#556 RACING IS LIFE – S5 E3 – BASICS – PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT?

How do we get better in anything in life? Through repetition? Through practicing? Through reading about it? Through exposing ourself to certain situations? Through trial and error? Through analyzing the mistakes of others?

There might be thousands of ways how to describe this process the best, but in the end it all just means the very same!

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

Vince Lombardi

The infamous quote about the subject. But thinking it through until the very end, this guy is completely right! At the end of the day, time is limited. That’s a fact! Have you ever heard about the 10.000 hour rule? Well, it basically says that you need that much time in order to become an expert in a certain field. With that said, you can hardly become an expert in a lot of different fields at the very same time! At least not if you are a normal human being with a kind of a social life and a sleeping pattern that demands at least some 7 hours a day straight. But nevertheless, the question of all questions is of course:

What is the right thing to do?

Me driving a formula student car.

In this modern age, sometimes I really wonder why we have become so analytic. We look at a topic and instead of just doing it over and over again until we learn from our own experience, we surf through the World Wide Web, watching YouTube videos and tutorials and read stuff about it before doing anything. Sure, why not! I mean, I would do the very same thing! But the question is, how professional do you want to become?

Looking back at the first couple of semesters in my mechanical engineering program at University, for sure, I was seeking for the holy grail of preparing for the exams. In fact, everybody was doing it! But after a couple of years, let’s say two or three, each and every student had found his or her own way of doing it. Some, like me, we would start right at the beginning of the semester, doing a lot of summarizing and repeating all the way to the end, while others would enjoy life definitely a bit more and start somewhere around two weeks before the exams, basically, right at the moment when their guilty conscience finally won the battle against the internal procrastination drive. And sure, looking at the results, some might say that you can see a positive tendency towards investing more time than others. But is that even true? Is it really the time that is important, or is it the way you spend your time?

In the past, the world of racing was very simple. Practice time was highly limited and really expensive. Therefore, drivers needed different skills than they might need today. Why? Because today, you can basically simulate anything. Just imagine being a race car driver in the 1980’s, participating in a 24h race at the Nürburgring. You would arrive at the track during the week, having some time in the car, let’s say three hours in total, because your team mates want to drive as well, and that’s it. It is a new car you have never even driven before, you don’t know the track very well, and sure, you were never actually driving their in the night! Hmmm, sounds like you need to be able to adapt things quickly in order to be fast. But lets jump fast forward a couple of 40 years and look at todays possibilities. I was never driving, or standing on the Nürburgring track in real life. But nevertheless, I know every single corner. I was driving the track in the night, in the morning light, with rain, in heavy fog, with other cars, with no cars, with a different setup, with a damaged car and the list goes on and on. I have literally crashed in each of the corners multiple times. And that’s the difference between the past and today. Sure, the simulator is not the same as in real life! Don’t make the mistake to assume that! But it is helping you a lot to get used to doing stuff. I have done so many laps of the track, I know how to fight for a position, I know where to be careful in the rain. And all of this would of course helping me, if there is a race coming up. Because I don’t show up at the place, looking for the lights, or braking points, or whatever. I just know a lot of these things and even better, have developed the skill to drive a car at its limit without feeling anything in my static simulator. Which means that once I am out there in the real world driving, you get this magical sense of feeling which makes things even more easy. Therefore, you do not even know what to do, but also feel it finally. Definitely an increase of your safety measures.

But what should you do? Where to set the focus?

Depending on the level of skills you currently have, this is of course a very easy thing to find out. If you are right at the beginning, you need to start with the absolute basics. Learning the tracks, learning the driving styles, learning to fight for a position and so on. Then, when your skills have improved, its time for you to get into the details! Meaning that now you can start working on the setup of a car, you can practice being consistent under every weather conditions and stuff like this. But you need a simulator for this? Not necessarily! I mean, the alternative is always to go karting, or actually get a car for the track and practice over there. Sure, it’s bloody expensive, but it’s an alternative.

I, for my part think that the simulator is the best thing you can get your hands on, until you reach around 90%, before actually changing into a real race car. Why? Because you will reduce the amounts of mistakes by quite a lot. Meaning, that maybe, you will only destroy three cars in your career instead of five. Which is by the way, a lot of money you can invest otherwise!

But in the end, the thing about practicing is quite easy. The more you think about something and the more time you invest into something, the better you will become! Not because you are doing more, but because you are doing it more often in the right way. Comparing my todays skills with the skills I had 5 years ago, I can not understand how I could ever claim that I was a good driver being 20 years old, when in fact, today I know that I was not. Sure, I was not bad for someone that had nothing to do with racing. But yeah, let’s not talk about it!

The thing I want to tell you with this post is this:

It is always up to you! You need to invest the time, the money, the energy! For sure, you can look for the best coach out there, learning from the professionals. But in the end, they will not turn the steering wheel for you in your first race, when you will be so nervous that your legs start to tremble and you can’t even brake! Therefore, you need to find your own way to the top. You need to figure out a way, how you can constantly improve upon your skills, preventing yourself from plateauing out. Therefore, perfect practice makes perfect, I agree! But it needs to be the right thing for you! Not for people in general.

The key to success? Commit to your mission and do the best you can every single day!

See you next time!

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