Everyone has dreams. Few people, however, achieve their dreams. One of the most common reasons for this is that people have a fear of failure; oftentimes, we would rather avoid embarrassment, by staying in our ‘comfort zone,’ rather than giving a challenge our ‘all’. Most people often succumb to the easy approach to a challenge – ascribing to the view that “If one doesn’t try, one can’t fail”. That this is a self-defeating attitude can’t be overstated. Successful people have well-defined plans, work hard, and persist when they make mistakes, or encounter adversity. These people recognize success as a journey, with both highs and lows. Bill Gates, who can be described as an extraordinary success, by any number of standards, once said “Life is not fair. Get used to it.” An understanding of the fact that life is ‘unfair’ should not be a reason to resign before trying, but, instead, should give every person a better appreciation of the value of success; and the true, great glory of success should give them ample reason to drive towards their goals. However, it is important that one remembers to push oneself not just harder, but smarter. It is the aim of the author to help demonstrate how this, and, hence, one’s dreams, can be achieved.
Successful people make goals of their dreams. There is an important distinction between the two words, though many people casually consider them to be synonymous. This is, of course, incorrect. There is an actual (and very telling) synonymity, however, between ‘dream’ and ‘fantasy’. Dreams are, by their very nature, vague, and generic. Goals, on the other hand, are built of specific objectives, and expected dates of achievement. Crucially, goals can be built of dreams. For example, instead of holding onto an indistinct dream of relaxing in a beautiful mansion, in an affluent suburb, one may translate their fantasy into a clear, defined, and achievable goal, to own a four bedroom, brick house with three bathrooms, and palm trees by the pool, or whatever – within the definite time-frame of a decade. This sort of goal-setting technique is used by top-level athletes, successful business-people, and other top achievers in other fields – and is regarded as critical to all of them, as a source of both long-term vision and short-term motivation.
Setting a long-term goal involves much more than simply defining a solitary aim. For the sake of demonstration, assume a long-term goal to win the national championship within five years. To be achieved, this goal needs to be divided into realistic and manageable medium- and short-term goals. A reasonable medium-term goal might be to win five club races within three years. This goal may still seem almost unattainable. To make it truly reachable, this goal needs to be further split, into smaller, short-term, realizable goals, such as:
- Twice-weekly practice immediately
- Getting specific setup advice from chassis supplier within one month
- Achieving lap times that are shorter by 0.2 of a second within two months
- Accomplishing a podium finish within three months
…And so on. With the achievement of these short-term goals, one will start to gain confidence and feel good about one’s development success, and a positive attitude is key to being successful. One’s results in trying to achieve these goals also serve a vital diagnostic function: they can help identify specific areas in one’s journey to success in particular need of work, whether one is on track to achieve one’s long-term goals, and whether one’s goals are realistic (or need to be adjusted – and, for that matter, how).
The importance of associating goals with expected dates of achievement is great. Writing them down focuses one on a clear deadline. Constantly reminding oneself of when one anticipated achieving certain components of certain goals can help motivate one to do something now, rather than procrastinating and stretching out one’s long-term goals longer and longer, ad infinitum. Clearly written goals and dates should be displayed where they will be seen regularly and frequently, to maintain focus.
Anyone with any desire to succeed should absolutely become accustomed to goal setting. Start setting goals today, as every day, we are one day further towards potentially achieving goals, and success, or dying with dreams of the same. Your future is leveraged on today’s situation.
Remember that, whilst we all have dreams, the successful have goals.
Don’t underestimate the value of the resource that is the people around you. Successful people rarely get where they do alone. The relationships that one shares with others on one’s journey can be professional (as with one’s suppliers) or personal (as with a mentor), and the wealth of skills that one can glean from another’s knowledge or experience can be a mammoth boon if exploited to the full.
Think, for instance, about the many years of extensive testing involved in the determination of optimum chassis and engine configurations. The people who determine these optimum configurations are professionals with a vast knowledge base of their products, and how they function together. Don’t waste valuable time trying to reinvent the wheel. A much easier and much more effective way of achieving better configuration is simply to develop strong relationships with your chassis supplier and an engine builder. Make use of their experience and knowledge – they offer you a qualified and educated shortcut. If your chassis supplier is not helping you actively reduce your lap times, sell your kart and buy one from one who can. Your kart supplier should be your springboard to achieving your goals. Front-running racers almost always have strong relationships with their suppliers. Remember that any supplier should recognize the importance of the symbiotic relationship they and their customers can share; if the supplier helps a driver win races, they will benefit from the exposure and resultant sales to other karters.
