When you look at it from a technical point of view, driving is an endlessly complex, detailed task. As a driver, you are managing a myriad of systems on a complicated piece of machinery. All of those different functions have to be co-ordinated by you, otherwise, the whole system doesn’t work and grinds to a halt. On top of that, you are also constantly reacting to the unfolding world around you and making decisions about what path and speed you guide the car on, for the best outcome.
On the road, you are dealing with hundreds of other drivers of wildly differing levels of ability, experience and interest. You are simultaneously giving information to others and trying to assess their intentions while navigating and forward planning your journey. Patience is a virtue.
On the track, you are thinking ahead to the next section; thinking about your road positioning and searching for your reference points. You also have to Look out for flag signals and keep an eye on the mirrors as well as managing the other drivers around you.
Physically your body makes constant adjustments to all of the controls at different rates and times; independently and in harmony with each other.
Because of that, a good driver needs to have excellent feel; feel for the way the grip balance changes with their inputs, feel for the weight of the controls, and a light touch that is damped with every move. They also need feel for the right rate to move their body at; sometimes fast, sometimes slow but never harsh or rushed.
Understanding how and why a car behaves as it does; the ways in which your inputs affect things and how you can harness and manipulate the forces at work, are vital skills if you want to be good at driving. To do all of this properly takes hours of practice; doing it really well requires dedication and an open mind.
What ever environment you are in, the complexity of driving, like any other sport, is beyond the capacity of the conscious mind.
What you rely on is your subconscious programming. This is like your operating system and it is the unconscious mind that does the work. All of your behaviour as a person is a result of your subconscious programming and driving is no different.
How effective you are as a driver is therefore totally controlled by how good your programming is. As a good example, world-class racing drivers can hold full-blown conversations with their engineers while driving on the absolute limit of the car. They can then objectively observe the behaviour of the car and feed ridiculously detailed information back to their crew later on. That is because their subconscious has been programmed and fine-tuned over thousands of hours. The quality of their operating system is very, very good.
The subconscious mind then is very powerful. The problem though is if something isn’t programmed right, it will have a fundamental effect. It also means that if you want to improve or change, it can be a difficult task, but it can be done.
To alter your internal programming takes time and persistent, dedicated practice. Because of that, learning new skills or altering old ones can often seem and feel awkward until it becomes a habit. In fact, you only really know that you have mastered a new skill or updated an old one when it becomes your default behaviour when you’re under pressure and found you didn’t have to think about it.
The other problem is, how do you know if you’re practising the right thing? If your technique isn’t right, all you will do is become really good at doing it wrong!
That is where the role of a coach comes in to play. Skilfully delivered coaching will massively accelerate your development as a driver and help avoid the pitfalls of learning by trial and error. Coaching is a collaborative process with the client at the centre. The true skill of a coach is in asking the right questions in order to drill down into how someone thinks, feels and acts in order to deconstruct it and enable changes to take place. By modelling excellence in others, they can help you to build foundations of technique and thinking that you never could on your own.
A coach cannot do the work for you but they will be a catalyst for change. You, therefore, have to have the right mindset to be successful or your unconscious mind can actually work against you.
In sport, elite athletes strive for mind/body integration so that their entire being is focused on the task at hand. it all comes together they experience a phenomenon known as flow; where everything happens effortlessly. It is the combination of good, technique, proper coaching and lots of practice.
Driving flat out on a circuit, you are looking for that fluidity where you and the car are working together as a whole. Time slows down and you are ahead of what the car is doing. A seamless flow; a blend of technique and balance where you are manipulating the forces at work and bending them to your will.
On the road, you are looking for a smooth, un-rushed drive where your timing through every hazard and obstacle slows time and creates space. You are making good, safe progress, totally in tune with the road you are on.
The art of driving is the fluid blending of every element – physically, mentally and technically. It is where science and creativity meet. The joy of driving is that feeling of being one with the car and the road, whatever the environment and the sense that you are doing something well.
To excel as a driver takes dedication, an open mind, and a willingness to learn. The rush of knowing you have done something well is addictive. Developing yourself is the best upgrade available at any cost and one that will pay you back over and over.