In this post, I am going to reveal exactly the methodology Blayze coaches use to help thousands of drivers go more than 1 second a lap faster after only one coaching session.
In this case study, the driver is racing at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. They uploaded their video on a Friday night after three practice sessions that day. A few hours later they got their coaching session back and the next day they dropped more than 2.3 seconds a lap for qualifying and the sprint race. The steps we follow here will work for drivers of any skill level, in any car, on any race track.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of contents:
Chapter 1: How To Review Your Video
The first step of reviewing your video is making sure you have the right camera setup. For the less experienced driver, it’s helpful to have a camera system like an AiM SmartyCam or VBOX HD2 that can display things like your throttle percent or brake pressure right on the video.
For the most experienced drivers, like our coaches, we can tell where you get to throttle, how hard you brake, where you brake, etc. off a simple Go-Pro or even an iPhone video. There are pros and cons to every camera system but the most important part is to position your camera to see out the front of the car. Having your hands and steering wheel in the view is nice to have but not necessary.
When it comes to self-analyzing your video there are some common mistakes you need to avoid:
1. Letting your bias from the session get in the way:
Studies show novice athletes and coaches only remember 17.2% of their game or race accurately. The great thing about video is that it documents what actually happened. When you watch your video, you don’t want your thoughts of what you “think” happened to influence how you view your video.
2. Not focusing on anything specific:
When a Blayze coach reviews your video and or data we are looking at 6 very specific things (we’ll break these down below). In racing, it’s critical to distill down all the actions we need to take to go fast into a hierarchy of what matters most. And in what order do we need to work on things. Without that, we are aimlessly trying to add speed without a plan and that is where risk rises dramatically and typically where our speed plateaus or even goes backward.
3. Not having the system set up to work properly before hitting the track:
There’s a lot to remember here; making sure the camera is on, making sure the SD card has enough space and is inserted into the camera, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come off track only to realize I messed up one of these basic steps and didn’t get any video from the session!
4. Giving themselves too many things to work on:
A critical part of improvement is simplifying a complex sport and distilling down what to focus on in an actionable manner. When we give ourselves multiple notes for every corner we put too much on our minds to think about, all while also trying to execute.
Okay, now that we have downloaded our video and we’re sitting down to watch it. What’s the best process to follow?
Typically our practice sessions are about 20 minutes long. In-between sessions your time is very limited and you have plenty to do; so we’re going to walk you through how to review your video in a way that should take no longer than 10 minutes:
Step 1: Find the quietest place you can
Race tracks are a loud and distracting environment. When we get set to do our reviews you want to find the quietest place you can with little to no distractions. You want to make sure you have the volume on so you can hear the sound from your video while you watch it.
Step 2: What laps to view
Open up your video and race hero or wherever you have the lap times listed for the session. We first want to review a couple of our “average” laps and then we want to review our fast lap. So, let’s say in a session you ran 5 laps and 3 of those laps were in the range of 1:44.1 - 1:44.7, and then your fast lap was 1:43.2. We first want to look at a couple of laps in the 44-second range. Our fast lap is an outlier and we want to view what we “normally” do to make it easier to see what we did differently on our fast lap.
Step 3: Use slow motion
When we review videos we don’t just watch videos at full speed for 5 minutes straight. There are so many micro factors that lead to speed. You need to utilize slow-motion video to be able to view the critical moments in-depth. My favorite video player to use when reviewing videos is Quicktime. You can use your left and right arrow keys to go frame by frame forward and back in the video. If your video file is a .mov file you will need to use VLC. In VLC if you use your “e” key you can go frame by frame forward (they don’t let you do the same thing backward).
Step 4: Identify 2 focus areas
When we review our laps and find all the things we did better on our fast lap, and add notes on how we could have further improved it, you will likely end up with a decently long list. Now comes the time to pick one or a maximum of two things to work on for the next session. This is the step where having a coach is most critical. Our job as coaches is to know all the things a driver needs to improve, know the order of what to work on next, simplify the complexity of driving fast and the steps to take, and use all of that to provide a simple coaching session that gives a driver the what, why, and most importantly the **how** to make the changes necessary for these one or two focus areas.
