Racing 108 - Mentality
The Racer's MentalityNow that we've squared away the driving school videos, I'd like to discuss an important part of racing; your mindset.In a racing situation, you're basically given a certain amount of variables, and you have to use those variables to make the most of your starting position in order to maximize your finishing position. These variables include things like race length, pit stops, the quality of your opponents, whether the race is part of a championship or a single event, how many points are at stake, and many others that you'll come to find on your own as you progress. By taking into account as many thoughts and variables as you can, you'll allow yourself to make the most of any situation your put in, and make the best decision available to you. I'm going to hit on six different areas of thought that you should definitely be considering both before the race extensively, and during the race as time passes. Develop a StrategyIt seems pretty obvious, but from my experiences it is rarely used, both in practice, and in racing. If you don't have a strategy and a plan for what you're doing, whether it be out on the track for practice, or during a race in an official series or league event, then you're just mindlessly running laps. This is not ideal... it is very profitable to develop a strategy for your track time. In practice, enter a practice session to specifically focus on one or two areas of the track until find those four-tenths you were looking for. Then, exit the session and re-evaluate. In a race, you should have a set goal for your finish order and a set strategy as far as any pitting or such goes for the race.For example, if you're typically running in the middle of the pack or towards the latter end, this is increasingly important. In a 30 minute race with no pitting and no cautions, you have a relatively easy amount of variables to deal with. Say you're starting 15th on the grid. Assess your opponents and set a goal to finish 12th. If by the 20 minute mark, you're sitting at your goal position of 12th place, then consider your situation again. You may be close enough to 11th place to improve on your position, and decide it would be advantageous to push hard for the last 10 minutes and race them. But, you may also have a big gap between the car ahead and behind, and might instead consider just maintaining your gaps and not pushing at 102%, as it won't get you a better position anyway.Protect the Car!No matter what, always protect your car! In almost every race broadcast with pre-race driver interviews, you hear someone mention it. It's very, very important. Every decision you make on track should involve a brief consideration of whether this situation may jeopardize your car. In an open wheel car, this is even more important as even slight contact may end your day, or add seconds to your lap times. Always always ALWAYS make sure that your decisions won't put you in a situation where you might hurt the car. You'll have to deal with those consequences the duration of the race, and it will end up ending your day.LongevityAlways consider the length of the race, and your performance throughout that length. You may find that you are running on the thermal limit of your tires for a long portion of the fuel stint. A smart driver will have that in mind while they battle for position. If this is in an open-wheel, they may pull out of the draft on fast/heavy-loading corners so that they don't add heat to the tires by scrubbing them excessively behind the car ahead from the lack of downforce. Make sure that, before entering the race, you are prepared for the entire race length and know how to react and take this into consideration when you're put into a new situation halfway through the race.Risk AnalysisThis is prevalent in the lower license levels; drivers will make a risky move and then lose their mind when an incident happens, blaming everyone but themselves. When you're going to make a move on someone, always do a risk analysis. Just because you can make a move, doesn't mean you should. Way too often, a "good", fast driver will make a very risky move to quickly overtake a slower opponent at a less-than-optimal location, an incident ensues, and the quicker driver goes off on a rant about how the slower driver is an idiot. Regardless of who was at fault, each driver is responsible for their own race result. While you cannot prevent all incidents you're involved in, you can prevent MOST, by simply thinking it through and taking a little more time to decide if an overtake or other decision is a good idea. This is great in combination with the longevity ideology, and the championship implications below.Championship ImplicationsAnother thing to consider while on track is how your decisions affect your championship.If you're running a one-off event, then these implications aren't there, and you don't need to worry about them. As a result, you're really only concerned with your performance of this one race, and it would be more advantageous to make use of every opportunity available to you.If you're in the iRacing championships, you get a few chances a week to post a good points haul. When you know how have two or three more chances at a large points haul for the week, then you can afford to take a little more risk when making moves, under pit strategy, etc; if it doesn't pan out, you can just hit the next race in a few hours.If you're in one of the official series with one or two SoF nights, or a league/tournament/similar, then you need to take into serious consideration the fact that every single point counts, and making risky moves will only pan out if the cost-benefit ratio is in your favor.Example - You're in a position to capitalize on the driver ahead, but it's a risky move. There's maybe a 50/50 chance that either you or the driver ahead could make contact, and in your FW31, that's gonna mean game over. If you finish where you are now, you get 18 points. If you finish ahead of them, you get 25 points. If an incident occurs, you get zero. Think about your risk analysis like this: Right now, you have 18 points. If you make that move, then there's a 50% chance you'll gain 7 more, and a 50% chance you'll lose 18. See the issue? On average, choosing to go for the overtake will lose you an average of 5.5 points. It might work this time, it might not; but in general, you can lose a lot more than you could gain. Respect Your OpponentsThis one is short and simple. You NEED to respect the drivers around you.If you don't respect the other guys on track, bad things happen. Nobody will respect you if you don't respect them, and that just leads to bad situations on track. No matter what incidents happen, and regardless of how you feel about someone as a driver, always give them the same amount of respect as you expect from others while on track. Once you've pulled off, take some time to settle down and look at a replay if an incident occurred. Otherwise, business as usual. I cannot stress enough; never take your focus off the task at hand while you're on track. Doesn't matter what stupid shit people decide to do, let it roll off your back and keep running your race. There's plenty of time after you cross the finish line to hash it out in your head.