It’s not often that you show up to a track with “the perfect setup”. Even when you unload at the top of the board after your first run, does that mean you stop working to improve? What if you are not sure where to improve? What if you are not at the top of the time sheet after your second run and you don’t have any feedback to give about your car? There are countless situations that can create doubt or an unsure feeling in a driver about what to do next. Track temps change, tires wear out, drivers adjust. What I have realized is when you get to that point of uncertainty, this is what you need to remember. There are only two responses that you should look for from your car. 1) Feedback. 2) Speed. If you are not getting one or both responses, you have to drive harder.
One of the main killers of success in motorsports, or any competitive sport for that matter is complacency. Yes, I know that none of us are ever going to be perfect and we are never going to be given the perfect car to drive. However, that is exactly what we should be shooting for. Even if you are at the top of the time sheet, you have to keep pushing for more. If you aren’t at the top of the sheet and you don’t have any complaints about your car, you have to find something to fix. In most situations, the phrase “we just didn’t have any speed” is not applicable. I reserve that saying for superspeedways or other situations where you are at 100% throttle for an entire run.
Of course, you have to be mindful with how much you are pushing your car and your tires. You can’t keep pushing the tires past the grip they have to offer and expect your car to get better. The main point is don’t get complacent. If you don’t feel like there is anything wrong with your car and you aren’t fast, push harder. Make something slip and let your team know when it does. When they fix that issue, push the limits again and make something else slip. Never settle for a car that is just “ok”.
The second acceptable response from your car is speed. If you push harder and it goes faster, that’s a great sign. If at that point you still don’t have any negative feedback from your car, guess what? Push harder! When do you stop? Stop when the car gives you negative feedback. Report it to your team, let them fix it, then continue to push.
Feedback or speed. That is how you measure your car. Don’t focus on the lap times. You should always be pushing to go as fast as you can for as long as you can. Do not settle for “good enough”. Don’t even settle for top of the board by 3 tenths. Again, keep things like tire management in mind and don’t drive beyond what your equipment can handle or what the track can give you for grip. If you find yourself unsure of how you or your car are performing, drive harder untill your car gives you feedback or you pick up speed. Play that on repeat.