In Racing, the Eyes Have it!

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In racing the eyes have it

Throughout our history, some of the world’s greatest business leaders have been referred to as “visionaries”. This metaphor implies that game-changing companies are lead by people who have great vision. They simply see things that others have missed.

This weekend, millions of people will be focused on the Super Bowl. And more specifically, the two quarterbacks – Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes – both of which clearly have next-level ability in how they “see” the game. Their vision is extraordinary. They see more, see it sooner, and process what they see faster and more efficiently than other quarterbacks. 

Develop a Greater, Wider Field of Vision

Wider field of vision

Well, the act of driving a race car is also dependent on a great vision. And this ability to see more, see it sooner, and process it faster is what separates great drivers from the not-so-great. With practice, you can develop your vision and learn when and where to look.

Racers, when they are just starting out, tend to make the mistake of not looking far enough down the track. Their eyes are too low. Raising your eyes and looking up opens up your field of vision which allows you to use more of your peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is certainly less recognized for its value, but it is a critical tool that can be developed. Seeing race cars beside you, track edges, ability to cope with traffic at race start, and more, through peripheral vision, combined with seeing them earlier than your competitors, allows you to make critical decisions before anyone else.

By not looking far enough down the track, or through a corner, you significantly reduce your awareness of things around you. This limits the time available to you to make critical decisions. Hall of Fame NHL great Wayne Gretzky was renowned for his vision – he simply saw things that no one else did. The saying “eyes in the back of his head” comes to mind.

Develop a Better Sense of Balance

In racing, the eyes have it! 1

Having your eyes up, and looking farther down the track also gives the driver a better sense of balance. They become more ‘centered’. Just like walking, running, riding a bike or a  skateboard, looking further ahead fine-tunes your sense of balance so you are relying less on your inner ear. Try standing on one foot with your eyes closed. This also translates into the seat-of-the-pants feeling of the handling of the racecar as you are using more than one tool in your toolbox to understand what is happening all around you.

Of course, the learned skill of looking further ahead, eyes up, helps you with anticipation as your focal vision is directly connected to your conscious decision-making process. What you are looking at is in your thoughts. Therefore looking ahead gives you more time to respond to what is down the road, traffic conditions, the next corner, flag stations, and more.

Greater Vision Corrects Improper Driving Line

Correct improper driving lane

Motorcycle road racers also are taught very early that their bike is going to end up where they are looking, so they better be looking in the right places. So, you must look where you want to go, not only when in control but perhaps more importantly, when you are losing control, it is imperative to keep your eyes focused on your objective. This will allow you to subconsciously take the correct path (racing line) through the corner. Your race car ends up going where you are looking. Great vision corrects improper diving lines, and when a driver loses control, vision is going to help the driver get that control back.

Looking further down the track also reduces a person’s sense of speed, thereby reducing anxiety. Things tend to slow down, which leads to faster lap times. When you are relaxed, you will perform better. And once you have mastered this, you’ll get that feeling of “being in the zone”, all thanks to your eyes!


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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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