In our case study, our driver didn’t have to worry about self-analyzing or learning any of these steps. All they had to do was download their video, upload it to their coach at the end of the day, and let their coach do all of this work for them!
In the next section, I’ll break down exactly how we identify these focus areas.
Chapter 2: How To Develop Focus Areas
The process we use to develop focus areas works for drivers of all levels. We use this to help drivers after their very first track day and I’ve used the same techniques to teach my teammates in IMSA at the Daytona 24-hour.
Our Blayze coaching methodology is rooted in the fundamentals of how to drive a racecar fast & safely. In our methodology, we have very specific fundamentals and a very specific order for them. Here are the Blayze racing fundamentals in order:
- Vehicle Placement
- Vision & Focus
- Motor Controls
- Brake Adjustability
- Turn in rate & point
- Body position
When we review your videos and data we are looking for each of these 6 points and are sub-pointers for each of the 6 fundamentals in every corner. Our job is to know which fundamental is the weakest in every corner, find a theme in every corner to distill down the major technique issue, and build an action plan for how to improve that.
It’s this methodology that allows us to provide a coaching session that not only helps a driver at one track but instead gives them an action plan to take into any race weekend or track day at any race track. As you can see the number of notes/pointers can add up quickly and the art of coaching is how to filter all of that down into something that is simple to understand and allows a driver to make the changes necessary. It is extremely difficult to do and why very few coaches make it through the Blayze coach application process.
So, let’s use our driver here to give some examples. First, take a look at their lap here:
As a coach, when I initially review the video, here are my notes in just one corner:
- Driver slowly releases throttle into the brake zone
- Driver brakes too early and does not have the correct brake pressure slope
- Driver does not reach peak threshold braking in this corner and they should
- Driver is on throttle too early
- Driver apexes too early
- Driver does not open hands early enough and get out to track exit curb early enough
- Driver is late to full throttle
- Driver needs more entry/mid-corner speed
Okay… that’s a LOT of notes. Now imagine something similar to that in all 12 corners at Buttonwillow raceway - talk about information overload! Now, for those of you reading this article thinking, “well I’m faster than this driver so I won’t have as many notes”. I’ve got some news here… even when I study my own driving the length of my notes is pretty long, so I’ve yet to come across a racer in the SCCA, NASA, etc. that won’t have a similar length of notes in most corners.
Now, this is where the coaching comes to life. The next step is for me to determine the root cause of **why** all of this is happening, what is the first step to fix, and how are we going to fix this.
When I look at the notes I want to get to our root problem first and I use our list and order of fundamentals to do that. Where most drivers or amateur coaches focus on is the “driver needs more entry/mid-corner speed”. They tell themselves, “I just need to roll more speed here and that means I just need to brake deeper!”…. WRONG place to start. That’s exactly where we increase risk and typically go slower.
When I view this I see a theme in these points:
- Slow release off throttle
- Early apex
- Not opening hands early enough and using all the track at corner exit
- Driver is early on throttle
All of these show a lack of proper reference points and eye movement. It’s clear this driver does not know the 5 reference points in every corner and does not know where they should be looking. It’s clear they don’t have a very specific point for where the “slow point of the corner” is and where they should apply the throttle.
Before we start trying to brake later, roll more entry speed, get back to full throttle earlier, fix how we use the brakes, get to threshold braking, etc. we need to fix the above first. How do I know this? Well, vehicle placement and vision are 1 and 2 on our fundamentals list!
The secret here is that when these fundamentals are off in one corner, they are likely off in every corner. See if you can identify that in the video above! Now, we’ll cover how I start putting a coaching session together in the next chapter.
Chapter 3: The Coaching Session
Now that as a coach I’ve identified the root area our driver needs to work on is finding proper reference points and eye movement I’m ready to film my coaching session for them.
I want to use as few words and as simplified language as possible to give my driver the feedback they need to make improvements. I want to focus first on the correct reference points in each corner and then I will dig into the timing of when we move our vision from one reference point to the next.
