Ashish Narrandes is that rarity of rarities - a young South African racing driver who not only thinks about what he’s doing but can also explain it to non-racers in ways that make sense. In this opinion piece, he examines the most powerful go-fast tuning tool in any racer’s garage: the mind:
We all think differently - that's what makes us human - but most people's reponses under pressure boil down to very similar reactions.
If this is your first year racing, it’s pretty different as you’re all excited to go “balls to the wall”; however a lot of the time a rookie ends up in the wall and loses all his balls (confidence if you’re wondering but hey, you never know).
Accidents can have a really negative effect on your confidence. What you do next depends on the type of driver you are. You either go through that corner slower and build up confidence after a few laps or go just as fast as the last lap which can have a serious negative or positive result.
Here you’re getting accustomed to the new car and the track while trying to post fast lap times. What you see in racing games is never the same in reality. You don’t feel the bumps or see the same elevation in a game or even feel the down-force of the car.
It’s about understanding the car’s level of down-force, the grip of the tyres, the sensitivity of the accelerator, the gear shifting and speed of the car and putting everything together and slamming a lap time! You have to become one with the car and have a greater bond with the car than your marriage. (You never heard that from me)
You’re absorbing tons of information while keeping it on the circuit, learning how to go faster while using limited track time to maximise everything you’re absorbing and putting it into the perfect lap time, lap after lap. If the car kicks out under braking at a certain corner, or if it suddenly begins oversteering, you’ve got to adapt to that while still doing everything else.
It’s like achieving a degree in six months, just more fun, and it comes naturally to you. My mom would be so proud of me if she only saw it this way.
It’s a complete mind game! You cannot afford to have any distractions.
Race weekends are a lot different and more taxing mentally.
The start of a race weekend gives all drivers a bit of nerves - in my case more from excitement! You know you’re going to be strapped down in a powerful sexy machine that screams louder than anything you’ve ever heard before (yes you know what I mean).
You go through the practice sessions keeping completely focused on getting the best setup and strategy for qualifying and the race(s) ahead.
Let me put it this way, when you put your helmet on and shut the visor, whatever problems you’re going through, whatever issues you have, it all goes away. You become a completely different person. Nothing else matters. Nothing. You become completely dialed in to the job ahead and enter a completely different state of mind.
It’s hard to explain in words, but I really don’t think you could enter a similar mind set anywhere else. Remember there are no “breaks” or half time in a race. You’re constantly in this mindset.
If you’re on pole, there’s always that added mental pressure to get a clean get away into the first corner.
During the race, apart from absorbing and applying information, you also have different options on the steering wheel to adjust the cars setup as the race goes on. Remember it can rain at any point of the race and when it does, some parts of the track could be dry as a drought and other parts of the track flooded with water. To put the cherry on the top, you’re also constantly on the radio with your race engineer talking about the car, position, strategy and so on.
It’s the main event! There’s no slowing down or scrapping a lap because you made a small mistake. You have to be on the limit the whole time. All your hard work with sponsors, practice, sleepless nights and the tears all comes down to this. You’d rather have terrible practice sessions and qualifying, and have a brilliant race, than the other way around.
It sounds hard and it is hard, but if it’s what you really and truly want to do in life, it all comes naturally.
The same goes with following your passion in life. What may come easily and naturally to you, might be the hardest thing ever for someone else and vise versa.
Follow your passion - you’ll never regret it, I promise you.