4.2: Surviving the first corner

“You can’t win a race in the first corner, but you can lose it in the first corner” is one of the oldest racing adages (another being ‘To finish First, you first have to finish’). And it’s one of the most valuable (and least adhered) lessons, as merely surviving the first lap can ensure a points finish, especially in the lower splits of road racing. But does first-corner-survival come down to mere luck, or is there some skill or strategy involved? We catch up with some of the VRS coaches.

Martti Pietilä:
“The most important thing about starting a race (and the first corner) is also one of the most fundamental concepts of racing overall: look where you want to go. When driving alone, this is quite natural, and most of the time we just need to think about how far we look, at either the apex or the exit. However, at a start there’s so much going on around us, we tend to forget this very basic requirement, and start to look at the cars around us. Especially if there’s a crash in front of us, we get so fixated on that and continue to plow in to the mess, even though there was plenty of time to avoid. The key here is to be aware of whats happening around you, not just looking at the cars around.

Lastly, if possible, I try to stay away from the middle of the track, so that an ‘escape’ plan is available if things go wrong!”

Jeremy Bouteloup:
“The best way is to think of all possible scenarios during the approach of the first turn, different racing lines and how you’ll have to position the car. This will help anticipating what will happen and will allow you to react in due time. A second thing is; don’t do anything unpredictable because that will increase the chances to be hit. Other than that, there’s no magic for this and with experience, you’ll learn when and how to react, and it’ll come naturally.”

Olli Pahkala:
“Keep up situational awareness, stay sharp and smart and try to avoid any sudden movements in a steady flow of cars.”

Martin Krönke:
“Heh, the easiest thing is just to qualify on pole. Less issues then! But still you can’t really prevent people running into the back of you. Perhaps if you notice in time that someone is going to overshoot the corner, you may prevent contact by not turning in. But if someone is messing up real bad, chances are you can’t do much at all. So really, if you’re in the pack, just expect the worst and be ready to react. Be prepared to brake and not run into the carnage. If the worst case doesn’t happen, good. If it happens, at least be prepared for it.”

David Williams:
“Regardless of where you start, your initial focus should always be on having a clean, disciplined launch. If you’re on the front row, try not to be distracted by drivers behind you. Be prepared to defend into turn 1 if necessary, and try and visualise the line you wish to carry through the corner before you get there. However, if you find yourself starting in the middle of the pack, it’s important to realise that you must give yourself the opportunity to react to, or take advantage of situations which will change and develop quickly. Be willing to brake much earlier than normal if closely following another car, as it’s likely they’ll be reacting to cars ahead and the pack will be backed up. Avoid erratic or aggressive inputs which may catch other drivers unaware, potentially causing a collision with you. At the same time however, be ready and aware of opportunities which may present themselves to you, and remember how much later you can brake if you choose a line with no cars immediately ahead.

One more thing, I consciously balance risk versus reward on tracks where it’s hard to overtake, or for sprint races compared to endurance races. But it’s also important to be aware that the rest of the grid are more likely to take extra risks as well, and to make allowance for mistakes from others to be made and ultimately capitalise on.”

Managing a simracing team: Javier Álvarez, team principal of Positive SimRacing

Javier Álvarez Benedí from Valladolid in Spain is the principal of the Positive SimRacing team, both spiritually as well as functionally; making the team grow with a business-like determination and can-do mentality. And it’s in this role that Javier is hugely influential in tutoring new sim racing talent.

What do you do during the day as your full time job?
In the government of the Castile and León region of Spain, I work a lot with people and teams as a strategist on long term plans and future innovations. And I’ve also been a scientific writer for over fifteen years.

How did you get started with Positive SimRacing?
In 2009 I was competing as a driver in Spanish sim racing championships, in sims like rFactor and games like F1 Challenge. Back than many Spanish drivers didn’t speak English, and didn’t have an international orientation, but I could see that sim racing would become an international eSport.

So, in 2012, I started to look for international championships, and joined Formula Sim Racing (FSR), in rFactor. There I found it was very difficult to start a team in that environment, because there was not enough drivers’ market. Basically, three teams dominated the grid and each had about ten drivers, which made very difficult the growth of new teams. But we had a different vision and philosophy: we saw the sim racing as something to be carried out beyond the sim racers, involving the general public and sponsors. Then, I met Jackson Wendt, and we started Positive SimRacing (PSR), maybe against the odds. Around this same time, the Royal Federation of Automobile of Spain hosted a sim racing competition, and we thought ‘let’s use this ‘, so we recruited some drivers from the top ten of that competition.

