Racing Driver Attributes - What Does it Take? Part 1


Excerpts from the book “DRIVE TO WIN”  by CARROLL SMITH

Attributes of a Racing Driver

There are several attributes necessary to make a successful racing driver. We read that the racing driver, amongst other things, must have abnormal reflexes, hand-eye coordination and eyesight; that he must be absolutely fearless and finally that he must be blessed with huge amounts of money.

Awesome Reflexes and Hand-Eye Coordination

There have been, are and will be very successful racing drivers who cannot see worth a damn without corrective lenses. Try the story on Tom Sneva, Bobby Rahal, Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve or Brian Herta. What is required in the vision department is an exceptional ability to focus one’s vision on the whole picture rather than on one particular object. This is more than peripheral vision – it is more on the line of awareness.

Really good racing drivers are acutely aware of everything that is going on around them – just like really good fighter pilots. You notice it when riding with them on the highway – they see things that other people do not and not just good-looking ladies. Some of this ability is inborn, and some of it is developed. It is crucial so develop it.

Excellent reflexes and hand-eye coordination are necessary, but they need not to be awesome. Of course, awesome reflexes and hand-eye coordination cannot hurt, and the “great” drivers are blessed with them. Both can be improved by training. As a matter of fact, good racing drivers pick up things like juggling and tennis very quickly.

Drive to Win

The Truth About the Reflex

The racing driver’s reflexes seem abnormal because, like all athletes, they have been trained and conditioned. The truth of the reflex bit is that the successful racing driver does not react to what the car does – he anticipates what the car is going to do and makes the car do what he wants it to do. The driver’s speed comes from anticipation. Reflexes are what saves his life when the anticipation (or the car) fails.

Abnormal Sense of Balance

For some obscure reason, we seldom read that the racing driver requires an abnormal sense of balance. He does. It has been said that the Earnhardts, Ervans, Kinsers, Mears, Prosts, Sennas, Schumachers, Swindells and Unsers of the world could walk high wires – I don’t doubt it. Good racing drivers are usually good skiers, and they can all ride skateboards right away. In the immortal words of the late, great Denny Hulme, “It’s all a question of balance.”


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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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