I am faster than I was.
The only problem is that everyone else has got faster, too!
This can make it feel like you’re not making much progress towards the front of the grid, but does have the bonus that you’re scrapping with the same people, which can be a lot of fun.
People seem to get faster in leaps, almost like unofficial divisions. The way I see it, I have two more of these ‘leaps’ to go until I’m up there, fighting for race wins. Whether I’ll ever actually be able to make those leaps is another matter…
At the moment I’m hanging around the fringes of the top 10, and the next leap will get me fighting for the top 6. At Anglesey I stayed right on the back of the lead chain until the end of the first lap, and then started falling back (or technically they all started getting faster and I couldn’t match the pace). So, driving well and with a bit of luck, I can scrape in the top 10 but that’s about as much as I can hope for.
You may have noticed that I’m being brutally honest with myself, here, and I’m saying that this extra speed is still purely in me.
Sure, the Sheane would benefit from new Ohlins suspension all round, but would that really make me faster? I think I’d find a few tenths of a second, but it wouldn’t be a ‘leap’ forward.
There are a lot of people in Formula Vee who buy a new car expecting it to carry them forward, and in almost every case the only profound effect it has is on their wallet! And that is because whatever car they’re in, the limiting factor is still themselves!
If you put me in Paul Smith’s all-singing, all-dancing Dominator, I have no illusions about the fact I wouldn’t go much faster. The best I could hope for would be that the new car made me feel more comfortable and confident, which may help me towards making that next ‘leap’. Otherwise I’d be much better off spending that money on a bunch of test days to pound around the track.
These thoughts were backed up at Cadwell, where eventual championship winner Ben Miloudi drove my car for RTV. Despite me thinking I was giving it about as much as the car could do, Ben battled for the lead from his first time out in the car!
I’m certain that if you put any of the front-running Vee drivers in any car from the rest of the field, they would still be front-running drivers – just like if you put anyone else into their cars they’d still be around the same speed as they normally were.
Alex Jones is one driver who has successfully made one of these ‘leaps’ – and he did it after driving a new car. However, this new car probably wasn’t the key. Alex had a load of professional driver coaching and worked really hard off the track to re-focus his efforts as a racer, and I think all of that paid off far more than his new car.
So is coaching the way forward? Quite possibly – but bear in mind you can’t suction cup the instructor to your car if you race single seaters, so that will make learning much tougher than having someone sat next to you. And it’s expensive, relatively. It’s not really an option for me, as I don’t have any spare budget at all, and driver coaches don’t work for free – especially for a new 40 year old driver who’s not expecting to quit his day job and reach Formula 1 in this lifetime.
A cheaper option is to have online coaching on a sim like iRacing. Here you will be coached on everything you need to drive faster, but then of course you’d have to translate that into real life – which is easier said than done when carrying 20mph into a corner can have you upside down and on fire in a gravel trap!
I know a few drivers in Vee have also used iZone Driver Performance at Silverstone. This seems like a great idea – you basically pay around £160+VAT for 2 hours on a driving simulator. For that you get a full performance report showing your strengths and weaknesses. I haven’t looked into this too much but it does seem like the most viable option, and then no doubt there’d be a blog all about my experience – so watch this space!
The other option is to make sure you listen to what people are saying, read everything you can, and try and put the thought out of your head that you might crash and kill your car!
This year I do intend to push myself a lot harder, so expect me to try and put that into words as I figure out how to get myself further up towards the pointy end of things!
It’s not that long to go, now – I’ll see you out there soon!