The first two years were a big challenge, because we weren’t such a strongly bonded team, more a group of drivers. For other teams it was really easy to steal our best drivers. Yet some people stayed and from this we grew into a team, more structured and moving up the ladder.

In 2014 we moved to iRacing, because there was more potential to grow and the competition was bigger. But because only three or four drivers joined the switch, we basically had to start the team from scratch again.

How does a team bond?
Some drivers, particularly young ones, may be very ambitious and don’t want plans spanning multiple years. They want to grow fast and become frustrated if they think they don’t have a good car setup. For them, it doesn’t matter if their driving style still needs work. With people who need results quickly like that, it’s nearly impossible to build a long term project.

But then, there are drivers that think long term and stick to the team. They have what you could call a philosophy, and we build a shared vision for the team. We’re very people focused. For instance, we don’t like to ‘steal’ drivers from other teams, we develop our own drivers. And that’s also why I think the PSR Driver Development Programme (DDP) with VRS is going so well. We invested lots of time in selecting the right people, and collaborating with drivers already in the team. The personal touch is what makes this strategy work.

How can philosophies differ among teams?
Maybe identity is a better word. There are teams who are elite and they only have to call a certain guy and he’ll join. Their main goal is to be at the limit and to win races. Although we won the SkipBarber 2K World Cup and took wins and podiums in other big events, we’re not at that level yet. We want to get there of course, but we need to develop the drivers and that takes time. This is our vision and we want to generate added value this way.

For this, we work together as a team. For instance, if a driver is in P4 and his teammate takes in P1, that’s like a win for both. We don’t have scenarios like Hamilton versus Rosberg in 2015-2016, or Hamilton versus Alonso in 2007. Everybody is committed to the success of the team. The identity and the sense of belonging to a project are essential parts of a team spirit, and I believe this is our niche.

Teams like Coanda don’t have a team manager role. Is this a different philosophy and
do you think one philosophy is better than the other?
I think it’s different, because Coanda may not have anyone in an official team manager role, however, drivers certainly assume leadership. It may not always be one and the same person, but they must have leadership within the team. They may have few but elite drivers, and they seem to aim to be an elite team with only a few elite drivers. A very good model, if you can make it work.

Coanda is perhaps the reference in modern sim racing, and beyond their sportive success and impressive results, their collaboration with VRS in improving the driver development constitutes a huge added value, which should be recognised by all the community.

Could you say you’re like a learning institution? To use an F1 comparison, like the
Sauber team?
Yes, that’s part of our philosophy, and it applies even to non-driving-related learning. I try to pair up Spanish drivers with English speaking drivers, so they learn English. And we focus on driving analysis and collaborations, like with VRS now. We think this is our added value to the drivers and the sim racing community.

How is the VRS DDP programme going?
We had over fifty applications for the DDP, but it was hard to select eight people. So we did extensive interviews and analysed profiles, and it looks like we’ve did a great job. Despite everybody having real life commitments and not always having 100% attendance in the practices or races, we’ve finished with two teams in top ten of the Blancpain Endurance Series.

Now we also have a junior programme with less intensity, and they’re improving at an incredible rate. They’re ready to join the main programme or be reserves (some of them are as fast as the top guys). So yes, I think the programme has gone well, in terms of results, as well as in terms of team building and driver development.

How do you manage that, how time consuming is it?
The management ‘overhead’ is significant. We had to spend a lot of work on this new structure, organising coaching and testing sessions, monitoring every driver individually, with individual meetings. This is huge! Can you imagine eight drivers and another eight drivers in the junior programme. Lots of work involved. But now we’ve appointed drivers as the ‘captain’ for each team, and this works quite well.

What prepares you for managing a simracing team? I mean, there’s plenty of tutorials
on racecraft, but nothing on managing a simracing team.
It’s not just life experience that helps, but also training. I mean, not just to practice and experience, but also through courses. I did this kind of training with my real life. I think my experience from work also helps, working with people with very different backgrounds helped me a lot.

Do you talk to other team managers?
Not really, with a few exceptions. And, until my knowledge, there is no team manager association. There was one in FSR, a team owner association, which is the only example that I know. However, team associations demand a clear common vision and managers working for the benefit of the group, which is very ambitious, if even realistic. So I don’t miss it. However, nowadays we have good contacts with managers of several teams, such as Blue Flag Racing and others. These contacts are usually very beneficial for the course of the competitions.

