x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Pole Position: Training is a vital part of achievement on a race track

How anyone can seriously expect to succeed without being taught how to drive correctly by an experienced instructor is beyond me.

It continues to amaze me how some racing drivers will spend huge sums of money on their racing, yet spend nothing on driver coaching. And don't get me started on fitness.

How anyone can seriously expect to succeed without being taught how to drive correctly by an experienced instructor is beyond me. Bear in mind that race driving is something that you never master. Ever. Here's a phrase I guarantee you will never hear Michael Schumacher or Jenson Button say: "That's it, I've cracked it."

What's worse, because most people are unaware of what goes on during the five to 10 years that their F1 heroes spent between kart racing and their first GP, the assumption is often made that being able to drive a kart or car quickly around a circuit must be an indicator of world championship capabilities, which leads to the all too common statement, "I want to be a Formula One driver".

This is strange when you consider most people have a reasonable understanding of what it might take to win a gold medal at the Olympics. For example, I think we generally recognise that ambitious young swimmers have to get up at 5am every day to get a few hours of training in, and then go back to the pool after school every day. Then their parents and swimming coach spend many years taking them through hundreds of competitions to help improve their technique.

We witnessed the outcome of high quality training at Yas Marina Circuit last weekend when all of the young drivers in our junior single-seater championship qualified within 1.5 seconds of each other. At the start of the season, the gap was about 10 seconds. Their cars are, as far as is possible, identical. So the only difference in lap time is accounted for by driver technique.

The nice thing about young people is that they are eager to learn and they have one crucial attribute - they listen. Their driver coach spends his race weekend working with each of the drivers, talking them through data downloaded from their car's computer onto his laptop at the end of each session. The depth of experience that the coach brings enables him not only to interpret that data and relate it to driving technique, but also to offer solutions that help the driver go faster. Every time he or she gets into the car, the rate of improvement is staggering.

Our driver coach raced single-seaters against the likes of David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello, raced a GT2 Dodge Viper in ALMS (American Le Mans Series), was chief instructor at the Jim Russell School, was appointed chairman of the Association of Racing Drivers Schools and has spent seven years training drivers in Formula BMW. Why would anyone believe they can learn to race and be a competitive driver without a mentor like this?

Many years ago I worked in IT, where they would budget millions on hardware and software and then, when they felt they were spending too much, would immediately chop the training budget. Disaster was a predictable outcome.

Pole Position is written by Barry Hope, a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.