The old saying is very true but the one caveat with motorsport is there is never enough time to prepare sufficiently.
The common held belief is it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a maestro at any skilled activity. If you tested solidly 8 hours a day, 5 days a week that would take you 5 years. As a racing driver you do not have that opportunity. You can’t test solidly for 8 hours a day, you need to refuel, change tyres, rebuild the worn out car, train for the marathon 8 hour stint every day.
As such you can never be fully prepared for any event or opportunity but focus on the important things so you can be as prepared as possible.
Have you driven the track before? No? Watch YouTube videos and drive simulators. Have you driven that car before? No? Research the car, ask people who have driven it for their advice. Have you used those tyres before? No? Get some advice.
In short, locate the main weak point in your knowledge for the upcoming opportunity and focus on it.
Any opportunity you get to learn should be grasped with both hands. Be it sitting alongside another driver, watching an in-car video or comparing data, any opportunity to compare and contrast gives you the opportunity to expand your knowledge.
You may find the driving styles offer no comparison but in that case you’ve at least learned there is another way to do it. You may find a new technique to try or an answer to a problem thats been bugging you.
Keep comparing and keep learning.
Modern data logging systems are a goldmine of information but reading and interpreting the data can be difficult especially if you are new to the idea.
The first piece of information you need is the time loss, or delta, to either your fastest or your coaches datum lap. This will show where you are loosing (or gaining) time and the corners to focus on.
The next most important trace is actual speed followed by brake pressure and throttle trace.
With all this info you can see where and how one lap, or driver, is faster than the other and this is the ideal basic dataset.
If you’ve read my books and keep up to date with my tips you’ll have heard me bang on and on about ‘vision’. Where you look is massively important but sometimes you can’t see where you are going due to the corner being on the other side of a crest in the road or hidden by barriers so what do you do?
In this instance you just need to repeat the section over and over again to learn it, commit it to memory. What you need to look for are fixed references: a tree trunk or loudspeaker stand, something that isn’t going to move lap to lap or hour by hour. Use those references as your markers for picking the correct line.
As soon as you clear the obstruction get your vision up again to where it needs to be.
The answer depends on what you want to achieve. Even the best simulators are just that: simulators, so they can never fully replicate the experience of driving a race car but they are fantastic tools for certain things.
If you have a good simulator and you use it for specific things such as learning a circuit or practicing a new technique, they dramatically cut down the learning time when you are on track in your actual car. This makes real tracktime more productive as you are fine tuning your simulator experience rather than learning from new.
Appreciate the separation from real life and focus on specific goals and a simulator will be hugely rewarding.
When the heavens open and the track is awash it fundamentally changes your car’s interaction with the track.
Your relative grip compared to your power output drops significantly so you will need to get the car turned further and pointing more at the exit before you go to the power. Your inputs need to be more measured and smoother to avoid overstepping the lower grip limits but most importantly your vision will move in closer to the car.
Closer vision allows for better reading of the expected grip levels on the road surface ahead. Look more in the mid-range than far away so you can pick up puddles and high grip areas and aim your car accordingly.
Remember, how you release the brake is more important than how you apply the brake. Using the pitch of the car to control the front:rear weight balance and combining this with appropriate steering inputs to rotate the car accurately is the difference between mid-grid and leading the race. Mastering this technique is key to your performance.