x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Whether it's cars or motorcycles, basic training principles are the same

Pole Position The principles of going fast don't change, no matter the mode of transport.

Over the years when we have helped people drive a sports racing car for the first time it was always apparent that drivers with experience of riding fast motorcycles were consistently safe and competent in the car. I believe this comes from bikers being used to scrubbing off a great deal of speed approaching turns, not over-driving and having developed a sensitive touch on the controls - plus a strong focus on mistake-free riding.

If they hadn't, they would likely not have survived to come drive our cars.

Given that nearly every top race driver in the world started in karts, what is the equivalent for motorcycle racers?

Looking at some of the greatest bike racers of all time - Barry Sheene, Valentino Rossi and Kenny Roberts - it comes as no surprise that all three were introduced to bikes at an early age. Sheene worked with his father, Franko, for many years on Bultaco race bikes and was a very competent trials rider. Valentino, whose father Graziano raced bikes with Sheene, got his early racing education in karts then switched to mini-bikes.

Roberts first rode a mini-bike at the age of 12 then went on to spend the best part of 10 years perfecting his craft as a dirt-track racer and, by the age of 22, was the AMA National Champion. After a successful move to road racing Roberts ran one of the world's greatest bike race schools at Sitjes near Barcelona - where future world road racing champions would have to spend a great deal of time riding XR-100 Honda dirt bikes.

While it would seem counter-intuitive to train for Grand Prix racing on a dirt bike, Roberts believed that no matter what size or style of bike you ride, the principles of going fast are identical. So his students were able to train in an environment that allowed them to experiment and make mistakes without the associated risk and cost of doing so on a race circuit with a heavier, more powerful and more expensive motorcycle.

Roberts' philosophy is totally appropriate for anyone seeking a professional racing career. The kart circuit is by far the best place to learn, which, by definition, is all about making mistakes. In the frenetic world of two-stroke kart racing, the action is intense on and off track.

According to car racing pros, the closest thing to a kart is a Formula One car in so far as how fast things happen and reaction times.

They will tell you that making the transition from karts to cars is quite tough as, when you get into a junior formula car, things happen a bit slower and so you need to take your time, slow your hands down, be patient and less aggressive. "Patiently aggressive" is the correct term. Speed comes from the precision of your braking, perfect racing lines and smoothness.

The truth is that race cars are a lot softer and have greater mass than a kart. So braking becomes a whole new topic. When you lose a race car, it spins a long way relative to a kart. And there's a lot to learn about dynamics, dampers and roll bars.

The good news is that if you are fast in karts, then you will be fast in cars.

Barry Hope is 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.