How Performance Drivers Use Their Vision

Performance & Race Driving Tip

Speed Secret: Use Super-Hero Vision!

Anyone who has driven on a track more than once has been told to look further ahead. And that advice will always be appropriate – there isn’t a driver in the world who doesn’t benefit from being reminded of this.

ross-bentley-formula-fordWe also know that the car follows our eyes. We steer in the direction we’re looking. That part of our human instincts can be used to our benefit, for when we look through a corner, we naturally steer through it. But there’s one minor glitch to this process.

Imagine approaching a right hand corner. As you get close to the turn-in point, you turn your head and look to the apex. What happens if you do this quickly, if you sharply turn your head and look directly at the apex? Right, the car will go directly there, because your hands follow your eyes. And that means you’ll apex early because you didn’t arc the car towards the apex.

Instead, what you want to do as you approach the turn-in point is look to, and through, the apex, but along a curve. It’s like you use some type of curved superhero vision – “Look! It’s Curved Vision Man! He can see around corners!”

To make matters even more challenging, as you approach the corner, you need to keep one eye on the turn-in point, while the other is on this curved path around, to, and through the apex, all the way out to the exit or track-out point. And with each fraction of a second that passes as you travel ahead, your visual picture has to move, adjust, adapt.

This is why looking up and ahead is so important – it results in a bigger picture, allowing you to use your peripheral vision more. It’s also why it’s critical that your eye movement is fluid and constant. Training and practicing this is a never-ending process. Fortunately, you can practice this while driving on the street or highway. In fact, that’s by far the best place to practice; if you wait until you get to the track to do it, it’ll make your performance driving clumsy and mechanical – not natural. It’ll feel as though your mind is trying to be in two places at once. Practice using your vision in your everyday driving and you’ll be that much faster when you’re on the track.

Check back here often for more tips and advice for performance drivers, race drivers, high performance driving instructors, and anyone else interested in learning to get around race tracks quickly.

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5 Comments

  1. Point your nose where you want to go.

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  2. This tip made the biggest difference for me. I was getting frustrated with my lines and was scanning for just the apex with my eyes and missing the correct turn in, often under-steering. The bit in your book about a driver you witnessed who would look “through” the corner made such a big ‘click’ go in my brain. I’ve been using your methods to train myself to thought-loop into visualizing the track ahead by keeping my eyes on the furthest point I can see and mentally constructing the track beyond.. the result is much smoother lines, more speed, and less stress as focusing on imagining the track ahead forces my other moves into the sub-conscious and into ‘the zone’. THANKS!!!

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  3. Seven more months and this is still the biggest difference maker for me, coupled with breathing, a seat that fits, and a light grip on the wheel.. relax, look down track, and don’t ‘try’ to go fast. Thanks AGAIN!

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  4. This past weekend I had my first true track experience, after years of casual karting and simulation gaming I finally had the two big firsts all at once: first time on a real-life track in a full-size car, and first time racing said full-size car on said real-life track while wheel-to-wheel with other drivers out at Thompson Motor speedway as part of a Lemons endurance race. (Rest In Peace, hyphen key..)

    It was a revelatory day. I can’t remember a day where I learned so much, where so much of what I have visualized and trained for was brought into sharp focus, and reinforced. I could write volumes on the experience, on what I learned about myself, cars, engines, driving, LIFE! However, the biggest moment that stuck with me all comes down to what I’ve known for months: “Look where you want to go, do not look where you do not want to go.”

    My team sent my out first, to let me get a gradual build-up, taking the parade laps before the green flag and then the early laps as people feel out the cars and build pace. 45 minutes in to the stint and I started to reach a state that I had been visualizing, being laps in, feeling the car under me, feeling the confidence build. I started to pick up pace and began following another Volvo as we dove past a slower car on a tricky left into double right before the main straight, at which point I made a characteristically rookie mistake, I focused for a beat too long on the car ahead’s rear bumper and as a result failed to add the few necessary degrees of steering input to make the tightening right. I ran the right tires of the car onto a jagged concrete curb coupled with gravel and sand, which put me into a spin. Thanks to 1000s of spins in VR I was able to instinctively guide the car from a 180 into a complete 360, and out of the line, allowing following cars to avoid me and hold their line; before rejoining the field and entering the pits to debrief. I knew my mistake Immediately, and I broke it down with my teammates.

    We suffered a litany of mechanical problems after just a couple hours’ running and so I didn’t get back into the car until the following afternoon, where I was able to prominently reinforce the earlier lesson.. warmed up and beginning to push I entered the same part of the track where I’d made my error, and watched the events unfold before me for another driver, I saw him trying to tail the fast car, clearly staring at its taillights, and I watched him plow wide as I had, and get pitched into a spin. Then I realized if I kept looking at him making my earlier mistake I would be suckered into it again as well! My vision snapped to down track and around to the where I knew I needed to go, breathed the throttle to avoid the spinning car, and charged down the straight.

    A few days of internal debriefing and these moments are still ingrained into my head. In the simulator the past two nights I’ve driven with more confidence than ever before, and my “vision programming” has been more permanently pressed into my muscle memory, my eyes darting to the next data points quicker, more subconsciously.

    So once again, I thank you, Ross, your book gave me the tools I needed to get the most out of the experience, to feel prepared and ready to learn… and with one race down I look forward to 1000’s more and the learning that lays ahead!

    Reply
    • Marrek – Thanks for sharing your story here. Fantastic! What a great experience, right?!

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