x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

The key to going faster it to slow down

With two world-class motorsport tracks in the UAE, there is no excuse not to try out racing. Just be warned, it's addictive.

Five years on since the first motorsport circuit opened in the UAE, not only do the FIA race licence holders among us get to race on two of the best circuits in the world, but also they both hold public track and experience days.

These low-cost events offer us all the opportunity to experience the joy of driving a car quickly around a track under the tutelage of an experienced instructor. But here's a warning. Be careful - it is addictive.

Once you have experienced its enormous rush, you may get hooked. It's a known fact that track day driving leads to race driving.

Being a winner in racing is no different to being a winner in any other sport. It's about commitment, repeatability, focus and training. You cannot become a swimming champion without spending years getting up at 5am to get your daily three hours' practice in.

So what specifically are some of the challenges that await the serious racer?

Mental practice is one of the secrets of a good racing driver. Imagery is used to create realistic pre-experiences that give the feeling of having been there before, with the confidence and competence that comes with it. Close your eyes and replay the course exactly as you intend to drive it, mentally rotating the steering wheel, shifting gears and braking at appropriate locations.

What do you look at when you race? If you stare at a single point, your eye develops a momentary blind spot. There's a technique called horizon driving that says you must look further up the road, and when going into a turn, you need to look far around the corner. No point in staring at the kerb.

Anticipation is crucial because everything happens very quickly at high speed. The ability to look ahead immunises against accidents.

The brain allows the driver to anticipate, but overload that ally and response becomes involuntary. Escalating speed magnifies anxiety. Fear is the result of increasing anxiety.

The best indication of an unskilled driver is the hurried move, which comes from neglecting to finish the move that preceded it, cutting it off short. Skill allows you not to rush and allows you time to choose when to rush. You have to have the confidence to take time to control the car. This leads to the biggest item on the driver's agenda: he must slow down in order to go fast. A big problem for new drivers.

Carrying too much speed into a turn may feel fast, but it isn't. The purpose of braking is to slow the car to a target turn-in speed. A car can be slowed faster than it can be accelerated. It is part of what is known in the trade as over-driving.

A large part of any sport comes from the compelling sensation of getting it right. A coming together of art and science is where magic happens. The feeling is almost mystical. When timing is right: motion is smooth; skill levels are elevated; driving actions are quicker, more forceful and more accurate.

Then there's fitness and fatigue. When you become physically tired, the first thing to go is your sense of judgment. Tiredness causes lines to get sloppy, your accuracy suffers, throttle action becomes more abrupt and driving no longer flows.

Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is seeking the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com