Dr. Phillip J. De Prez

Let’s start at the beginning!

A good start can be about being in the right mental place, at the right time and to the right level of emotion.

While all aspects of mental racing preparation are important, one aspect can have a big impact on the race from the beginning; I am of course talking about the start. I think we have all watched races, and the start is usually one of the most exciting parts. It is probably when all the machinery is the closest and there are normally racers who get a great start and if on pole maximise the advantage from that, or if further down the grid make up places off the line and into the first corner, and those racers who struggle to maintain their qualifying position or get overtaken on that short run to the first corner. So, what is the difference between these racers, those who consistently get a good start and those who struggle with starts?

There can be two important reasons to get a good start, firstly it gives you the opportunity to set up the best track position for the first few corners, and secondly it normally means that the one in front keeps out of any first corner incidents which may hold you up or cause damage. Once in front you have the opportunity to run the race to your own strategy and concentrate on the best lines and consistent lap times.

The first step to a good start is to decide when you prepare for the start. This for me is not a last-minute process sitting on the line waiting for the start but begins early in the day when the meeting begins. A good start is not just about quick reaction times but a process that takes in lots of information about the track, starting procedures and the other racers. Our reaction times vary from around 0.2 of a second to around 0.5 of a second and these times can equate to a few machine lengths as we go into that first corner. Our brains are quite slow at thinking, taking in information, decoding it, and deciding on an action or actions. Your eyes see the signal to start which sends a message to the brain, the brain recognises this as a signal to start and then sends messages to all the parts of the body to take action: the foot to push the peddles to go, the hands to steer and the eyes to look around.

Preparation is important because it gets you in the right mindset for a quick start.

You can be too relaxed, or the opposite, too anxious. The ideal place to be is where performance is at the peak and the start can be maximised to give you the best opportunity to win the race. There are many different techniques to try to ensure you are at this optimum point, and everyone is different so the one that suits you may be not the same for others.

A couple of questions you may want to consider?

  • When do you prepare for the start?
  • How do you prepare for the start?

When you find the system that works for you there is nothing like that feeling of launching off that start line quicker than everyone else on track and that confidence helps set up every other aspect of the race.

Stay safe and enjoy your racing!

Best wishes, Phill.
Phillip specialises in the Psychology of Human Performance with motorsport teams and individuals focusing on minimising error based behaviours, decision making and developing consistent successful behaviours. Along with his strong academic background, he has over 30 years experience of racing himself which he can use to help others reach their racing potential.