x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

We're not all born racers - but track practice helps

The race circuit is a one-way street with no taxis or lorries or cyclists, no speed restrictions, police cars or strange road signs to distract you.

'No, I'm not brave enough to be a racing driver" is something I hear from members of the public.

Strange that, as many of them are prepared to drive on the Sheikh Zayed Road at 140kph while listening to the radio, watching for speed cameras, chatting on the phone, lighting a cigarette and changing lane. All the while, they're focusing on the Nissan Patrol behind them as it tests its lights just metres from their rear bumper while simultaneously trying to figure out where the Al Mansar Road exit goes.

They either have the multitasking expertise of an F18 pilot, or they are simply just prepared to take huge risks. No surprise, then, that two people are killed every day on UAE roads, even if these statistics are starting to improve with the enforcement of speed limits.

If people are prepared to take this level of risk on a daily basis, I see no reason why they should not consider driving on a purpose-built race circuit, as this is a far safer way to drive at high speeds.

The race circuit is a one-way street with no taxis or lorries or cyclists, no speed restrictions, police cars or strange road signs to distract you. What's more, you cannot listen to the radio, use a mobile phone or hold a lit cigarette. You simply focus on driving. More importantly, this applies to everyone else on the track.

I think most people would agree that driving can be enormously satisfying in the right environment. With the insight gained from an instructor at your side, driving quickly and safely on a race circuit is one of life's real pleasures.

The next question asked is: "What does it take to become a racing driver"?

Well, I can confidently dispel the notion that you have to be crazy or brave. There are some key attributes that all race drivers must have, and they are not the ones the general public expect.

The first thing is precision and repeatability - just like a golf pro, you need to be able to drive with total and almost unbelievable precision on a repeatable basis, and that requires enormous concentration and thought. The reason that racing drivers can corner so fast is that they know the optimum line around any given curve and they drive it with absolute precision. Just two inches off line, and the car will not go around the turn. This is easier said than done and it takes a lot of practice.

Equally, braking is an art form and again requires a huge amount of thought and practice. The ability to go from full throttle to full braking without disturbing the balance of the car as you turn the steering wheel into the corner is something that has to be worked on. Get it wrong, and you might miss the apex of the corner and your lap times plummet.

Remember that everybody can go full throttle down the straights. No skill is required to do this bit. The difference between top race drivers and the rest of us is what they do on the brakes and through the turns. That's all.

Of course, if it were easy then everybody would do it.


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