Book Review – Bounce by Matthew Syed

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51svTz9Z8NL._SS500_Letters will return next month (email mar yannh@kar if you have something to say), but this month I’m reviewing a book that has impressed me. In fact I read it in one sitting on the way up to the Larkhall Rotax Super One!

I read quite a lot of books on achievement, motivation and general self-improvement, both because I want to do the best job I can at what I do, and also because I’d like to understand what makes one driver a high achiever and one not, even though we can see that both have similar levels of “talent”.

Bounce by Matthew Syed is the first
book I’ve read that specifically relates to sport, although there are parts of Outliers
by Malcolm Gladwell that are relevant to motorsport, particularly the opening chapter about the effects of having an early birthday on ice hockey players. I hope that sort of thing is considered when setting the age limits for Super Cadet, Minimax and the like.

Syed used to be a top table tennis player and draws on that experience and prior research to explore how people get to be the best in the world at what they do.

Bounce draws two main conclusions about sporting excellence.
I think there are lessons

to be learned
by kart racers who want to improve without big budgets or outstandingly obvious talent.

The first
conclusion is that
talent is rarely
innate and can be
developed, and
depends on a lot of factors. In motorsport the most obvious factor is simply having
the money to do it, but it could also include having the right parents or knowing the right people. Syed attributes his success to simply a chance present and an inspirational teacher. So far, so depressing.

But more encouraging is his description of “deliberate practice”. This just refers
to focusing on the elements of your performance that need most work in a way that will actually improve them, rather than just blasting round the track. I know of a lot of people whose father or team managers have set them challenges like getting them to brake at a traffic cone, and slowly moving the cone nearer the corner. Another one was the driver whose father refused to buy him wet tyres as a Cadet until he could handle slicks in the wet. Even at 30ish his level of kart control was outstanding.

Putting in ten identical laps may be ideal for getting your kart set up but you might be sacrificing driver improvements so drivers should try to make time for both. Ayrton Senna talked about similar attitudes in his classic driving book and made suggestions about psychological approaches.

Syed also talks about “illogical” aspects of high performance, such as religious belief that evaporates when the sportsperson retires and doesn’t “need” it any more, and about how not to choke at a major event.

The dark side is also covered, including cheating – apparently most people cheat because they think everyone else is doing it and therefore it’s their only chance, rather than out of having a defective personality! There is also the issue of going into a depression once you have achieved your goal and don’t have a further one to look forward to.

It’s a great book and most of us in the sport would benefit from looking at which principles can be applied to our own circumstances.

Mary-Ann Horley

50, 40, 30, 20 and 10 years ago



A shunt at the 200 lap Shellingford event

A 200 lap race at Shellingford
was won by Bayliss and
Jordan on a Fastakart Villiers.
Miniature motorbikes powered
by kart motors were thought
to have a future for both
competition and road use.
The Lord Taverners organised
a charity kart race at Brands
Hatch between showbiz
personalities and BRDC
members. Graham Hill, Dan
Gurney, Innes Ireland and
Jack Brabham all took part
and were enthusiastic about
the sport but were uncertain
as to whether it could be a
stepping-stone to full sized motorsport.
In the USA, Firestone announced the first manufactured, as opposed to a remould, slick tyre for karts – the Micro- 500. A neat and streamlined kart by Schapel and Orndoff achieved 93mph at Bonneville.

Duffy Livingstone was busy turning out a string of mouth-watering and exotic specials based on suitably modified production Go Kart frames. One of these had a 250cc Puch motor mounted in front of the driver and his next creation had a rear mounted water cooled 250cc twin cylinder Koenig powerplant.


CMYK.09.sept 70
Douglas Bassett at a GB v Holland match at Rye House

Dave Parrott of the Oxford Kart Racing Centre developed the 250cc Sprite motor with a four speed gearbox for kart use. Based on the Swedish Husqvarna, it promised to be a very rugged unit. A team from Malta flew to Cyprus and raced at the Akrotiri and Episkopi tracks. The new track at Longridge had 150 entries and 8000 spectators at its first event. A 15 mile race was held for 250s at Silverstone on the GP circuit during the interval at the Tourist Trophy race. The winner was Chris Merlin on a Zip/Merlin.


CMYK.09.SEPT 1980
Martin Leach, ART/TKM, at the CIK European Team Champs

Bernd Schneider, using a Birel/ Parilla, won the World Juniors at Le Creusot with Ivan Capelli finishing in 4th place and Johnny Herbert 18th. Goodyear tyres were discovered with fake RAC code marks and there were other eligibility problems concerning the Hewland Arrow motor and the Yamaha YZ25OF. Construction of the new track at Temple Manor at Strood in Kent got under way, but after just one event the venue was closed by the local authority.

Douglas Bassett at a GB v Holland match at Rye House


Junior World Champion Jeremie Dufour, Dino/Rotax

The Junior World Champs at Garda were won by France’s Jeremie Dufour on a Dino/ Rotax with Jarno Trulli 2nd. Eric Gassin won the opening round of the Formula E 250cc World Champs at Essen. Mariembourg hosted a Euro Champs round with Fabiano Belletti winning Formula A and Martin Koene heading Formula K Division 2. The RAC Kart Open Day benefited from the input of the Association of British Kart Clubs which had been founded just ten days earlier.


CMYK.2000-09 (September 2000)
Formula Super A European Champion Mario Siegers, Trulli/Vortex

We tested the new TKM 4- stroke engine and a Junior Gearbox outfit. Robert Kubica, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg could be an F1 podium but in fact it was the top three in Race 1 at the Oschersleben Formula A Euro Champs round. Hamilton had already secured the title and was profiled in this issue as was leading Junior racer Paul Di Resta. Mario Siegers of Holland made sure of the Super A crown.