Reputable chassis suppliers will have valuable information gained from hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of testing and racing, and interaction with many more kart professionals to whom you would not have had the opportunity to access. This gives them an insight that you can make your edge. For instance, they can very easily and accurately advise you on your best seat position, based on your height, weight, engine type, and so on. This guidance is only one example of the multitude of areas about which they can advise you, at no cost and without difficulty, that can have a profound effect on performance.
Engine builders spend every day gaining and analysing information from their engine customers. They are continually making incremental performance improvements by legally changing the engine specifications. For instance, they make calibrations like adjustments to barrel height, to be appropriate for the place and way in the engine will be used.
Another great relationship that can help encourage success is the one that can be found with a mentor. A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps and guides another’s development. This guidance is not done for personal gain. A good way to find a mentor is to offer your assistance and time to a successful driver. You will learn more than you imagine by helping them, and this could literally save you years of testing time and learning.
If, for whatever reason, you are not in a position to establish relationships with your chassis supplier, or to find a mentor, then don’t let your driving suffer for it. You can pay for help, and there are plenty of excellent instructors that can make up for what you’re missing out on, ‘fast-tracking’ your kart setup and driving skills.
Some people seem to have a natural and innate ability to drive, and are able to be competitive from the start. These people, whether by luck or instinct, seem to know just when and how much to turn the steering wheel. This is a godsend, but shouldn’t overshadow the fact that most other people can still become just as skilled – it just takes us a little longer. Don’t despair if you are not winning races; recognize the challenge and dedicate yourself to improvement.
In terms of improvement, always remember that there is absolutely no alternative to time actually spent in the seat. If you are serious about improving lap times, spend as much as possible on the track. Karting, like all sports, requires practice. And more and more practice. It is not uncommon for world-class swimmers or golfers to train or practice for six hours, each day, for years on end. If you truly intend to become a world-class driver, then expect to drive most days! A karting friend either practices or races twenty days of a month, and, owing to this dedication, is one of the fastest in the country. Fortunately, success at club level doesn’t require that same level of commitment. Keep in mind that you will only get out what you put into your karting, however, and practice as much as your goals necessitate.
Lap times are inversely proportional to the amount of time spent driving. The more one drives, the faster one will go. Unfortunately, as any new driver will soon learn, lap times don’t keep decreasing at a steady rate. They will often dramatically fall after just the first couple days of practice. However, as your lap times become competitive, it may take weeks of practice to lower lap times by a few hundredths of a second. Improving on one’s driving as an inexperienced driver is easy, but tweaking the performance of a skilled and competitive driver is difficult. Don’t let this slower rate of improvement discourage you. Every fraction of one’s improvement matters, and this can be exemplified best in that at club level racing, the first three racers might all be within a 0.5 second per lap, and that at a national level, only one tenth of a second may separate the first ten drivers.
It’s important to remember that when one thinks about kart driving skills, one must consider that there is both an art and a science to the analysis and improvement. More importantly, one should not assume that an experienced driver is necessarily a good one. Whilst nothing can replace time on the track, a good driver will make use of all of the resources available to himself (or herself) to improve his abilities and results.
The foundations of the ‘art’ of driving are largely in ‘feeling’. A good driver is ‘in tune’ with his (or her) vehicle. He (or she) will have the ability to feel what the kart is doing, in a deep and acute way. Coming to understand one’s kart – its behaviour, its sounds, its capabilities, and so on – takes years. One has to constantly be aware of one’s kart, and really come to understand it. This point is a particularly good example between simple experience and experience that can be enriched by the approach of a good driver. A driver who does not give their all to their awareness of their kart will not glean the insight into and connection with his (or her) vehicle. A good driver knows this. Frankly, however, many karters will drive for five or ten years, or more, and never reach the point at which they ‘feel’ their kart. If one does not consciously try to do this, there is a definite ceiling to one’s success. Your kart will communicate very clearly to you, if you let it, and this can drastically affect the way in which you can use your vehicle – and hugely improve it. It will also allow you to succinctly diagnose your vehicle and analyse a track and conditions post-race or post-practice, and to describe and communicate this to your fellow team-mates.
