How to Improve – Ross Bentley

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How To Improve – Ross Bentley

Albert Einstein once said, “A sure sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something to change.” I don’t know if Albert was much of a race fan, but I’m pretty sure he was talking about race drivers when he said this! It appears that way, at least.

Think about it. How many race drivers go onto the track and do the same thing over and over again and expect something to change? They think that by getting seat time, they will improve. Or, they prepare for an upcoming season the exact same way they did every other season, but expect the new one to be better than the past.

By the very nature of auto racing, there are always more losers than winners. Unless you took the pole, put down the fastest lap, and won every race last season, I suspect your goal for this coming season is to do better. Great! But how are you going to do that? By preparing the same way you have in the past (“insanity” in Einstein’s words), or by doing something different?

A few will say, “I had a pretty good year this past season, so I’ll do pretty much the same thing, only a little more and try harder.” But, does that make sense? Is doing the same thing with more effort going to provide a much different result? Perhaps if you just came off the past four seasons like Sebastian Vettel did, doing more of the same with a little more effort would be justifiable. But this season has already shown that Vettel will have to look at ways to do things differently to regain and maintain his edge on the competition. You know what they say about maintaining? If you’re maintaining in racing, you’re actually going backwards. Unless you’re progressing, in fact, you’re falling back.

Even if you did just come off of a winning season, do you know why? It may be just as bad to have won, not knowing how or why you won, as it is to have lost. If you don’t know how or why you won, what are the chances of you winning again?

So, what did you do well last season, and what could you have done better? (See sidebar below)

How would you rate your performance last season? I don’t mean your results. You see, competitors like race drivers typically measure their performance by their results, not their true performance. In other words, if we win, we think that we performed well, and if we lost we think we performed poorly. But is that the right way to look at it?

Have you ever won a race, and then thought afterwards that you really didn’t drive all that well? Or, the opposite: you finished third, tenth or even fifteenth, but knew that you drove the wheels off the car and that it had nothing left? Which was your best performance?

One of the reasons racing is a challenging sport is that even if you perform at your best, your car may not, and you won’t get the result you’re after. To be true to yourself, you really should rate yourself on how well you performed, not the result you achieved.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is important. It’s why we race. If we weren’t competitive, we would participate in a sport called “auto driving,” not auto racing. But, if we focus on our performance, the result will take care of itself. If we focus on the result, it’s often the case that we don’t perform as well. For example, have you ever tried really hard to turn a fast lap, only to have it be slow? Have you ever gone out on the track just to check something out on the car, only to have that be one of your quickest laps? Often, when we are not focused on the result, we get the result we’re after.

In racing, what can you control? Your competition? The race results? Your own performance? While you can, at best, influence the first two, you can only control your performance. And controlling your performance is ultimately the only way you can get the results you want.

Perhaps you’re wondering what exactly my point is with this article. It’s simple: to get you to open your mind up to some new approaches, and to challenge you to take your racing to an all-new level this coming season. In future articles I will suggest some techniques and strategies with the objective of helping your performance improve significantly this coming season.

And yes, I will challenge your thinking and approach towards racing. After all, that’s the only way to avoid Albert’s definition of insanity!


Every driver has weaknesses. They are not things to be ashamed of, just things that needs improvement.

The first step in improving any weakness is to be aware of what it is. The challenge is identifying the real cause of the weakness.

I like to use a concept I call “The Onion.” If you slice an onion in half, you see the layers. At the centre, there is the core of the onion. Remember this while I change gears for a minute.

I want you to take two blank sheets of paper, and at the top of one write “Did Good.” At the top of the other write “Do Better.” Then, start writing – list everything you did good last season, and everything that you need to do better. This is the awareness part.

Now comes the onion part again. As soon as you write something down, think of it as being the outside layer of the onion. Think about what really caused that weakness, and then write that down. And then think of that as only the second layer of the onion. What caused that, and that, and that… until you get to the core of the weakness. You can’t fix a weakness by dealing with a symptom or effect. You can mask the weakness, but you can’t truly fix it. By peeling the layers of the onion, you force yourself to become aware of the real weakness.

Once you’ve completed your list, you’re ready to begin preparing for the best season of your racing life.

Ross Bentley

For more of Ross’ writing, along with articles by other famous and not-so-famous contributors, go to, and check out his website at He can be reached at

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Allen Berg

Allen Berg ranks among Canada's top racing personalities. He won the Formula Pacific Tasman Championship, won at Silverstone against Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle in perhaps the greatest year ever in British Formula 3, and qualified for nine starts in F1, a record bettered among his countrymen only by Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve.

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