Non-Thinking Driving, The Zone, Subconscious Driving….. These are all the Holy Grail of driving. But they can be deadly to your performance!  Here’s why….

Getting in the zone and driving subconsciously is all the rage with coaches and sports psychologists.  It’s what we are all chasing because we know that when a driver reports being in the zone, they really are fully on it….

The theory goes that when we are ‘in the zone’ we are driving using subconscious processing.  Simply put, when we drive on auto-pilot we are using a part of our brain that works much faster.  Therefore we drive faster.

Another way to describe it is non-thinking driving.  When you drive without having to think about it you are quicker.

I’m always banging on about it, especially because it feels absolutely great – and drivers do go faster.

Fine…..

BUT, getting in the zone is not simple.  There isn’t a switch you can flick to drive subconsciously, there is no 100% guarantee that when you next drive you will drop into the zone early enough in the race, or even at all.

Simply starting to think can throw you out of the zone and back into the world of being an ordinary driver, things come at you fast, you lose concentration and you make mistakes.

And what if you are totally dependant on being in the zone when you drive?  Does that mean that unless you enter that magical fairy world where time disappears and everything is easy, you will be crap?

For some drivers this is the way they live, they are slaves to the zone!!

Zone Anxiety

This is what I call the feeling that drivers experience when they know that today they just aren’t feeling it.

They start to think about the consequences of not being able to get in the zone.  They know they aren’t as quick unless they can tap the mystery feeling that comes and goes, and the surest way to chase away the zone is to become anxious.

Once you get zone anxiety, you’ve had it! You start to think about how to get back in the zone, you think as you drive…. But the zone by definition is subconscious, which means it comes without thinking.  If you think about the zone you kill it.

The Cure – Thinking is human, don’t deny it and become the best thinking driver you can!

People think continuously, you can’t stop it.  If you obsess about becoming a non-thinking person you get yourself into an impossible vicious circle.  Thinking is your primary function, and you can’t escape it – it is what makes you, you. There isn’t much left of you if you aren’t thinking!

To associate thinking with poor driving will kill your confidence.  If you associate thinking with being slow, you are undermining your self as a person.  It’s almost like saying, ‘when I am conscious and aware, when I am thinking and trying, I’m a bit rubbish’.

That is almost the perfect recipe for creating a driver with low confidence, self-doubt and all the things that hurt performance.

So, here is my cure.

Embrace thinking when you drive – Create very detailed driving plans that require your thinking mind to work hard.

This means consciously studying the track inch by inch, think about lines, draw diagrams.

  • Memorise braking points, turn in points apex, and exits.  Know exactly where you want to be at every point on the track.
  • Know what your plan for the race is, know how you will make the start work, where you will over-take.
  • Know how hard you will use the brakes, how you will apply the throttle.
  • When out on the track, mentally recall your corner diagrams 

Learn to depend on your thinking mind to drive fast, trust your thoughts and make them work for you!

And when you fully trust your thinking mind to get you round the track as fast as possible, you no longer NEED the zone.  You don’t need the magic to come, you (the normal everyday you that you are familiar with) are in control.

Ironically, since showing this approach to drivers they are far more relaxed and confident and find themselves driving in the zone much more!!  Go figure…..

If you want to make sure you head to your next event feeling like you are on a mission, fired up and ready to slap down the opposition –  go here

3 replies
  1. Unknown
    Unknown says:

    Dear Sir,

    I am a little embarrassed ( actually a lot ) to ask this but I really what to know how the drivers do this.
    I often hear the drivers saying that by the end of the race the track was faster.
    My question is: how do they figure this out without risking going to wide into the corner, or loosing the rear when they push the throttle.
    Do you understand what I am asking?

    From my unskilled driver point of view the only way to figure out whether the track is faster or not I need to do one of two things:

    1)Break a little bit later into corner risking going to deep because the track isn't faster ( more grip,.. you know what I mean ).
    2)Pushing the throttle a lit bit sooner risking oversteer.

    So how do they do it?

    Thank you for your help and attention,
    Jorge

  2. Terence Dove
    Terence Dove says:

    Yes, I understand what you are asking. Normally you wouldn't need to challenge yourself by braking later, or pushing the kart harder in order to feel that the track is getting faster. Things would naturally become easier. For example, you might have a braking point that is close to the limit usually and when the track evolves you will find that it is easier to make your apex than usual. So you might say to yourself, 'that was easier than usual, the track must be better – I think I can take more speed into that corner next time'. So, it comes naturally, you don't necessarily need to take new risks.

  3. Terence Dove
    Terence Dove says:

    Yes, I understand what you are asking. Normally you wouldn't need to challenge yourself by braking later, or pushing the kart harder in order to feel that the track is getting faster. Things would naturally become easier. For example, you might have a braking point that is close to the limit usually and when the track evolves you will find that it is easier to make your apex than usual. So you might say to yourself, 'that was easier than usual, the track must be better – I think I can take more speed into that corner next time'. So, it comes naturally, you don't necessarily need to take new risks.

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