Always try to keep this in mind whilst driving. Be aware of your kart, and be responsive to it.
A mentor, like described above, may also give you an insight into how your kart is behaving and help you become accustomed to the way in which you can ‘feel’ your kart and appropriately adjust your driving, and manipulate your kart’s configuration. They can also help you analyse your driving from a scientific perspective; kart drivers have available to them, these days, a vast array of electronic equipment and scientific knowledge to assist them in their driving analysis. One example, one of the simplest for which to be set up, and an excellent use of a mentor, is video analysis. Having somebody film your driving for later examination can provide a great amount of information that can be used to improve your racing. Being able to look at your driving from the point of view of a spectator can, for a few examples, allow you to look at your approaches to corners (and the apex), how and when you accelerate on the track, the line you take, and how you defend (or fail to defend) your position, and compare your driving to those around you.
This isn’t the only use of technology for your driving analysis. Other equipment may include a data-logger (for G-Force measurement and track-mapping, calculating slip angle, et cetera), a steering potentiometer, a pyrometer, or a wide-band lambda sensor, or any of the other excellent pieces of equipment now available. It is unnecessary to go into detail about each of these pieces of equipment here, but for more information about what each of them does, and what is necessary for your level of driving, or within your price range, speak to your supplier.
Using both the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of driving analysis, you will be able to you isolate skills in need of improvement, and to work on them.
Always keep your expectations of your driving realistic. Do your best, and always work to improve, but remember that improvement takes that – work. Don’t give up when you find that you can’t instantly become the best and most perfect driver. Furthermore, don’t take risks to try and prove that you are. Many drivers fall into the trap of showing too much bravado. These drivers, thinking that they are better than they are, end up taking chances that they shouldn’t, because of their proud assumption that they should be the leader of the pack, rather than in the natural position at which their skills leave them. Better drivers will find that they just ‘get up there’ with their developed driving skills (and after a lot of time spent not ‘up there’), rather than taking unnecessary risks. It is prudent to mention that most good sportspeople in all sports say that they don’t aim necessarily to win, but to perform to the best of their ability. The point is to focus on your race. Drive your best, and don’t expect all of your success to come at once. It will come as your driving improves. The crux of this issue is that you must be patient and aware of what you are doing right and doing wrong.
This involves making incremental improvements. You will find that, whilst you are constantly learning, you are climbing a staircase, not a constant hill. The advantage of this nature of your driving improvement is that, once you reach a certain level, you won’t fall back down, but will actually have an improved and stable baseline from which to work. Make use of this advantage. Most importantly, learn to prioritise, and focus on one area of your driving at a time, bringing it up to the appropriate level, before moving onto the next point of your driving in need of improvement.
Doing this does not entail getting your skills to a flawless level, one at a time. If you approach your learning and development in this way, you will find yourself consumed about one small facet of your driving to the absolute detriment of your racing and other skills. Instead, work hard to identify the best possible level to which you can aspire, for now, and get your skills to that level, before moving along (if only to return to those skills later). Yet again, the easy way to do this is to set yourself clear, simple, written goals. This will clearly help you to identify where you want to be, meter your progress towards that point, and to know when to stop and refocus on another skill.
Keep a logbook, in which you can document everything that you do, as you improve. This will allow you to see what is happening on a day-to-day or race-to-race basis, and also to see an overview of your karting performance over time. This will make it possible to actually see, quite precisely, how your performance relates to the different ways in which you drive and the things you do to try and improve your results.
(A logbook is actually an excellent tool for improvement not just in your skills, but in your kart performance. It is a good idea to continue to play with the configuration of your kart, chassis and engine, and to record the results [and the other factors involved in the event, such as track temperature, atmospheric pressure, barometric pressure, surface compound et cetera] These results can then be used to adapt the kart to specific conditions or to improve overall performance. Moreover, documentation makes it easier to communicate this information to the rest of your team.)
As a final note, it must be said that every driver needs the unbiased views, advice, and assistance of someone ‘on the outside’. If, as suggested before, you enlist the help of a mentor, make sure that you get critical suggestions and tutoring wherever possible. If this isn’t an option for you, use your team for feedback. Whilst you are alone on the track, don’t forget that karting is actually a team sport, and the advice of your team-mates can be invaluable in ensuring that you have a good understanding of how you drive (or how you should!).
