Takumi Fujiwara from Initial D

Think About Driving: Why You Should Drive Yourself Crazy

I absolutely cannot get enough on the topic of performance driving. Every day, in the shower, before bed, and even while I am driving casually on the street, I think about driving. The best part of driving is that you are essentially working to perfect something that can never be perfect. There is no such thing as “good enough”. There is only “I’ll come back to that”. I believe that the best drivers spend a lot of their time thinking about driving with a growth mindset. That is what makes the difference between a solid driver who doesn’t improve much and a growing student. The best part is that the student always wins in the end, as long as they remain dedicated to their own growth. While everybody has different learning styles and we all naturally follow different processes of improvement, thinking creatively and with an open mind is the best way to have as many “aha” moments as you can. The way I see it is that every “aha” moment is worth some significant amount of lap times that would normally take a ton of seat time to shave. For a beginner, this could be 5 seconds and for a professional, maybe a few tenths. My point is, the more you think about driving with a creative mind, the more “aha” moments you will have, and the more you will be able to improve over a shorter amount of time.

To be clear, when I say “thinking about driving”, this could be brainstorming in any sort of way, with the purpose of discovering some new knowledge that you could use to your advantage as a performance driver. I wish I could give you some sort of prompt to use, but that would limit your thought train and that is the last thing you want, as a thinking driver. That is the purpose of this article after all. It is time for you to become a thinking driver. Call yourself a driving thinker if you want, whatever is best for you. I can’t exactly tell you what or how to think in a way that will create the best results but I can give you some tips. The process, for me, will often times go like this: get bored, start daydreaming, board the train of thoughts. I forget what happens next. The important thing to know is that it's mostly happening on a subconscious level, even if you perceive yourself as thinking consciously. You are immersed in your thoughts, in the current moment, and that is the important part. You want to get lost in your thoughts. The important thing to know is that you probably know the answers to your questions. Deep down, the answers are inside of your psyche but you just have to jump through some hoops and cross some bridges to find them. It's like journaling when you just think about whatever comes to mind and the next thing you know, you learned a ton of stuff that was buried within your subconscious. Now that those thoughts can be moved into your conscious, you can apply them and build upon them. It's just a matter of acknowledging those thoughts so that you can add them to your acquired knowledge. (Journaling is the most productive way for me to apply my thoughts about driving and actually take action from them because it forces me to recognize every thought.) It is important to read and watch as much as you can about driving because that is often where we get our inspiration from. The thinking part is where you make sense of that information and apply it with your own flavor. The key is to filter what you agree with, and where you see things differently. Do not make the mistake of watching some rich guy in a fully built racecar on YouTube and assume that every little thing that he does is perfect. Even the best drivers make mistakes, almost constantly. At the end of the day, they are just driving how they have conditioned themselves to drive. It is literally impossible to do a “perfect lap”, whatever that even means. If I run the same lap time as someone else but I do it with more finesse and style, is my lap more perfect? The answer doesn’t really matter, but I am probably happier than the other guy.

The important thing to remember is that we all learn through struggle. I have often felt like the driver within me had gone into a slump because I got caught up on thoughts about driving and I became more aware of how I wasn’t performing how I wanted to. You have to remember that if you are satisfied with your driving then you are basically giving up on getting faster. You can tell yourself that you drove well, but when you are always working to get faster, you can’t always expect yourself to drive up to your personal standards that are always getting higher. The illusion of a slump happens when we have not recently made significant improvements and this can be hard on us. I personally love the part of driving where I can see myself improving and getting faster; all of my hard work pays off eventually and that is the reassuring feeling that keeps me going. Because we get down on ourselves as drivers, we do not perform well. It is not that we have gotten worse, it is just that it doesn’t feel good to simply go through the motions. When you feel like you aren’t driving well, take a step back from your thoughts about driving and remember that you are simply in the process of improving. You will naturally tend to get in your head during or after bad driving performances. You may start to drive yourself crazy, thinking about driving from a place of failure or worry. In the past, I would have to perform poorly and struggle a lot to then get a big boost up to the next level of competence. This is the classic case of one step back, two steps forward. This feels awesome when I hit that “aha” moment, but I spent a lot of time driving poorly, driving myself crazy. What you need to do is maintain your confidence while pushing yourself to improve. You are critiquing yourself for your own good but you cannot let it start a train of negative thoughts. The best drivers need to be able to set aside their struggles as learners to perform well as competitors.

What I have been attempting to allude to is that if you often ponder about your driving and if you dedicate more of your brainpower towards driving, you will absolutely receive payoffs. “Believe it!” -Naruto Uzumaki. The difference between the best drivers and the decent drivers is the way they think about driving. If driving was all about seat time then the best drivers would have the most seat time and anyone could simply become a world champion from just more seat time than the next best driver. Fangio, Senna, and Schumacher were so fast because they thought about driving constantly, got better at thinking about driving, and they had certain ideas about driving that guided them beyond the rest. It is almost like thinking about driving is the actual task at hand and the act of driving will just follow along. After all, driving is 100% mental and partly physical, too. The more high-quality thinking about driving you do, the faster you will improve and you won’t waste your money on track time, going through the motions to not actually make significant improvements. If two drivers have the same amount of seat time then the determining factor will be what’s going on inside their head. You want to optimize your seat time to get the most improvement out of the least amount of seat time. If you want to be faster than someone with more seat time, then you have to have the mental edge. At a high level, the quality of thought and time spent thinking about driving is almost fully the determining factor. Ross Bentley recommends that your number 1 goal when going to the track should be to learn, NOT to win the race or pass the guy who pissed on the seat before it was your turn.

I am sure this was a lot to take in but you have to take some sort of action. Don’t worry about doing the absolutely correct thing. Just do something and you can go from there. Good luck. I really went on for a while, huh. Please feel free to comment and give feedback. If you disagree with something I said, enlighten me. After all, I might just be the Mad Hatter of driving.



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