Practice Makes Perfect

Tuesday 05 May 2020

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Even during the lockdown period, Motorsport UK Driver Academy member Molly Dodd is finding that remote simulator training is sharpening her skills.

At the current time, a lot of uncertainty surrounds not just motorsport but all areas of the world. Due to closures of multiple facilities, many athletes are in the process of finding ways to adapt to their new circumstances. Examples of this include Motorsport UK’s #StayOnTrackChallenge, which aims to encourage racing drivers to keep in touch via various social media platforms and show people what they are doing to pass the time practically and keep up with their training.

An Online iZone training session, offered to me and my fellow classmates at the Motorsport UK Driver Academy, was another such opportunity. My name is Molly Dodd, I am a driver currently racing in the Junior Saloon Car Championship and also enjoying life on the Enhanced DiSE Programme at Loughborough College.

When the email came through from my coaches and leaders at Loughborough informing me about the Remote Training options that iZone was offering, I jumped at the chance and emailed to ask for a place on the schedule. iZone offered two options to potential candidates: one for drivers with their own home-based simulator, and one for drivers without – this was described as a 1-2-1 personal assessment review. As I am lucky enough to have my own home-based simulator, I took the first option.

Once set up remotely online, and after a video chat link with Neil Riddiford, my coach for the session, I began my remote training. Neil could see what I was doing on track by watching a live stream of my performance and gave me practical advice at the same time via video call. At first, I had five laps to give him an idea of the level I was at on my own simulator, before he provided me with feedback.

After these five laps, Neil stopped me and asked me what I thought of the session. He decided that, based on my responses, I was to work on two things within the next five laps: looking into the corner apex earlier and looking up at the exit earlier. I graded myself on both based on how well I thought I had done on each count, with the aim of improving this grade over the session.

These two points are very important over the course of the lap. One of iZone’s most stressed points throughout its training is the importance of correct process and technique rather than just trying harder. Looking into the corner gives the driver more time to plan their entry, braking point and to spot their apex – which is a crucial point of any corner. And it was this vital knowledge that Neil was trying to instill in me by my second five-lap test. The most important thing that I learned from this session was patience.

Once introducing a new point into my already long list of things to keep an eye out for on track, I soon began to feel a little pressure from the inbuilt desire to produce ‘the perfect lap’. However, after taking a step back and pacing myself, I realised that the longer I spent building myself up to these important changes, the easier they came to me. Soon after, my lap times started to steadily decrease as a result, and I became more and more confident. By the fourth session, I’d shaved a fair amount off of my original time and attempted a fifth session which served as a mock qualifying.

My task from Neil in the final session was a target time that was a tenth below my current fastest lap on the Silverstone National Circuit. With his help from the previous hour, I had little trouble completing this task. I was so glad to have had this opportunity to continue some of my training at home with an instructor – even if it was remotely. I wasn’t certain how this would play out at first, considering any potential connection issues, or whether or not my instructor Neil would be able to determine enough from what he could see.

As it turned out, the session ran extremely well and the video call was brilliant for the 1-2-1 side of the training, when Neil was giving me feedback on what he had seen. What this proved to me is that despite the current situation – which may have previously been seen as a restriction – it is still possible for me to stay on track not only with my training, but with my learning and my progression as a racing driver.

As a part of the Motorsport UK college course, young racers such as myself and my classmates are provided with several days of training at the iZone facility at Silverstone Circuit. This online session was an innovative way of testing remote training options for racing drivers who want the support but find that a drive to iZone is a bit out of their way for a regular schedule. There are many differences between my simulator – which is a Symdeck GCR1000 Motion Platform, a brilliantly designed gaming and performance simulator – and the hi-tech facilities that iZone offers for drivers to train on at their base, and one of those is the lack of data that I am currently provided with at home, but that didn’t stop us from taking a mighty good go at tackling some of my larger hinderances on track.

I found that it was a very informative and highly practical session, and since ending my call with Neil, only continued to decrease my lap times. I made sure to write down anything that Neil told me, and any constructive feedback that I must continue to work on so that I can keep track of my progress and make absolutely certain that I get everything I possibly can out of the opportunity.

The notes that I made during the session will hopefully serve me well into what remains of this season’s racing and the ones after. Both the sim training and the 1-2-1 assessment review serve as an example that there are many ways that we can overcome the training issues that we are facing and continue to focus on our goals.

I would like to thank both the Motorsport UK Academy coaches and leaders, and iZone Driver Performance for this fruitful opportunity and hope that this report reflects my enthusiasm for the work that they have put into making sure that we all stay on track.

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