We all can learn a lot from watching professional drivers and their various techniques, especially their level of aggression. While watching recent NASCAR races, I couldn’t help but become aggravated watching entire fields of drivers crashing and destroying millions of dollars’ worth of racecars, not to mention endangering the lives of others. For some, racing is about the crashes. For those of us who truly have a passion for speed, it’s all about being in absolute control. Sure, some will say it’s all part of racing, but the truth is that’s a damn poor excuse. In most of the recent big crashes I’m referring to, they were the result of a single individual who was being overly aggressive.
Having raced with all of the best drivers in NASA and other organizations, something I’ve grown to admire is how top winning drivers can be aggressive among other great drivers and yet most never drive so aggressively that they cause wrecks. I’m here to tell you, it’s an amazingly beautiful site to witness, especially from a driver’s seat, while door to door at speed. Drivers who drive aggressively while maintaining total control of their cars under any conditions, be it weather, closing on considerably slower cars, mechanical issues, and more, simply deserve more respect than you can imagine. They are what the true passion of racing is all about.
If you start out from the first lap being aggressive, then it’s probably too soon. Learn to “feel out” your competitor’s car and learn from him. What do I mean by “learn from him?” If you watch him, he’s telling you everything you need to know. Great drivers will observe every little detail of another driver’s line through each corner or their braking points and so much more, until they see a weakness.
An example of such a weakness might be going just a few inches wide into a specific corner. That’s all it takes, and as soon as even the smallest mistake is made, the barn door is wide open to make and complete the pass. If you’re not observing such details, then you’re not taking advantage when you should. Great drivers aren’t missing the mistakes you’re making, and that’s how they make passing you look so easy without being aggressive.
If you’re waiting until the end of the race to make a pass, then you’re either pushing beyond your capabilities at that point or it’s time you admit to yourself, your car isn’t the only thing that needs work. You’re not going to be any better on race day than you were in practice, so why try things that you haven’t been doing in practice? Ask yourself whether a concert violinist could possibly perform a flawless solo if he or she didn’t practice regularly? How could he possibly perform any better during his big moment than he did in practice? It simply doesn’t happen. You are what you practice.
This brings up my next point: Are you testing, training, getting coached, or are you only signed up for races? Test days are not just for testing some new suspension parts, tires or setup. In other words, great drivers don’t have to drive too aggressively because they already know exactly what their car can/will do under any given circumstance and when they make a pass. It’s clean because they aren’t aggressive. They’re just that good. Are you?
There’s nothing more satisfying in racing than looking over at the car beside you and getting a thumbs up from a master you admire, who is in affect saying, “Good job. Now you follow me.”