As the team principal. What do your tasks involve?
Team management is very demanding on time. For example, this morning I was scared to open Facebook, but maybe there are between fifteen and twenty messages. Some weeks I have to devote twenty or thirty hours. It’s like a second job. So we’ve decided we need to make it more sustainable, and that the team mustn’t depend on one person. If I can’t make it then the team shouldn’t stop. Two years ago we segmented the team into small and strongly bonded sections, and so for instance the Skip Barber team is six driver and one manager. I work with the managers, mostly all the time.

They can also work independently. In my dream, I would only decide on the strategy, budget and time. But often you’ve to talk and ask people what they want, and have the opinion of everybody. It’s always a balance between leadership and a full democracy.

What are difficult decisions you have to make sometimes?
To decide to let a driver join when he asks to join the team. When we were small, we always let everybody join. Now we’re careful, not to upset the balance. It’s difficult to really analyse someone and to anticipate, because when you say no to a driver you may have lost a good opportunity for the future. But then, if you decide to add a driver and he’s not a good addition to the team, he can upset the balance. So that’s one of the most difficult decisions.

Maintaining that balance can be difficult in another way too. In 2012 we had just started, but our philosophy changed a bit, so some of our core drivers sometimes feel a bit out of the team, and they don’t want to analyse their performance every week. But they still want to be part of the family, not all the new things, so we had to make that compatible with the evolution of the team. We had a lot of discussions to find a solution, so now we’ve started the ‘Positive Drivers Club’.

So what does it mean to you, when one of your drivers succeeds?
Several levels of happiness. First your project is succeeding and you get rewarded for all the work and patience, and also because you see your friends, people that you’ve helped and who’ve helped you, you see them succeeding. Maybe that’s the best feeling in life, when someone achieves something. When it has been a difficult journey, there’s also more happiness.

This applies to simracing, but maybe also to all of life?
For sure! Sim Racing is not only competition. It’s a sport that fosters personal and brain development, and there are scientific journals and that publish the benefits of gaming and development. Also concentration. I can do a race two hours without a mistake. But then I can’t sleep afterwards because my brain can’t sleep. And beyond that, as you say, it’s like everything in life. We put time, money, energy, to achieve something. Achieving something, at the end of the day, is the meaning of life.

What’s your goal looking forward?
For myself, I’d like my role to be less important so I can step back from day-to-day to focus on growing the budget and sponsors. It’s a matter of maturing the team. Now we’re working with the segmentation and managers, and I think in the next few years we can consolidate this.

As a team, we want to be in the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series, the Blancpain Endurance World Championship and the Skip Barber 2K Cup. Then we enter the top twenty, go to top fifteen. Maybe those are the last steps for the team, in terms of maturity.

You don’t aim to win those championships?
I think that’s too far. We want to be realistic. We would like that, but it’s too far. We don’t think this will happen within the next three years. For 2018 to 2020, the top 15 is a more realistic target, and later we will go for the top 10. Also, we are not obsessed with that.

Youngster Laurin Heinrich about racing in karts, German F4 and iRacing

One of VRS’ youngest ‘students’ is 15 year old Laurin Heinrich from Germany, who also races professionally in the most competitive Formula 4 championship of the world, the ADAC Formula 4. Since he’s also an avid simracer and VRS user, we sit down with him for some ‘brennende fragen’.

Can you tell a bit about yourself?
I’m from Bavaria in Germany. I still go to school and have to stay there for two more years until I take my A level exams. Currently I’m racing my first year in the most competitive Formula 4 championship, the ADAC Formula 4. I’m also a simracer, and in the past I’ve competed in the iRacing Blancpain GT Series and other high level championships.

Why and what do you love about racing?
When I was a little kid, I often visited events like the DTM with my dad, and I always looked up to the race drivers in the paddock and thought “I want to be one of them.” Back then those guys were the coolest persons for me, and I’m extremely proud and thankful that I’m part of that. Racing is something special, there are so many things which you can’t find in any other sports. I mean, the speed, the sound, the smell, the adrenaline you get while you get strapped in the car. But I also love the things which surround the action on track like the paddock and the fans.

What’s the motorsport scene in Germany like?
There are many other exciting championships in Germany for example the DTM or the ADAC GT Masters. But on the other hand I think it’s a shame that there’s no German Grand Prix because the connection between Germany and motorsport is so tight. The first automobile was built in Germany and car manufactures like Porsche, Audi, BMW and Mercedes always play a big role in championships. It’s ironic that drivers like Vettel, Hülkenberg or Wehrlein or teams like Mercedes don’t get the chance to race at home.

