“Don’t set out with the target of winning the championship or the meeting or even the race, these targets are not useful. What happens during race day is in the lap of the gods, if something fails or another idiot punts you off there is nothing you can do about it, don’t take it too hard, there is always another race”.
Contentious words? Well, perhaps. At least they would be if they were not coming from Ayrton Senna’s old boss, Alex Hawkridge, ex-Toleman F1 and chairman of iZone.
Think for a minute and all this makes a lot of sense. The only thing that you have any real control over is yourself. You can monitor and deal with your diet, hydration, fitness and how much sleep you get. If the team prepare kart properly the rest is down to luck. “We have a monkey mind… Filled with doubt, if you can get rid of this doubt and make yourself to the best you can be and the rest (victories) will come. Further if you can concentrate for long periods, other drivers will be making mistakes due to lapses whereas you won’t.”
I’ll gloss over the minutiae, it’s suffice to say that with this in mind iZone helps the competitor to prepare both mentally and physically to become a racing driver. They persuade attendees to read great drivers biographies for inspiration. This to prove much as anything the life of a racing driver is not without sacrifice. Let’s be honest, for any young testosterone-fuelled male to be invited to all the best parties to drink nothing but water, perhaps even having adoring fans throwing themselves at you. Returning home to bed, early, sober, and alone must be frustrating to say the least.
They acknowledge that the regime that they would like the driver to stick to can be tough for some to adjust to but eventually this sacrifice becomes a creed, this brought into sharp focus by a daily log of ‘what have I done to further my racing career?’ They want you with a plan for testing, a plan for practice, plan for the race… You get the picture?
It is all about seeing the goal and they reckon (rightly) that the tighter the focus the more chance there is of achieving it, stands to reason really.
Izone believe in driving in the subconscious ‘in the zone’. They believe that a truly great driver will look at the braking point, the apex and then the exit but well before he or she reaches them will be looking well ahead, letting the subconscious mind deal with what’s happening ‘now’.
To some this might sound like the racing equivalent of “Use the force young Luke” but iZone liken it to programming the data points into a computer. When the driver’s peripheral vision registers that the braking point has been reached they will brake, turn in etc. When it comes to giving instructions to the driver they believe in using key works that appeal to the subconscious. For instance they favour using the term deeper rather than later braking.
With the philosophy over it was on to the bit that Ed the driver had been excited about for weeks. The simulator aspect of the day
First into the Gym for a little warm-up, this to get the heart pumping and then as you get into the kart some zen breathing; in through the nose out through the mouth to get some extra oxygen pushed through the body. Settle into the seat eyes closed to relax and start to enter the zone.
It is usual for a driver to be given a kart to ‘drive’ that’s beyond than what they are used to. The logical reasoning behind this is that if you train in something quicker than the norm when you get back into the usual machine, things will appear to happen at a much slower pace giving the driver more time to react as the driver’s reflexes have been honed to work at far greater speeds.
Drivers new to the experience are given around 10 laps to relax and adjust to the simulator before the session really ramps up. Ed reported that the experience made him feel a little sick for the first minute or so (probably a combination of excitement and nerves) but this went away as quickly as it came and never came back.
Once they are happy that the driver can hang together several laps in the chosen machine the session really starts. There is no focus on lap times being competitive or otherwise, it doesn’t matter if a driver is posting times that would win races or put them at the back of the field, the timer is merely a tool to monitor progress. Few if any driver have ever done the ‘perfect’ lap so there is always room for improvement,
Because the kart can do any number of laps of a circuit without going anywhere it can be fitted with a massive amount of telementry equipment and the instructor can literally sit behind the driver analysing the data in real time. A debrief can be done on the fly… “try to smooth your exit phase from this corner” and the results analysed immediately
“Better, far better… you picked up a quarter of a second there.”
More detailed analysis is done on a co-operative basis the driver and the instructor sitting down and looking at the data results, trust me Terence Dove’s eagle eye picks it all up, the good and the bad, and it is all explained in an encouraging and enthusiastic tone. The data collected by the simulator allows every element of lap to be monitored and if possible improved upon.
For advanced drivers it can be used to see the effects of experimenting with things like braking points which can have some surprising results. It is not unusual to find that a slightly earlier braking point can allow a better set up or a more stable kart for following corners and an overall faster time.
Perhaps the most fascinating tool that they use is the laser eye-tracker a deceptively simple looking little device which belies £20k worth of technology. iZone contend that many drivers are fixated by the corner’s apex and follow it to the bitter end when they should be looking ahead. The old assessment technique used to be a good clear photograph, top drivers’ eyes were fixed somewhere in the distance whereas more timid drivers’ eyes were staring down as if embarrassed. The laser tracker adds another dimension to this, one set up and recording a lap can be analysed corner by corner, with the trackers in place it can be seen that even a very good driver’s gaze flicks back to the apex (albeit momentarily) if the kart kicks or squirrels in the braking phase. iZone gradually train them not to take this safety glance but to trust their reflexes.
Those who are not yet looking ahead can be taught corner by corner with the instructor using a laser pointer to show the driver where they should be looking by shining the red dot onto the screen.
It’s been proven that truly great drivers like Senna and Schumacher are almost ahead of themselves, their mind is mapping the track well ahead, of where the car or kart is. What’s happening in the present doing is being dealt with by the subconscious, some might like to call it, driving by the seat of their pants. It this that the team seek to promote.
How much then?
Hawkridge says “The initial 2+ hour assessment costs £95 + VAT. Based on what we learn, we work out a programme, which can include all or some elements of our training.”
“Vision, mind coaching, psychological work, peripheral vision, reflexes, fitness and strength training sometimes involve outside specialists, like Porsche Human Performance Centre, who we work closely with. We cannot quote a ‘one hat fits all’ rate as the programmes we offer are all bespoke and we are not in the simulator rental business like a quite a few companies with car simulators. As a guide, a driver coming to us for comprehensive training, for half a day each month in all areas could spend around £4000 with us.”
Is this good value? Let’s put it this way, in the three hours that we were at iZone Ed says he learned more about refining his technique to drive more quickly than he did in his last season of historic racing… Enough said!
iZone 01327 856 872