Performance & Race Driving Tip

Speed Secret: Turn your head to follow the path you want your car to follow.

race-driver-visionWhen I’m coaching a driver, whether from the right seat, the side of the track, or using video, one thing I constantly look for is how the driver turns his/her head to look through the corners.

I’m sure you’ve been told many, many, many, many… times to look further ahead when driving on the track. You’ve probably told yourself this many, many… okay, you get it, many times. In fact, you can’t be reminded of this enough. Is it because we get in the habit of looking at the taillights of the car just in front of us when driving on the street? For some reason, we humans like to look at bright shiny objects, like taillights, so it’s possible that we’ve made looking just one car ahead a habit.

But looking further ahead is just part of what a driver needs to do with their vision. It’s knowing where to look ahead that matters most.

One of the reasons I suggest that drivers should look for the End-of- Braking point (the point where your foot fully comes off the brake pedal as you enter a turn) is that it forces you to look into the turn – past the turn-in point – while approaching the turn.

As you approach the turn-in point you should be looking for and through the apex towards the exit of the turn. And that’s where things get a little tricky…

If you suddenly turn your head just before you get to the turn-in point and look for the apex, you’re likely to turn the steering wheel too abruptly – too quickly. Why? Because your hands follow your eyes, and if you turn your head too quickly, you’ll turn the steering wheel too quickly. This will likely result in too early an apex.

The great golfer Jack Nicklaus spoke of how he would focus his eyes on where he wanted the ball to land, and then reverse engineer the way he wanted the ball to get there. He would follow the path he wanted the ball to follow with his eyes, only in reverse, back to where the ball was sitting. You should do the same type of thing with your vision – only you don’t have time to imagine the pathway in reverse like you do in golf. (Side note: while golf and racing/driving are similar – both very mental activities – the difference is that in golf you have too much time to think, and in racing you have too little time).

As you approach a corner, turn your head and look at and through the apex, but have your eyes follow the imaginary pathway that you want the car to travel on.

That’s why I like to watch the movement of drivers’ heads. If they don’t turn, they’re not looking far enough ahead; if they turn too quickly, they’re not following the path they want to car to travel on; if they turn their head at just the right pace and direction, I know the car is going to go where he/she wants it to go.

Is this an easy thing to do? Nope. Nobody said it would be easy. But with practice, on the street and the track, you’ll make a habit of turning your head and scribing the arc you want your car to follow, with your vision.

Can you see what I’m saying?

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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