Karting has always been an essential element en route to single-seaters and perhaps Formula One. Do you think that in the near future simracing will be an essential element for youngsters too?
In my opinion karting teaches you the basics and the fundamental things of racing, which you’ll need in your future career. As for simracing, I don’t think it will become an essential element for real racers, it already is! Most real world drivers use simracing to get ready for their next race or test. You can save so much time if you learn a new track already at home, so at the track you can start sooner with building a setup or improving your laptimes. With the laserscanning technology in simulators like iRacing you immediately feel confident when driving your first laps on a track, which you haven’t been to yet. Preparation is everything!

What are things real life racing, especially karting, can teach you, that simracing can’t?
I know some simracers who are fast in the virtual world, but when it comes to real life racing they just don’t feel alright. An important experience you’ll get to know in karting is the racing with others. In simracing nothing — except of a disappointed team — will happen if you crash in a fight with an opponent. The ability of judging what is possible and what isn’t is also a whole other world than in simracing. So I think what karting does is separating the wheat from the chaff.

What have you learned from the VRS telemetry?
The area where I improved most was my braking graph, which is also very relevant in cars which don’t have an anti-lock system like the Porsche GT3 Cup, or my F4 car! The comparison with other drivers also taught me a lot. Sometimes you just don’t know where you lose time compared to other drivers, but with this function you see where and when you lose ground. Another advantage of the Virtual Racing School software is that some of the top-class drivers share their setups and telemetry there, the datapacks, so that people who want to improve have a reliable source of information. Of course we also use telemetry in real life and there are no differences to programs like VRS, apart that VRS is way more user-friendly.

What do you think is the most important skill for a good racing driver?
I think the difference between a good and great racing driver is that the great racing driver knows exactly what is happening around him. Racecraft is an important factor to achieve good results and win races. Another mandatory skill is — as simple as it sounds — using your brain. The string between success and failure is extremely thin so every little mistake can ruin races, championships or even careers. Personally I think that my racecraft is quite decent and I’m using my brain, but my biggest weakness is that in extreme situations I have difficulties to control my emotions. But I’m sure that this will fade out when I gain more experience.

What are your hopes for the future in real life racing? And sim racing?
My aim is to become a professional racing driver and I’m working hard everyday in order to make my dream come true. At the simracing side of things I’m hoping for some more good results in championships like the Blancpain GT or the NEO Endurance Championship. I’m also looking forward to the iRacing special events like the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps!

Finnish success in (sim)racing: why?

Finland has a population of only five and a half million people — much less than the city of London — yet ranks fifth on the amount of Grand Prix’ wins, only behind the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil and France, and ahead of Italy. Valterri Bottas’ win in the 2017 Russian Grand Prix means he’s now the fifth Finnish race winner, adding to the list of Heikki Kovalainen, Kimi Räikkönen, Mika Häkkinen and Keke Rosberg — the latter three having also won a total of four world championships. In the World Rally Championship, seven Finnish drivers secured a total of fourteen titles.

It seems that per capita, Finland produces more racing world champions than any other country. Simracing is no different: the iWCGPS was won five times over by Team Redline’s Greger Huttu, and last season, the #18 BMW of Coanda Simsport that won the Blancpain World Championship was co-driven by Klaus Kivekäs, while Coanda’s Martti Pietilä co-drove a HPD to overal victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Other top drivers of the sim racing scene are Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola, Joni Törmälä, and Olli Pahkala, having all won races at the top level.

We catch up with Martti and Olli for a much needed explanation.

To get directly to the point: why is Finland so successful in motorsport?
Martti: Racing has always been a thing here, originally it was more about rally, as we have loads of fairly empty gravel roads where young guys can try out the limits of their cars and themselves, and of course the trees surrounding the ’track’. Back in 60’s and 70’s the roads were even less populated than now, so i guess it gave pretty nice proving ground for many guys. I guess road racing got a huge popularity boost with Keke Rosberg winning the championship. F1 was televised live in Finland since the nineties because of the Finns like Lehto, Salo and Häkkinen, and later Räikkönen’s success created a huge increase of interest. This isn’t just in viewing, but also participation of for instance karting. So I guess it’s mostly about success creating more success, but as a Finn, you always have to add two important ingredients which we have to offer to race drivers: a mild level of insanity, and ‘sisu’, a word deemed holy among Finns. It’s a combination of determination, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness.

