I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of drivers over the years – with a range from completely new drivers to those competing at the very top of national and international competition.
The role of a coach in the ultimate performance of a driver is just one part of the overall driving faster puzzle. The most important aspect is likely the commitment of the driver to the overall process including aspects such as fitness training, but there are also numerous other critical components such as support from teams, engineers, mechanics, parents, and funding.
I’ve prepared a few short write-ups of my coaching journeys with some drivers below.
I had the pleasure of working with Singapore-based Dion Gowda from the end of 2017 at the very early part of his racing career at the age of 10, until the beginning of 2019.
Dion had just started racing in the Cadet category at events in Singapore, and being a new driver, he was finishing near the back of the field. With an intense training program in the off-season with coaching sessions typically once or twice a week in addition to some solo-practice, Dion was able to make vast improvements in his driving technique in a short amount of time, resulting in pole position and a heat win when the ROK Cup season got underway in Singapore.
The coaching consisted of focused sessions at karting tracks with frequent video review. We started with the very fundamentals of cornering technique, and then kept moving towards the finer details to extract more lap-time. A long-term approach was key, and Dion adapted well and understood aspects such as focusing on his personal performance rather than simply looking at the results sheets (which can be misleading – if for example the competition isn’t at a very high level).
Race days aren’t the ideal time to focus on technique changes – the primary tasks of
driving should be at a subconscious level. The focus with Dion during race weekends thus switched much more towards being mentally prepared for qualifying and the races, as well as some focus towards fine-tuning kart setup and racing strategy. This strategy proved successful with several podium finishes, a track record, and being able to compete near the front of European fields at some of his first events outside of Asia. One of his first major events was the ROK Cup Finals in Italy in October of 2018, in which he made the final and ran as high as 8th place, ultimately finishing in a super-impressive 11th place out of 143 drivers!
I also worked with Dion on his physical fitness with some basic gym work to improve his strength, in addition to his already stellar cardiovascular fitness thanks to his swim training and school sports activities.
Another critical component of our programme was simulator training. We put together a high-level simulator for Dion and it served as a great addition to our on-track training, providing a relaxed atmosphere to work on driving technique, without the added distractions of a race track. Habits or changes to driving technique could be refined on the simulator – my belief that simulator training can be an incredibly useful tool for driver performance was further strengthened by Dion’s success.
The transformation in outright speed from Dion in the space of a year was truly phenomenal, and as mentioned at the top of this page my role was just one part of the overall puzzle. The support from his parents and Dion’s committed focus on performance and his maturity at such a young age were vital, and will continue to serve him on his quest at becoming a professional race car driver.
Dion is now based in the UK and racing near the top of the OK-Junior fields in Europe at events such as the Academy Trophy and WSK