Visualize Like A Pro: 4 simple steps to enhance your pre-race game.

I’m so excited to continue adding new writers to Racers HQ.

I’d like to introduce Calvin Jilek. Calvin made an instant impression on me about a year go by being the only person in history to call me on the phone to ask a question about racing.

Since then he’s been one of the most active members of the Racers HQ community. And because of his deep insight and extremely helpful comments on the Facebook page I invited him to write an article for RacersHQ.com.

His insight on autocross and the skill of visualization will help you break new ground in an area you may not be thinking about.

Here’s Calvin.

-Matt


Calvin is an F-Street (Mustang) autocrosser with the Old Dominion Region of the SCCA. You can follow Calvin on YouTube and Instagram.


When asked how to better themselves on course many drivers will say the same thing; more seat time.

Whether it’s to familiarize themselves with the track or to practice a particular section, more time on course is one of the top wishes of any driver.

But with only a finite amount of time on the track, how does one gain more time? The answer: mental imagery and visualization.

Using this skill to mentally drive the course will allow you to get an infinite amount of seat time without ever turning on your car.  While this may sound complicated, it is much easier than you think.

After your course walk, sit in your car and close your eyes.

Simulate driving the course in your mind while also moving your hands and feet as if you were steering, braking, etc.

Even go as far as imagining the sound of your car going around the course (engine revolutions climbing or falling, tires singing).

To quick implement this strategy into your racing program here are four quick steps to boost your visualization skills.

1. Train like the pros.

On the surface this may seem like daydreaming, but it is actually an important tool that many top level racers (among other athletes) use to their advantage.

Watch MotoGP racer Philipp Oettl visualizing the Sachsenring, for example.

With this skill you can practice using more of the track on corner exit in places where you may have been more cautious.

You can also utilize it to train yourself to brake a bit later into a corner that you take too soft.  By practicing these situations mentally, you are more likely to follow through when the situation arises.

Mental visualization is an effective way to pinpoint areas of the course where you need to pay closer attention.

You may find it becomes difficult to visualize driving a part of the course in your head.

The cause is likely due to your brain not having sufficient information to complete the mental rendering.

Make note of that location as it should be an area of the course you should pay more attention to and, if possible, walk again.

To better utilize your visualization, it is useful to be proficient with a few related techniques.

2. Familiarize yourself with the dimensions of your vehicle.

Look at the cars in any parking lot and one thing becomes apparent: people don’t know the physical dimensions of the vehicle they drive every day.

Knowing where your wheels and outer corners are in relation to the driver’s seat will aid you when mentally and physically driving the course.

You can easily create a visual reference of these points by using items you already have in your home: wooden skewers (or similar) and painters tape.

Start by vertically taping skewers on the fender over the centerline of the wheels.  Make sure they are tall enough so that they can be seen from the driver’s seat.

It can be helpful to make a flag out of tape at the top so it’s easier to see.  Replicate the process for the outer front corners of your car.

Once finished sit in the driver’s seat and commit these reference points to memory.

This is especially useful if you have recently changed vehicles (i.e. Miata to Corvette).

3. Walk how you drive.

Walk the course as if you were physically in your car driving it.

Place yourself on the line where you would be while sitting in your car.  Sometimes walking with someone next to you (silently; pay attention!) will help position yourself correctly as if they are sitting in the passenger seat.

[Editor’s Note: I often see people stopping, turning around, and looking backward when walking a course. I never could figure out why. 

If you end up driving in that direction you’re definitely doing something wrong anyway. 

Put all your focus in the one direction you’ll be racing. If you don’t you’re just adding irrelevant information into your head that you’ll have to tuen out later. -Matt]

4. Get on the correct level.

How you see the course when you are standing will be a bit different than when you are sitting in a low car.

What may seem like a clear path on course while 6 feet in the air can disappear when your line of vision is now three feet high.

While on your course walk, periodically squat or kneel to get an idea of how the course will look from the perspective of the driver’s seat.

These techniques are integral in creating a correctly scaled mental image.  It is not beneficial to visualize yourself driving with the footprint of a Corvette, at the ride height of a truck, when you are driving a small, low Miata.

Why should I use visualization?

If you are on the fence about the effectiveness of this valuable skill, look no further than Ayrton Senna.

He would spend an hour visualizing the course and how he would drive it, down to the smallest detail.

Ayrton could even visualize a qualifying lap in the same amount of time to drive it in real life.

The best racers in the world use mental imagery to their advantage.  If it is valuable enough for them, then it certainly is for you.


Calvin is an F-Street (Mustang) autocrosser with the Old Dominion Region of the SCCA. You can follow Calvin on YouTube and Instagram.


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