Not all the information accessible and useful to drivers must be personal. Many other valuable sources exist, such as websites like Kartpedia (www.kartpedia.com), KartSportNews (www.kartsportnews.com) and E-Karting News (www.e-karting news.com), and the websites of suppliers, who may have details on their parts and information regarding races and drivers.
Also, remember that this is a sport that can be anything between a hobby and an obsession for the people that participate, and one will find that these people are usually extremely keen to talk about karting. Asking and listening to the people in the karting community around you will give you access to other experiences and perspectives. All of these people have different opinions and knowledge. If ‘two heads are better than one,’ then the dozens at a race meet constitute a veritable goldmine of advice and wisdom.
A knowledge of the theory behind karting and motorsport in general can also help enhance your driving. Think about your kart and the tracks on which you drive. The smallest bit of understanding about the physics (such as the best line possible on a track) and mechanics (such as what the different sounds of an engine represent) of driving and kart racing can help you.
Your future goals are dependant on the actions that you take today. Seek this information out, and use it.
Motorsport, by its very nature, is an expensive form of sport – karters are using extremely high-tech machines. It’s part of the thrill of the sport. However, amongst the range of motorsports, karting is comparatively inexpensive, and there is a great range of levels of expense involved, from which one can choose.
The important thing to remember, if you have any serious interest in driving, or improving your driving: drive within your means. Don’t be concerned about whether you’re driving a top of the range Superkart, with a high running cost, or a J-class kart, with a low running cost. The macho attitude of some drivers may cause them to try to overspend – to get the fastest kart (or even just the most expensive!). This is absolutely unnecessary for the average driver, and is a decision often made without a thought about what’s actually a sustainable purchase.
Running costs like tyres, and engine maintenance, cannot be ignored. Remember that you are buying a kart to drive, not to be forced to neglect. It is a complete waste to buy something which you cannot afford to use – you will not get the enjoyment of racing, you won’t get to improve as a racer, and, at worst, will have to sell kart, at a loss, and for what? Don’t fall into the trap of impulsively buying the most powerful package in a store without considering the long-term costs; buy what’s best for you. If financially constrained, the options to race a J-class or a 4-stroke kart are excellent ones, for example.
Moreover, as the lower classes use harder, compound tyres, they are more difficult to drive, and so are actually better training for any aspiring driver. These tyres are not as responsive, and so, if one can learn to drive well in a lower class, and improve, if one decides to move up in a class, they will find that they have an excellent advantage from the start. Lower power means that individual driver skill is much more important in terms of final race results, and so are an excellent class in which drivers can focus on and hone their skills. Thus, even if you can afford the most expensive, state-of-the-art, you should probably think of a cheaper kart as a great opportunity to learn how to drive better.
Nevertheless, no matter what class of kart you choose to drive, you will have to find money to pay for your racing. Of course, sponsorship is ideal, but this needs to be earnt. You will have to invest in your karting before you get the returns that sponsorship can provide. You will have to spend time and money, and work hard on your skills and kart, to be able to win races, so that you can get sponsorship. When you feel that you are at a level that may be of interest to potential sponsors, approach them with a proposal.
If you do make it to the stage at which you are going to make a proposal to a potential sponsor, do it calculatedly and intelligently. Look at your driving. Identify the strengths and skills you have to offer. Look around you. Identify those who need those strengths and skills. Then, it is as easy as deciding the way in which this should be represented to these potential sponsors, and presenting it to them. Remember that blindly offering your driving to everyone with whom you can get in contact is an inefficient and ineffective way of gaining sponsorship. Specifically tailoring the way in which you present yourself to selected potential sponsors will always prove to be a far more successful way of getting sponsorship than broadly applying to all those to whom you can.
Know what you have to offer, what it is for which sponsors are looking, and how you can sell yourself as a member of a team.
It is also probably helpful to point out that there are other sources of financial support for your karting that have interests that are not merely commercial. These people may have a personal interest in you, and may be very keen to help you. Talk to your family and friends. If they can help, their financial support will allow you to focus on your driving, and not on searching for sponsorship. Of course, whilst this luxury is not available to all, it does not hurt to ask!
