a slow way. The wrong way is to position yourself such that the only way for the faster car to get through results in contact, or at the very least in both of you going off line and losing time. The right way involves either being passed on a straight, or on the approach to a corner. If the overtaking car is faster in a straight line, the pass on the straight is simple. To allow a faster car through on the approach to a corner, simply brake a little earlier, or for a little longer, while holding the normal line. This will allow the overtaking car through on the inside, and the instant he is past, you can release the braking pressure and take up the normal line an inch from his tail (watchout for cars following closely behind the overtaking car!) - you lose VERY little time by using this method, and reduce the likelihood of contact.
The last word on this topic comes from the fantastic book "Think Fast" by Neil Roberts:
- It is your responsibility to see and avoid everything, everywhere, all the time.
- The car in front of you owns the entire width of the track, even if you are alongside, and even if you are about to lap that car. The car in front of you has the right to use any and all of the track, the curbs, and the grass, so any contact is your fault. The instant that the nose of your car edges ahead of the nose of the other car by one micron, the roles reverse. Now you own the entire width of the track, and you can drive anywhere you want.
- The way that you deal with nearby cars reveals how much you can be trusted.