What do you think about when you're driving

So, my friends and I packed up our stuff and decided to run all the way to South Bend, Indiana yesterday for a practice session with the reasonable weather, and I realized something that’s reasonably important.

I drive just about completely mindlessly. Not in a bad way, but the moment I actually start thinking about my driving, I do terrible, so my fastest laps have been when I drive without thinking whatsoever.

What this means is that I can never remember what the kart handled like, making tuning with me a nightmare. I’m lucky to remember what the kart felt like at any point, and I have rarely ever been able to tell changes made to a kart.

I did notice yesterday that when I focused on counting the number of times I had to countersteer during a lap, my times went down by almost half a second.

So what I’m wondering here is how do you think on the track. I know some people drive almost purely on instinct, which is I think what I do, while others can be much more technical on track. This is also something I see a lot of people unsure of when they’re starting, so clearing this up would be really helpful.

I always try and keep tabs on what the kart is doing on entry, apex, and exit of each corner type. So making sure I know how the kart is reacting on fast corners and slower corners, as well as paying attention to how that is all changing over the course of the run. If the kart is handling well, I don’t pay much mind to it anymore and focus more on the race. Given that I’ve got so many laps on so many tracks, it isn’t so much me thinking about my turn-in points and apex points anymore, that’s basically muscle memory at this point, but instead I am more focused on planning on my race. Deciding on overtaking places, pinpointing where other drivers are weak, counting laps down to figure out how much time I have to get the job done, paying attention to any threat coming up behind me, and trying to limit mistakes to zero.

The best drivers like Senna always talked about being “in the zone”. Where you’re driving by instinct and you have a sort of tunnel vision to the task at hand. You’re driving at 101% and not making any mistakes. My goal is always to get to that level of focus while retaining the ability to feel the kart and how it’s reacting.

It’s not super necessary to have a really technical and observant mind when you’re on the track. I remember Jamie Sieracki once asking me how the kart felt after a session and I broke it down entry to exit on every corner, and he was like, “…how can you remember all that?” He drives more by feel. He just knows how to adjust his driving on-track or adjust the chassis based on the raw feelings he’s getting on-track, and he’s seriously one of the best all-rounder drivers I’ve seen in karting. There’s always a few ways to drive fast.

I would say the way I do it, planning my race out, comes more from experience. Some of these younger, less experienced kids focus only on going as fast as possible, not on overtaking technique or planning the best spot to pass. They don’t weigh the risk/reward for their moves, they just act impulsively, so even though they are ballistic fast, they can’t race because they make contact, waste time with moves that aren’t there, or end up crashing. Racecraft is a wholly separate entity to driving fast. I’ve learned over the years that I’m not the fastest driver on raw speed, so I’ve always focused on racecraft and tactics. You gotta play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

I wandered off-topic a bit… But I can’t stop talking/typing when it comes to driving theory.


You say that like we don’t enjoy reading your posts about driving theory!

Peri definitely relate more to Jamie’s method than yours - I could never remember that much stuff! I’m lucky to remember more than 2 turns of the entire session

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That’s a really good question. My approach is similar to TJ’s. But that was easier to do when driving cars because I had lots of laps on the tracks we go to and employ the use of simulators heavily. Figuring out sprint karting has been a big challenge though, with the local track still being “relatively” new to me. I haven’t spent much time on kart tuning based on feel, and only adjust based on data (including tire data). So what have I been thinking about in the 4 “practice” outings this year?

For me, it’s literally turn in point, apex, track out, next corner, look ahead, repeat. Finding a consistency I can repeat given what I’ve learnt previously. The goal is to be able to hit the same marks over and over with minimal deviation. Then I do a data analysis and only think about the change I need to make on track based on the data. Once I hit that consistency again about 3 laps in to the 2nd session, I make 1 or 2 adjustments and do that over and over again.

Racecraft is traditionally my strong point and what I think about in a race. I repeat 2 mantras. #managethegap #minimizemistakes. I have a wandering mind, so really focusing on 1 or 2 goals alongside “next corner” has worked well for me. My racing has always been about maximizing the result for the day (I’m usually a leader of the mid-pack sort of driver, with occasional flashes of brilliance). I usually have a decent strategy and know where I’ll take my chances based on where I’m stronger than the competition around me.

This might not have been extremely helpful, but I’ll be sure to update as I figure this out some more.

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It depends on whether I’m testing, or I’m racing.

If I’m testing, I’m trying to make the kart (or myself) show it’s weakness. Where am I having trouble turning, accelerating or braking? Is it the same corner each time, or same type of corner? Normally when I’m testing, I’m pretty analytical about what the kart is trying to do.

What I try to remind myself is to let the kart run a full race distance, before I start making tweaks. I want to see if the kart is coming in or going out. That way, I’m more likely to tune towards the scenario I want, vs just a reactionary thing.

I try to think about which single tweak do I want to make each time, so that I can measure whether the changes are helping or not.

When I’m racing, I’m just focusing on the road ahead of me, and the people that I’m battling. I spend put more attention on the guy in front of me, so I can figure out what changes to my driving I need to do is in order to close a gap up. The guys behind me can do what they want, because I can’t do too much to affect them, unless I’m defending from an attack.

Unless the kart’s handling is terrible, I’ll just log those thoughts in the back of my mind, and drive the best I have to the package I’ve got (since I can’t come in and change it, mid battle.)

Granted, I’ll be keeping in mind where good attack points might be, and also where I’ll might find myself coming under attack, so I’m not as surprised. (But, I normally keep that thinking for during a track walk. :wink: )

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Looking Cool


Only the essentials, naturally

True story: My best race performance was while thinking about the burger waiting for me at the pits. I was just so damn hungry! :hamburger:

Coming from an autocrossing background I was indoctrinated to be more reactive then predictive. I will react in real time to things fast and I have very good peripheral vision, so I don’t need to do a lot of planning unless I’m thinking where and when to pass or where to upset a line. I know how my kart works and it’s best/worst characteristics, so I drive around those.

I’m OK with it all, it makes karting more enjoyable and evidently still works fine.

Depends on session, what/where I’m racing, but here’s the jist:

Before session (on grid or such): I try to keep my mind off the racing actually. Often think about a place I’d like to visit, or a goal I am working to achieve outside of racing. This keeps me from ever feeling nervous or anxious and is probably my single greatest strength compared to those I typically race with…I’ll let everyone else be nervous for me lol.

During Practice: During practice I focus on pace, I focus on getting fast without being on the line and things like that. Basically, thinking and trying to build a skill set other drivers aren’t working on. Braking from the inside of the track into turns, and learning to be quick like that. I’m big on talking quietly in my helmet (or on the radio in the cars…my crew guys hate me lol) and I find by saying things out loud it gets them out of my head quicker.

During Qualifying: Probably when I am the most focused. I’m very quiet and focus only on breathing and being fast.

During Racing: I differ from some of those above as I do not focus on the cars/karts in front of me. My focus is on the track and hitting my marks. I do watch and take notes of the other drivers out the corner of my eyes, but I never directly watch and see what they’re doing. I found that when I did that in the earlier parts of my career I found myself making the same mistakes they did, and I actually ran slower.

During the race I really think about breathing, and the basics of driving…am I getting the most out of my inputs, etc? I never think about setup (unless im in the cars because I can sometimes change it) as once you’re out there it’s too late to do anything. I’ll think about it after the race, and can break it down by entry/middle/exit for each turn, but I never dwell on it during.

Not sure if this helps anyone, but found .02 in the parking lot this morning…


:nerd_face: I’ll stay after class professor!!! Aha