First, let’s cover what a reference point is. When we are traveling at high speeds we as drivers need to use reference points to help determine our car placement in every corner. A reference point is a specific non-moveable point (no we aren’t using cones or moveable objects here) that we use to help judge where we are at any point of a corner.
Every corner has 5 reference points. If you want to learn more about the 5 reference points in every corner, why they’re important, and how to find reference points check out this in-depth article.
In the coaching session with my driver, I will introduce the major technique change I want to see them work on first: finding those reference points in every corner. I will explain what they are, why they are important, and how we find them. I will then walk through their lap, corner by corner, and point to the specific points in every single corner.
From there I will introduce the concept of how we time our eyes to move from reference point to reference point. At Blayze we use the OODA Loop methodology to teach eye timing. Now my driver has a very clear one-two action item list:
- Review the reference points in every corner and visualize them
- Work on the timing of our vision moving from one reference point to the next
This allows my coaching session to be easily digestible in-weekend (only last 10 - 12 minutes) so that my driver can watch and re-watch it at night, in the morning, and in-between sessions to keep referencing it. As they come off track the next day and do their video review they now have very specific points to watch for in their self-analysis.
Chapter 4: Applying The Coaching
Okay… this is the hardest part, now I have to go out on track and actually make the change!
At Blayze we have a performance equation. That equation is:
Proper planning + proper preparation + execution = enhance performance
Our coaching session is where our coach helps you form a plan. In this chapter, we’ll discuss how to prepare based on that plan and what to do to execute. In this article, we are talking about an “in-weekend” plan so we will assume our driver has prepared physically and will exclude that part from this article but is obviously a crucial part of this puzzle.
Preparation Step 1: Write it down
The first step in preparation is internalizing the coaching points from your Blayze coaching session. For best practices here we recommend drivers have a track map out and write bullet point notes at each corner that highlights the major action items from their coach.
Preparation Step 2: Visualize
One of the coaches I had early in my career always used to say, “If you can’t visualize yourself doing it, how the hell can you expect yourself to actually do it in real life?” Most of us have heard of visualizing but most drivers do it wrong.
Visualizing is meant to be a mentally taxing activity. We don’t want to be lazy and visualize in fast-forward what a lap looks like for us today. No; we want to visualize what a lap will look like, what it will feel like, what it will smell like, with the changes our coaches want us to make. Let me be clear, this is hard and this takes practice. But, it forces us to test our understanding of what we need to do and how we’re going to do it.
Proper visualization hits on as many senses as possible. That tricks our brain more effectively into thinking this is real and makes the visualizing exercise far more powerful.
The other critical factor here is knowing when our preparation step ends and when our execution step needs to begin. This is another common area where most athletes go wrong.
How often do you find yourself sitting on the grid, in your car with your helmet on, thinking about what you want to do in this next session or visualizing? If that’s you, you are working on preparation action items during the execution phase. We want to be preparing the night before, the morning of, and maybe up until about 30 minutes before our session.
Once we get within those last 30 minutes it’s time for us to clear our minds and get out of our own way. When we are on track we don’t want to be thinking. W don’t have time to think. We need to be in the moment, on the task at hand. So, how do we do that? By focusing on our breathing exercises. Below are the steps drivers should take in the execution phase.
Step 1: Quiet time
Typically between sessions, it’s a mad dash to get your car prepped for the next sessions, review your video & data, talk to some friends, and then run to the grid. It is crucial you find 5 - 10 minutes of “you time”. This is ideally in a quiet, air-conditioned space with absolutely no distractions. Obviously, that can be hard to find so do your best - the most important part is the no distractions part.
Helio Castroneves famously requires his teams to schedule 10 minutes of time alone in his driver's lounge within 1 hour of every session where there are no distractions.
Step 2: Square breathing
Once I have my quiet space, I want to spend my first minute or two just focusing on my square breathing. This is forcing my mind to focus internally, within my body, and it hits on my parasympathetic nervous system which reduces anxiety and stress.
