By Mary-Ann Horley
We went to visit iZone at Silverstone to find out more about Dan Hazlewood of Fusion Motorsport’s latest project – the iZone Academy.
The facility was set up by John Pratt and Neil Riddiford at the beginning of 2010. John was touring car driver Andy Priualx’s mentor and they wanted to create a facility to develop the whole driver. Hazlewood emphasized that he thought there was a huge amount of time that could come from the driver before the parents start spending large amounts of money on engines etc.
“It’s an effective way of teaching drivers before they get to the track. I started working here at the end of last year. The car sim is totally different but a lot of principles apply. If the driver overdrives you can see that on the sim too and get him to relax a bit. The speed on the sim is similar to what they see on the track.”
He also sees a lot of drivers learning bad habits so he would like to get drivers in who are just starting and sees it as a good foundation for whatever they do. Drivers don’t have to race with Fusion to be able to take advantage of the performance gains available.
When we went, Cadet stars Daniel Ticktum and Alfie Brown were having a training session. At the time the kart simulator wasn’t finished, so they both drove on the single seater simulator. Chief Instructor Neil Riddiford says its still extremely useful for learning lines, braking points, and where to look on the track. The simulator moves in three dimensions and gives feedback through the steering wheel.
But the simulators aren’t all they do at iZone. Drivers can also use the fitness room where there are machines specifically designed for race fitness, although staff are very conscious that there are some activities that aren’t safe for the youngest drivers. There’s a Batak machine, where you hit as many random lights as possible over a minute. I beat Ticktum ‘s first attempt on my go, but I think it’s the only time I ever will as he was determined to get his score up! Drivers with the very best reactions and peripheral vision can do about twice what we did. The gym had just been finished the previous week when we visited in the beginning of August.
There’s also a classroom, and Hazlewood says that he often does classroom-based activities with the simulator session coming next as an incentive to concentrate. I saw some impressive information sheets about Genk, where the team were due to race next, with detailed notes on driving in the dry and the wet, and where and how to overtake.
There’s also the Zone Room, which has a massage chair, soft light sequences, and a video screen where drivers often watch reruns of races to learn from their own or others’ experiences in an environment conducive to learning.
You could say it sounds expensive, but compared to a few days testing it’s competitively priced. It also allows a bit more analysis and the opportunity for a driver to learn from mistakes straight away rather than later on when they are half remembered.
When a driver is using the simulator Neil is talking to them calmly, offering praise and suggestions for improvement. He can rerun the screen at any time in slow motion to further demonstrate principles. It also has full datalogging so a drivers performance can be kept on record.
The big question about any simulator is how closely does performance on it relate to real life? Hazlewood says it’s pretty close, and that he rarely sees a large discrepancy between the performance of a driver on the track and on the simulator. Neil says that the only thing training on the simulator can’t replicate is the bravery needed to race successfully.
The software for the new kart simulator has also been specially developed, and the first track will be Whilton Mill as Fusion are based there.
The iZone Academy:
The iZone Academy will give kart drivers of all ages the chance to benefit from expert tuition at iZone’s state of the art facilities, with courses tailored to every level of karting, from beginners to top championship contenders.
The course has been established with the sole aim of demonstrating how much laptime can be found by improving a driver’s skill level and personal performance rather than spending thousands of pounds on equipment. The course represents superb value for money as participants will learn the key skills they will be need throughout their karting and motorsport careers.
Split into six half-day sessions running during school half terms and holidays, the course will accommodate a maximum of 40 drivers who will be divided into groups based on age and level of experience. It will be adapted for the different needs of everyone from new Cadets to more experienced drivers. Drivers will be split into pairs with an instructor for each pair and time will be roughly split between the classroom, the gym and the simulator and Zone Room. One driver will be on the simulator and one in the Zone Room.
The best six drivers will be chosen on merit for a practical assessment at Whilton Mill, with further detailed instruction and demonstrations on how to implement their new-found techniques. Following the assessment, one driver will be chosen to receive support from Elite Driver Management to continue their training and assist in guiding their racing career.
The Academy programme has been developed with Fusion Motorsport’s Dan Hazlewood, utilising his experience from racing himself and running Cadet kart teams for eight years in which he has secured major championships every season.
John Pratt, iZone’s Performance Director says “It is now a recognised fact that good habits on track need to be developed from a karter’s early stages and the iZone Karting Academy will teach kart drivers of all levels of experience the ‘core’ skills that will carry them through their entire motorsport careers. We have put together a cost effective programme that fits in with school holidays and that hones skills on and off track which will make a real difference in performance to a driver at any level. There is never a shortage of young karters with talent and we aim to give Academy pupils the skills that set them apart from the rest.”
The course will cover the following topics:
Driving technique using iZone’s Kart Simulator
The ‘Vision Method’
Mental approach, focus and concentration
Creating driving plans
Key Word programming
Visualization and mental rehearsal
Establishing a fitness programme (age appropriate)
Diet and hydration
Kart set up and engineering for parent mechanics
Drivers will also have access to powerful web-based tools which include:
A lapping log which will record each of their simulator sessions
The facility to download their data, eye track analysis and session videos
Detailed Test and Race Plans for pre-event preparation
Post event/session de-brief forms
The 2011 iZone Academy will run for:
– two half days during the October half term (between the 24th and 28th October)
– two half days during the Christmas holidays (between the 17th and 21st December)
– two half days during the Easter half term (between the 13th and 17th February)
The 40 drivers taken on the course will be selected on a first come first served basis at a cost of £149+VAT per session which is a total payment for the course £895+VAT. Payment in full is required to secure a place.
iZone is offering a Karting magazine reader the chance to be one of the first on the karting simulator and to receive comprehensive coaching from Neil Riddiford. To have a chance to win this prize just tell us which Grand Prix circuit iZone are based at. Submit your answer on answer on MyKartingWorld.co.uk or by post to:
15 Moorfield Road