February 26, 2024
Four tips for leading a race
We all begin our careers trying to get up front so we can be in position to win. Today’s blog is all about what to do once you get to the front, so you can stay out front and win races. I'm going to give you four tips to make you more confident when leading the pack.
Many years ago, I was going to the track thinking the best I could do was maybe a top three or a top five, and then it hit me. Why am I here if I don't think I can win this race? I decided then and there that I was actively going to think of myself driving across the line — in first.
This ended up being the first race that I won. Ever since then, every race that I'm at to this day, I visualize myself crossing the line first. If you want to learn more about visualizing, increasing confidence, and how to use your breathe to control your thoughts click here!
Something happens when people get out front for the first time. They realize they haven’t actually seen the racetrack with nobody in front of them. With no other karts in front of you, you kind of tense up because you don't have those references when going into the braking zone. This is why I practice alone.
That gives me some idea of being alone and having my braking zones already picked out. Leading a race is a different experience, but it really helps to visualize driving alone on the racetrack. Every day, before a race, I close my eyes and picture myself doing laps around the racetrack with nobody in front of me.
Picture those braking zones in your mind. Imagine everything you can so that when you take the lead, you're more confident. Again, imagine yourself crossing the line first. It might seem stupid, but this simple little tip can make you much more confident when you get out front.
My second tip for being more confident in the lead is to brake late, but not to over-drive. Now, there are two spots on the racetrack that second place is going catch you: the straightaways, and braking zones.
You can’t do anything about the straightaways, but in braking zones, you can. What normally happens when people get out front is they lose that reference point in the braking zone, so you start braking earlier because you don't want to make a mistake and lose time.
Again, this is why it’s so important to practice alone so you know you're braking zones when you're out front. When you take the lead, make sure you're still pushing with that same intensity that you did when you're catching the guy in second, because the guy in second is pushing to catch you.
Under-driving is just as bad as over-driving. So, if you're going into the corner and braking 10 feet earlier, that's just as bad as going into the corner and missing the apex. Both are slow. So, it's better that you push the kart when you're out front, but do it without over-driving.
Again, there are only two spots where drivers catch you. If you can eliminate one, it discourages the driver in second, so much that he or she ends up over-driving. You increase your confidence and decrease theirs.
When you are running out front, expect to be slower than the drivers behind you, and expect them to catch you. Many times I see people get out to lead and they’re constantly looking back. There's no reason to keep looking back every single corner because it leads to repeated mistakes.
This is something I've struggled with a lot. Actually, that first win when I started visualizing, I also decided I wasn’t going look back that race at all. After I passed for the lead, I kept my head down and did every single lap. By the time the white flag flew, I looked back to see where my competition was and there was nobody there. The whole time in my head, I truly believed they were all on my bumper. I even thought I was hearing them going into the corner because of that. I pushed every single lap, as hard as I could. And I pulled away by like 2 seconds.
Now, you will see me look back because I am trying to strategize my race a little bit, but I'm not hyper focused on the guys behind me. Even when I look back and have a huge lead, I understand there are a ton of laps left, and the odds are they're going catch me. I have to keep pushing every single lap so I can increase my lead.
If expect to be passed, you won’t be surprised by it. You will be able to get back into a rhythm to repass back for the lead. I can't tell you exactly how to win your race, but if you're more confident out front, you make fewer mistakes and increase your likelihood of winning.
When I say don't make mistakes, that sounds simple. I'm not talking about the little mistakes that everybody makes throughout a whole race. What I am saying is don't let those mistakes affect your next corner.
We all make mistakes. Sometimes you clip a curb. Sometimes you turn in too early. Sometimes you brake too late, but that's OK. What you need to understand is just because you lost a 10th in one corner, doesn't mean you should try and make it up in the next. A lot of people try to make that time up in the next corner. And then they lose another 10th.
And then they try to make it up in the next corner, and lose another 10th. And now you're down three. So that one 10th mistake is now a quarter of a second mistake, and that's really affecting your race.
So it's important to find your rhythm and get in a zone where you're just hitting your marks and not thinking too much about the previous corner. Take it one lap at a time, one corner at a time. Consistency is one of those things that beats everything out.
You can tell the difference between a driver who hasn't led a race, and a driver who has. I guarantee you, if you follow these things, once you get out to the lead, you will be much calmer in that position.
There are big differences between just driving on a race track vs. racing on a race track. Learn more about those here!
The secret to mastering any skill is practice! Are you looking to start your racing journey? Could you use direct feedback from a professional coach on how to improve your racing and motorsport skills?
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About the coach
Coaching for Karts, Open Wheel, and Sports Car drivers.
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