Step 3: Mantra
Once I feel my mind slowing down and my body relaxing it’s time to use my descriptive words to what it feels like when I’m in my “flow state” or in the zone. Performance psychologists have found words or phrases that describe what it feels like for us when we perform at our best and repeating those descriptor words is one of the best ways to consistently find that state.
This is something that evolves over time. Eventually, for me, this became, “Precision focus. In the moment, on the task at hand, to the exclusion of everything else.” Even just sitting here writing this, I feel my body relaxing, and that mental state starting to come from within.
You have to find your own words and to do that I want you to think back to the last time you remember being at your best. What did that feel like to you? Use as many descriptive words as you can and go from there.
Step 4: Square breathing & body scan
I now want to transition back to my breathing exercises and slowly scan my body looking for areas I’m holding tension. Have you ever been in a position where maybe you felt relaxed but didn’t realize you were grinding your teeth, or maybe your shoulders were holding tension? It’s so normal. For us to perform at our best we need to be relaxed, we need to be loose.
When I body scan, imagine the terminator-style laser beam. I imagine that sort of laser beam starting at the very top of my head that slowly transitions down my body and as it does I’m focused exactly where it is. I’m hunting for hidden areas where I’m holding tension and I’m releasing those areas as it transitions down.
Step 5: Get out of your own way
If we have done everything correctly to this point we have a plan, we have done the preparation, we know what we want to do and how to do it, now it’s time to let go and just let ourselves go out there and do it. When I’m in the best mental state I’m sitting in the car and I just feel my body and where it’s connected to the seat. I’m focused on myself, that connection with the car, and nothing else. My mind is clear.
Back to our case study. Our driver ended the day Friday and uploaded his video. He showed up on Saturday and in his very first session, he went 2.3 seconds a lap faster, in the exact same car with no step changes.
He followed the exact steps we laid out in this article. He followed the process and the magic happened. Although; it isn’t magic and these results are not abnormal. In fact, at Blayze our coaches have coached more than 1,000 grassroots racers. On average our drivers have gone 1+ second a lap faster after just one coaching session.
But, it doesn’t stop after just one coaching session. There is plenty more for our drivers to continue to work on and in the next chapter, we’ll tackle how they continue the process.
Chapter 5: Continuing The Process
As we spoke about in chapter 2, we laid out our process of how we use our fundamentals to determine priority areas. As drivers continue to go faster and faster we use the exact same process to continue laying out what comes next.
Coaching isn’t something that you do once or twice and you get the answers. As coaches, we need to see follow-up videos to see how you took our coaching and interpreted that with your driving. That lets us see the changes you made if they were correct or not, and how we need to adapt or change how we communicate our coaching feedback to help you make the correct changes on the track.
In our case study here, after the weekend our driver sent me his race video from Sunday after the race weekend. I noticed that they had improved 3 of the 5 reference points, but were still lagging in their understanding of the slow point of the corner reference point and the exit reference point. That allowed me in our next coaching session to hone in on those specific two areas and begin introducing our next concept; threshold braking.
I also knew the next track they were going to was Willow Springs and I could focus the coaching pointers to talk about the next track we are going to so they show up ready to go. As this driver continues to evolve the things we are working on will continue to evolve with them.
The best part of this coaching feedback? It’s not that he’s now going 2+ seconds a lap faster, but it’s that he is also having more fun at every race weekend. He said, he’s “totally re-energized and looking forward to each race weekend more than he has in his previous 7 years of racing”. That’s the true goal of coaching.
Yes, we want you to go faster. Yes, we want you to be safer. But, we also want to make sure you have a freaking blast while doing it!
That’s it from me today! I hope this helps you in your ability to self-analyze and potentially self-coach in our sport. It’s hard to do but this will give you a starting point and an inside look into our Blayze Motorsport Coaching Methodology.
Don’t skip steps here and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask us questions or reach out anytime! If this is helpful we would love for you to share it with the racing community. If you’re interested in going faster, being safer on track, and having more fun while you do it we highly recommend working 1-on-1 with a Blayze coach. Learn more about how that works here.