Copyright Dennis Macchio
FDR, during his first Inaugural Address, was quoted as saying, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” An inspirational line, especially as a nation was plummeting into the greatest economic depression it had ever known, but not quite accurate. For those of us involved in motorsports, there are many things to fear, besides fear itself.
Much as the gas pedal is the great throttling device that dictates when, and how much a car will accelerate, fear is the throttle of how close, and how often a driver approaches or reaches the thresholds of his equipment.
The two constants associated with fear in the cockpit is that everyone experiences it, almost no one admits it.
My definition of fear, repeated in every school I’ve conducted of 30 years, is quite simple. Fear is not knowing the outcome of an action you are about to take, in short, unpredictability. In performance driving and racing, this equates to the following:
- Not a full understanding of your limits
- Not a full understanding of your vehicles limits
- Inexperience in early detection of exceeding those limits
- No game plan for the occasional “over extension” beyond the limits
It is as a result of this definition that a part of both my teaching and coaching philosophy is based on the idea that fear is a tool for improvement, not an impediment to success.
Fear As A Tool:
Converting fear from an impediment to a working tool is challenging, but very achievable, and it starts with the acceptance of its existence.
At the beginning of any seminar and class, I usually ask the group if any have fear on the race track. No one raises their hand without some coercion. Once I get a few hands, almost all of the rest join in. For those who don’t, I make a quick mental note to avoid any right seat coaching with them. And, by the way, fear is not only related to the risk of injury. There is also fear of failure, looking scared, crash damage expense, loss of opportunity and for the pros, loss of a ride. When I do large corporate programs, I usually coerce senior managers to come out a week in advance for “pre tuning.” Every boss fears looking bad in front of his employees.
Once fear is openly acknowledged, the task of teaching and coaching becomes much more simple.
Fear awareness will dictate the pieces of the puzzle where knowledge, understanding, and/or practice is needed. It helps illuminate an individual’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to, among others, eye technique, processing skills, decisiveness, feel, focus and more.
From there, a good instructor or coach can develop a game plan, an overall learning/practice strategy (system), for the development of the driver. As the driver learns, and builds reps, the predictability of outcomes becomes clearer, confidence goes up, and in asymptotic fashion, maximum thresholds are approached.
The alternative strategy is to ignore fear, which leads to large mistakes, which ultimately leads to ever increasing levels of fear. At some point, it can no longer be ignored. The world is full of drivers who scared themselves out of the sport, or worse.
I’ve taught and coached thousands of students, and have almost never said “you need to go faster.” The reduction of fear and the concomitant improvement in driving/racing happens on a different time schedule for every individual.
That having been said, fear is never zeroed out. Mechanical failure and competitor incompetence are the bête noire of the experienced participant, among other things.
How does one go about developing the “system”? Ah… there in lies the reason for the existence of, and need for good professional driving and racing schools, and indeed good driving coaches.
That is why we brought you here. Whether its schooling or coaching, I would love to teach you some of the following:
- Ocular Driving Technique
- Straight and Curved Auto-pilot
- Risk Management (Driving)
- Risk Management (Racing)
- Early Problem Identification
- Early Opportunity Identification
- Pre-processing and Visualization
- Scenario Forecasting
- Line Geometry (Simple and Advanced)
And so much more.
That is why I drew you here.