March 2016

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It may be March 2016 but this blog goes back 100 million years.

The racing season has started and so has the driver coaching season. An essential part of my driver coaching is how to avoid contact and still be in front. To quote an old adage, ‘’To finish first; first you have to finish.’’

Racing a giant-killing Lotus 26R

Racing a giant-killing Lotus 26R

Human beings have been around for 2.5 million years, while early primates date back 100 million years. Man and primates have spent this time engaged in face-to-face combat. Motor racing is a form of combat that has been around for 140 years. Motor Racing is a non-contact sport that nevertheless comes with undesirable levels of contact. In percentage terms, motor racing has been with us for only 0.00014% of our combat evolution. This explains the reason for many race car crashes. The difference between a Neanderthal fight and the most common contact in motor racing is all about where you are looking.

Let me explain. I have previously written about the term ‘Racing Accident’. It is when two cars collide nearing the apex of a turn. One car dives up the inside as the other car turns in, and bang! Both drivers blame each other when in fact, blame can be apportioned on each collision. Each case is different but can be analysed easily now we have plenty of video evidence. Race commentators opt out of having to deliberate on this complicated subject by declaring a ‘racing accident’. There are many factors to each crash, so I shall only focus on the psychology of the drivers in question. In most cases a collision is not actively sought; although occasionally it is.

Picture the scene. Car-A is in front, and Car-B wants to overtake in the braking area of an approaching corner. The passing manoeuvre is the classic late braking up-the-inside job. The topic of these words is vision. Who is looking where? Car-B can see Car-A plainly. Car-A is in front, so the driver of Car-B has a perfect view of Car-A, and the approaching apex. At this point we need to understand what is going on in the head of the driver in Car-B. Because the driver of Car-B can see Car-A, 100 million years of combat evolution causes the driver of Car-B to think that the driver of Car-A is looking back at him. In reality, the driver of Car-A is looking at the rapidly approaching apex, just as a tennis player has his eyes fixed on a rapidly approaching tennis ball.

Moral of the story: don’t behave like a Neanderthal, race like a robot.