What makes a great driver?

What makes a great driver? How do they do it? Is it a natural ability? Can it be learnt? Well, the best place to start is to look at some of the best drivers in the world, both past and present. Sir Stirling Moss, James Hunt, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, and more recently, a young chap called Lewis.

So what makes them great? Would you believe that it’s because they’re slow? “Slow?!” I hear you cry. But aren’t they known for being fast? Well, sort of… Let me explain. I’ve competed in professional motorsport myself – OK, I’m no Lewis Hamilton (I started far too late in life for a start!) but I’ve competed in enough races (including some against Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell) and undergone sufficient tuition to be able to pass on the “secret” of being a great driver. It’s something they’re all taught. Something that seems counter-intuitive when you first start your career as a racing driver, but it’s the biggest, most important single thing you must always remember when you’re on the race track:

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast”

Is that it? Well, yes, actually. If you carry too much speed into a corner, you’ll come out the other side much slower than someone who went into the corner at a slower speed than you. That’s a fact. Another way that professional racing instructors try to get this message across to drivers is “slow in, fast out”. Acceleration must be gentle and progressive. A “digital throttle” or heavy foot will get you one place in the world of motorsport, and that’s in the tyre wall, gravel trap or worse, the crash barrier!

If you want to be a fast driver, you must be slow, you must be smooth, and you must be calm. Calm, smooth drivers are the best of the best. Again, that’s not theory or hypothesis; it’s a fact. So, if you want to be a great driver…. Be calm. Be smooth. Be slow.

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