Champions have a way about them. They’re different, somehow. They know how to win and they have the mindset that lets them finish out front more often than not. Of course, they weren’t born champions. No one is. They had to struggle and climb up the finishing order just like anyone else.
So today we’re going to talk about methods I have discovered throughout my karting career that have helped me develop the mentality of a champion driver. You can benefit from these techniques, too.
Look the Part
Looking the part has little to do with your gear, although a clean race suit and shiny kart can boost your confidence. When I grew up in karting, my dad told me that you must look the part before you can be the part. There’s a big difference between drivers who walk to grid with confidence and drivers who don’t. Early in my career, I’d always be a bit nervous and hesitant, because I didn’t know what was going to happen.
Not only was I telegraphing to my competition that I’d be easy to beat, but I was convincing myself that I was going to lose this race — and that’s the biggest thing. You need to convince yourself that you’re a threat to your competition. Being a champion means understanding you came to win. To have a champion’s mentality, you need to look the part first. You need to convince yourself that you are a champion. You need to walk up to the grid with ownership, an understanding that this is your racetrack, and that you’re going to take this win. Even when you’re not feeling the best, always try to show that regardless of the situation, you have it all under control.
I was told growing up is that it takes confidence to win races. I also realized that the best way to gain confidence was to win races, so I had to figure out a way to gain confidence before accumulating any wins. The most important tool every driver has is a mind exercise called visualization. This is important because it allows you to complete things you have never done in your life.
When I talk about visualization, I want you to visualize yourself, crossing the finish line — first. I want you to put pressure on yourself and imagine that you’re in a last-lap battle with another driver and you have to make that pass for the win. Imagine how that pressure that feels. Imagine what you’re going to do in that situation, and then visualize yourself crossing the line as the winner.
Of all the things I’ve done in my karting career, this has helped me most. This is something I still use before every race. I sit quietly, close my eyes and visualize myself driving the racetrack, passing drivers, coming across the line — first. It helps you to calm down and prepares you for the race at hand. Going out for practice is super important, as is setting aside time to visualize yourself winning races.
Never Be Satisfied
After I won my first SKUSA Pro Tour Championship, a few weeks later, the final points were posted. I remember looking at them and telling my mechanic that even if we hadn’t shown up to one of the races, we still would have won the championship. I was happy with my results.
My mechanic responded, “It doesn’t matter. You finished eighth in your last race, and I don’t understand how you’re happy with that.” At that moment, I realized you’re only as good as your last race. I was excited that I secured a championship. I was satisfied. I was happy with the results.
I was satisfied with finishing eighth in a race. I wasn’t pushing myself to become a better driver. Ever since then, I’ve always tried to push to get faster on the racetrack every session.
If you go out for a practice session and you’re a half tenth faster than the second-place driver, wonder why it couldn’t have been a whole tenth, or two tenths. Every time I come off track and I’m in first, I want to be first by an even larger margin. I try never to be satisfied with just being first. If I win a race, I want to have won it by a larger margin. If I had to battle with another driver the whole race, the next race I don’t want to have to battle with anybody. I want to check out on the field.
If you have this mentality when you’re racing, you will always be building yourself as a driver. You’ll be getting better and getting that edge on your competition. Without evolving your style and evolving your driving, you will fall behind the rest of the field. There’s always somebody that wants to beat you and wants that title. So, to be a champion and to keep proving yourself on the highest level of racing, you have to keep striving to get better.
Hopefully this helps you gain an edge on your competition. Take it step by step and grow yourself as a driver, which begins by having the right mentality when you go to the racetrack. Walk up to the grid with some ownership, visualize yourself winning, and then never be satisfied with a good result. Always push for more.
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