What's going through your mind as you wait on the grid?

Yesterday I was thinking about stuff as I am wont to do pre-race, and I posed the question

“What’s going through your mind in the pits as you sit there waiting for the track to clear and the race to start?”

What I personally find surprising is how oddly I am able to contain the anxiety and excitement. Mostly I think about the potential of the race, what will this look like? How will it play out? In the week or so leading up to race, I’m a basket case but in the saddle I am quite calm.

All the work is done well ahead of time. To the extent that I can. I ran, I simmed, I talked and read. What comes next is the output of all that in the wildly variable world of racing, I understand that each race is unique and there’s a significant chance that I will DNF for some reason or other. That’s not something you can control.

Basically I go dark, sorta. I guess I’ve learned that my natural anxiety is counter productive and that control is basically an illusion. What will be will be. Adapt, improvise, and just race.

So, in the minutes before the start, what’s percolating in your noggin and does it hurt or help?

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I look around me to see who starts around me so I can make a plan for the start.

My starting plan normally looks like: number 1 starts behind me and we had a fight last race so I will expect him to bump me off, gotta be careful for that. number 2 starts in front of me and I know his engine isn’t the best so he will go to the inside to defend himself. number 3 starts next to me, he is a pretty aggressive driver so he will probably squeeze me or number 2 going into the corner, rip sidepods.

I will take all of this information and make my plan: I expect number 1 to bump me so I definitely have to be on the inside to avoid going off, I will follow number 2 into turn 1. I hope number 3 squeezes me so I can use him as ‘‘cushion’’ if number 1 bumps me.
This was a starting plan for one of my last races.

When I’m done with that I visualize some difficult corners and overtaking opportunities+ how to overtake at these places in at least 2 ways.

after all that I talk about what the tire pressures are at with my dad and in what sectors I have the biggest advantage over other drivers, this last part is important because while driving I can’t see it myself and if i’m fast in the end of S1 I know what my best opportunity is to overtake.

I get in the kart as soon as possible and don’t get out of it in pre-grid, normally with my visor half closed.

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That’s interesting. In masters I don’t have to worry about being punted intentionally. Sounds like your strategy partly involves expecting chaos and trying to premeditate the likely outcome. I too expect chaos but in a “let’s just survive this” way.

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I’m not sure what ‘‘masters’’ are. I guess shifters?

But anyway I have always driven in races with really aggressive drivers (including myself) so that may change how I think of others.

My last race was the BNL 1 (which went horrible) but there was so much ramming/bumping that I almost didn’t even need to use the throttle in sector 1.
In one race I gained 10ish positions without doing a single actual overtake, just waiting for people to take each other out.

I used to have the ‘‘let’s just survive this’’ approach but after a few races it was easy to spot who else did and didn’t. I found out that you could easily take advantage of these drivers in certain scenario’s so then I sort of switched to making a plan for the start which worked out great. I got involved in way less lap 1 crashes and gained more places but also ruined more stickers with contact.

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Masters are old guys. We race at age 40+. It’s another way of saying we’re a bit less in it to win it (but not much less). And I have given up on having a pretty kart with nice stickers!

I imagine that big fields like yours can get pretty nuts. I’ll pay attention to starts and see if I can glean info to try to capitalize on. That is a good idea.

My excuse is that my x30 needs a lap to get going compared to all their nasty and noisy rotaxes.

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“I hope this f*cker starts”

That’s pretty much it

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It is truly baffling how it never seems to want to behave and you have to choke the hell out of it…

That’s 100 life! I forgot to add I often think “why am I doing this?” and have a semi-existential crisis. Racing seems furthest from my mind. Then you get out and you’re ready to go of course. But the moments before a race I just chuckle and the ridiculousness of it all.

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I do the same as Luca pretty much. Just try and visualize all the scenarios that might play out on the opening lap and prepare a loose plan for all of them. Note the drivers around me and use what I know about how they drive to prepare specifically what I think they’ll do on the start.

Then it’s visor down, try and relax and focus until the engines fire.

On the out lap, I try and get some tire temp and “light it up” as @Terence_Dove notes in his book. This has been a big help mentally, as well as performance-wise. My issue has always been getting tire temp in the early laps of the race, it feels like it takes me a few laps to get into my rhythm, so really chucking the kart around on the out lap feels like it helps with that, and it helps me feel all the kart’s limits right away. It’s a bit like stretching before you run. Get everything nice and loose and warm.

Then the green flag drops and all hell breaks loose and it’s about reactions and survival for a few laps.

Thanks for the insights TJ. Ok so far I’m the only one who effectively plugs his ears and tries to tune out and inwards.
All y’all is thinking about the other guys.

Ok so that in mind, I bet Tony gonna try to get inside me on turn 1. He tries that every time and usually he goes for it turn 2 as well. So maybe I take a line that is slightly wider than right on apex. Give him a reason to go there and close it off?

Honestly, I try not to think too far ahead.
I can’t control much what the other drivers do, so I don’t worry about it. I will keep in mind who is around me, for skill levels and what I know about them personally.

I’m like TJ, on the outlap. I like a good slide and wiggle in the kart to help get tire temperature and to get a sense of the amount of grip. Also it’s good to psyche some guys out.

I try to push to about 70 to 80 percent of what I’ll end up doing in the race to feel tires and see what the other guys do around me on the opening lap.

Many drivers take similar lines and mistakes on the outlap, just at slower speeds, so I pay attention to see what I notice about their technique.

Then it’s a deep breath and focus on driving my own go kart.

Normally I can’t wait to get in the kart. It’s the area that I have the most control of the situation.

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Honestly looking back at my races, I don’t think I really think of anything sitting on the grid. It’s just blank. I assume it’s similar to what people do when fishing, I’ll sit in my kart, visor cracked open a bit, staring ahead.

I do make note of which drivers are starting where before I get into the kart like TJ said, but I don’t think of much. Planning my race is usually done in the pits before I even get to the grid.

On the starts, I have the same issues as TJ. Being as light as I am and mostly lower body, I sometimes have trouble on opening laps with really low tire pressure. I tend to really chuck the kart around as much as I can up until we form in the grid, sometimes even coming along the front straight if we still have time before speeding up.

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That’s interesting Aaron. I had never considered that weight changes things in terms of outlap tire warm up.

I am significantly lighter this year and am doing better getting up to speed faster but that’s probably just experience starting to come into play.

Yeah, it’s could be something to think about when talking about 20+ lbs. difference. I’m not sure how much of a change it’ll actually be though.

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Just a quick question.

How long do you heat up your tires?
I always cook them when I try to ‘‘light it up’’ so I can only do it for one or two corners, but I might also just overdo it.

How do you define ‘cooking’ them?

Personally, I’m more concerned with letting them sit out on the pre-grid getting set too high, then I do overheating them once I get going.

I typically bring a tire gauge to set them up until the last minute we roll out.

I can’t imagine you could overheat a tire in two corners, so I think maybe you’re feeling something different.

I push the whole out lap and then scrub them aggressively while forming up for the green.

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They are already way to hot on the formation lap

Maybe it has to do with different tarmac?
I’m sure it has to do with pressure/temps.
I drive on mojo d5 with otk and for the race (7 laps) we leave with a tire pressure around 0.55 bar in the rear and 0.60 in the front. When i get off track they are around 0.65 in the rear and the front stays 0.60.
After around 10 laps of normal practise, when there isn’t so much rubber as on the race weekend they can easily rise to 1 bar in the rear. Front never has problems.

I’m going to the track today and if we have some extra time I will try and see how much I can heat them up in one lap.