There are some other skills that may not seem immediately obvious, or clearly related to being a kart driver, which drivers with both high-level and lower-level goals may find extremely useful to develop. Social, physical and personal traits such as speaking, co-ordination and attitude are all things that, if cultivated correctly, one may find to be beneficial to one’s racing career.
Public speaking skills are a good example of a practical ability that can provide an excellent benefit to drivers. There are two different sorts of speaking one can develop to one’s advantage – one in a personal context and one in a group context. They are equally important. Good interpersonal speaking skills are vital to establishing relationships like those mentioned earlier in this article, whilst good public speaking skills can make a driver more attractive to potential sponsors, and can help a driver to lead a team and to communicate with team-mates.
If a driver intends to go very far in their karting career, it may be a good idea to seek professional help with a trained tutor or media consultant. If this is not appropriate for your level of driving, you may find it helpful to seek out community groups such as the local Toastmasters’ group or a similar public speaking society. These sorts of organizations operate out of most universities and municipalities
Manual skills that can assist in the development of your driving include spatial awareness, hand-eye co-ordination and general gross motor proficiency. Improving these skills will not only assist a driver in improving their driving, but are also skills that can be developed away from the track. Consider such activities as playing table tennis, catch, juggling, or even playing video games. These activities can all be learnt and practised at any age, and are a cheap, easy and portable way of working on your driving.
Working on your motor skills and co-ordination helps drivers to see and be aware of other drivers, and what is happening on the track, helping with reflexes, initiative and precise movement and body control. Drivers who practise these skills will find that they are able to think faster, and a faster thinker will be a faster driver, with more controlled and exact movement.
One’s personal attitude towards karting and one’s karting skills is also something on which one can actively work. This is perhaps the most important general trait, as it applies to every driver and can be practically used to motivate every other form of improvement in their sport. Find your passion and enthusiasm for the sport. Learn, and keep learning. Nurturing a passionate, keen and positive attitude is linked closely to the achievement of one’s short-term goals, and so, of course, to the achievement of medium- and then long-term goals. To reiterate what was said above, it is much easier to stay excited and focused on short-term goals, rather than those in the far distant future – so if you are eager to drive and to enjoy and learn from every experience you have on and around the track, you will find that you are able to make small achievements towards your greater aims. Again, it is your long-term goals, such as the desire for wealth, or specific achievements such as victory in Formula 1 racing, that gives us our ultimate motivation, and a reason to tackle our immediate obstacles.
In short, own your own passions and desires; live and enjoy them! They will reward you.
As a sport, karting can be incredibly demanding, both physically and mentally. In order to maintain consistent lap times throughout a whole race, a driver will need to be in shape, to withstand the high physical G-forces, and have a strong mental stamina, also, to maintain high concentration levels. It is not a coincidence that most successful drivers are usually fit. Many of them exercise daily, and compete in running or triathlon races, for instance. General physical fitness and a clear, sharp mind will only benefit you, and raise the ceiling for your success.
Alcohol is definitely not going to serve your racing Even minor alcohol consumption on the night before a race will profoundly impact one’s ability to drive . The nervous impact of the substance will have an immediate and obvious effect. (Lap times, for instance, may become erratic, and, much more imperative to note, the probability of an accident increases dramatically.)
Be sensible and safe, and remember that peak performance is only achievable with peak condition. Whether for your success and achievement, or out of respect for your kart and fellow drivers, your personal and mental fitness is something to which you really must pay attention.
We all have dreams, but few of us are successful. Know this and know therefore, that if you want to succeed, you will have to fight for it. It is the author’s hope that this article has been informative and a practical tool to help readers achieve their glorious goals on and off the track. If you want to be a winner, think like a winner. Thoughtful consideration of the “seven secrets” discussed in this article will hopefully lead to a more successful attitude, approach and results.
Good luck and happy karting!
For more information about the topics discussed or any products mentioned in this article, do not hesitate to contact Vic Roy, at www.karts.com.au. Vic has helped hundreds of drivers improve performance, some of which are now racing internationally. He shares knowledge of driving and chassis setup (most chassis brands), in the form of free workshops at his facility located at Homebush, on-track clinics, his information website (www.kartpedia.com) and to customers on race/practice days.
Written by Vic Roy B.Eng. and co-authored by T.J. de Launey