Q: “I have a question as someone who is a sim racer, and not a real racing driver, but I still want to ask how I can practice to become a faster driver? I’ve read your book and it has been very useful, but I’m still not where the fastest drivers are since I’m around 2-3 seconds off the fastest times. I feel like I’m doing everything they are in terms of braking, lines, etc., but still can’t get to their times. Is this all due to me just needing to practice more or is it over for me in terms of getting faster? If it’s due to needed practice then how exactly does one practice getting faster? I’m willing to put in all the time and effort that I can since my goal is to be as fast if not faster than the top guys (also some racing drivers have said one of the ways into racing is e-Sports because some events offer a race season as a prize). I just need to know how to get faster.”
A: One of the great things about sim racing is some (but not all) of the physical limitations one might have don’t show up as much. In other words, if you were 7-foot-tall, you’d have a difficult time fitting in a real race car, but that isn’t the case in sim racing. So, I believe that practically anyone can compete at the top of sim racing. Sure, the last few tenths of a second, and racecraft might separate the very best from the rest, but if you’re 2 to 3 seconds off, that is just a matter of practice to get to the upper levels of the sport.
Of course, what and how you practice – as you point out – is critical. With enough practice time, you will get to within a few tenths of a second of the best. But I suspect you’re like most racers – you want it now, not in a long time from now!
The basis of my success as a coach has been the strategic or deliberate approach I take towards practice. The goal is to learn and improve as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. I’ve written entire books on this subject, but let me give you a short review.
Break the act of driving down into small components and practice them in a very deliberate way. Instead of going on track and just trying to turn the fastest lap time you can, focus on practicing one part of your driving at a time. For example, spend 30 minutes simply seeing how late you can brake for the major corners on a track, and don’t worry if it results in a faster or slower lap time. Experiment with how hard your initial application of the brake pedal is, and where you’re looking. Then spend 30 minutes practicing getting to full throttle a fraction of a second earlier (again, don’t worry about the overall lap time results). Then 30 minutes on using more track; 30 minutes focused on looking farther ahead; 30 minutes on how smoothly you release the brake pedal; 30 minutes on carrying more speed through the middle of the corner; and so on.
As you can see, you’re practicing in a more deliberate way, focusing on the components of driving. Then, every now and then, put them all together and see what the lap times are. Don’t try to force the lap times, but instead, let them happen due to the improvements you’ve made in the components (individual skills and techniques) of driving.
If football teams practiced the way most race drivers did, they would show up at a practice session and play a game. But they don’t do that, do they? Instead, they practice drills – they break the game down into components of the game, such as blocking, kicking, passing, running, etc., and focus on perfecting these individual skills and techniques. You need to practice in the same way.
See my explanation of Sensory Input Sessions here (https://youtu.be/rfOEKo4nJII) as an example of another component you should practice, and this video about practice strategy. And check out a Q&A I did regarding how to practice braking here: https://speedsecrets.com/ask-ross/q-any-recommendations-for-purposeful-practice-improve-braking/.