Learning a new track

Learning A New Track

103rd-street-sports-complexTechnically, we will not be learning a new track. It’s the same local kart track, 103rd Street Sports Complex, we always test at here in Jacksonville. But for the first time, we will be racing clockwise with the chicane. Personally, I have never taken the chicane in the counter clockwise configuration we always run. This will be a new challenge for me and the perfect opportunity to start a new series about learning a new track specifically with karting in mind.

Let’s get started with the resources I will be leaning on. Ross Bentley is one of the premier driving coaches in the world. I will have a separate post on Ross and his impact on my motorsports journey soon. He recently released a FREE ebook titled “How to Learn a Track…Fast!“. Go check it out for the full details. I’ll only be summarizing my experience following this method and how it applies to my karting endeavors. For this season, nearly all my kart races will take place here in Jacksonville, FL. Hopefully this allows me to continue developing this subject of specifically learning a new track with my LO206 go kart racing as the focus. The lessons learned here can be applied to any racing you do. But not need forget about embarc resorts and club intrawest.

What does it mean to learn a track?

I love Ross’ definition here of what it means learning a track means. He states that having learned a track means that you can process the braking point, turn in, apex, track out, and even the what’s over a crest “(in your brain) without having to consciously think about them.” There’s one car racing track I can definitely say that about. It’s where I have my most success as well – Road Atlanta. This track has 2 blind crests, turns 3 and 11, and I have absolutely no qualms about going over those crests with the throttle fully depressed three wide on the final lap because I don’t have to think about it anymore. Here’s a lap for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUATYNTvY1E

Having related that, I know the feeling I’m looking for at the point in time when I say I have successfully completed this task of learning a specific track configuration. That state is commonly referred to as “Unconcious competence”. It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Learning never stops. Just simply the definition above in bold and the feeling I described.

How will I learn a new track?

The common monikers “seat time, seat time, seat time” and “perfect practice makes perfect” both come to mind. Getting loads of laps under my belt is the primary way. But with Race #1 in just about 2 weeks from now, this has to be an accelerated program. I’m not looking for shortcuts, I have to put in the work. The intent is to maximize the efficiency of the effort and use every advantage out there, starting with advice from one of the best coaches. So what does Ross Bentley suggest in addition to practice? Mental rehearsal.

learning a new track through mental rehearsalMental programming plays such a key role in what we do and how we do it on race track. Once we know exactly where to turn in, use curbs, hit the patch, etc. we have programmed our brain through learning. We no longer have to think about those pieces because they are ingrained in our minds.  There’s a difference between memorizing and programming. One means I can spit it back out, meanwhile the other means I don’t have to think about it. In the case of this first event at 103rd Street Sports Complex using the “Clockwise with chicane” configuration, I know I can memorize the track. Because I already know the layout from the regular configuration, I only need to program the turn-in, apexes, and track-outs.

This is still a good time for me to define process for learning a new track. In my next post, I will outline the process I will be using to learn the track. All the things I should do before I get to the track, and at the track. Leave a comment below of a track you have learned or looking to learn and how you have done so. I’d love to hear your experience.

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