Olli: Using a car is very common in Finland, so people are used to being in a car or driving it. In Germany, for example, the public transportations are so good that no car is needed, which makes quite a big difference in general for this matter. The other thing is that Finnish people are extremely competitive. We start competing in various of things from the early age. And even though it’s not serious competition, I think it does make a difference once people grow up. In Finland, we naturally grow the competition mentality.

Why is simracing so big in Finland?
Martti: I think the biggest factor for the popularity, and the level of competition in the Finnish scene, is that we really closely follow F1. Now all those F1 fans who want to race but can’t afford it, are now entering sim racing. And then we have quite a few guys who want to be really good in simracing. I guess we can’t just take things lightly, and always need to get the maximum out of it, be it laptime, or level of realism.

Olli: Racing and competition in Finland is big, and so I think it’s natural simracing is too. I think it’s also the result of growth through organising, which Fins are good at, for instance like we’ve done with the Finnish Sim Racing Association.

What’s all going on in Finland for simracing?
Olli: We have a multitude of communities organising series for Finnish drivers like Trellet.net, HDR, and there’s FiSRA’s eSM, which is the biggest at the moment. So throughout the year there’s something for everyone without looking at the level of skills. FiSRA’s eSM is intended to promote sim racing to a wider audience, as well as making legitimacy for the sport. We do and try things with these ‘offline’ live LAN-finals, from which we hope we could share the experience and knowledge to other associations, through for example the International Sim Racing Federation.

Martti: First of all, Finland is the nation of associations. We have one for everything, literally, from big to small subjects! To name a few, and this gets quite hilarious; there’s one for guys named Markku, there’s an association for PC users, and even one for outdoor toilets! Unfortunately, until a few years ago, there wasn’t one for sim racing, but that surely has changed since. It’s hard to say why some people have become so good at what they do. We sort of have this protestant work ethic here in all we do, meaning we work hard, sometimes too hard, don’t brag too much about our achievements, work even harder and focus on our own performance. That way of life is a very stereotypical image of a Finnish person, so there must be some truth in it. I guess that sort of self discipline is one necessary part what is required to make a good racing driver.

David Williams on the lessons of online coaching

One of sim racing’s veterans, expert on both race and vehicle dynamics, driver for Coanda Simsport, and one of the VRS coaches: David Williams from Southampton, United Kingdom. We catch up to talk about what it’s like to coach sim racing online.

First of all, how did you get into sim racing and this role?

A still from Clownpaint’s promotional video from Live for Speed, 2009

From as early as I can remember I’ve loved cars and racing. I watched a kart race in person as a small child, and it captivated me. Most of my toys were planes, helicopters or cars. Basically anything with an engine. I dreamt of becoming a Concord pilot, and later a Formula One driver. Growing up on the small Channel Island of Alderney, karting was non-existent, so racing games became my hobby.

My first proper sim was Live for Speed in 2006, where I joined the team of Clownpaint Gaming. We did quite well and won championships, and shortly after the teamed changed it’s name to My3id Gaming where we had further success. iRacing then came onto the scene and most of the competition moved there so we followed suit. Again, the team performed very well, ultimately taking the iWCS title with Hugo Luis and continued to evolve as a whole, later becoming 3id Motorsports.

My3id Gaming in Live for Speed
My3id Gaming in Live for Speed

At this time, wishing to pursue real motorsport, I entered GT Academy in 2011, where I made it to the national finals in person at Brands Hatch, but was beaten badly in the gaming element where random cars and tracks were chosen for three lap races. In 2012, I prepared much better, and made it through to the European final at Silverstone. This to date was the best experience of my life, pushing awesome machinery to the limit under the eyes of current and ex F1 drivers. At the end of the week I lost the chance for the final shootout for the overall win through the judge’s decision, but I have no regrets.

Later, 3id Motorsport’s team founder, Jack Basford, parted ways and took the name with him, and so a new team known as Coanda Simsport was formed from the remaining members. Taking a back seat from sim racing, I entered two more racing competitions, Want2Race and the Team HARD VW scholarship, both of which would prove valuable learning experiences with professional on-track tuition.

My3id Gaming in iRacing

Then in 2016, Virtual Racing School became Coanda’s title sponsor and partner, and Rens (Broekman), Martti (Pietilä), Martin (Krönke), and me took it on ourselves to become driving coaches, which was new to us all. I was confident in my knowledge of vehicle dynamics and racecraft, I knew the theory of going fast and dissecting that thought process, and wanted to share that with other people. I also had a good idea about race coaching, through the professional instruction in the various competitions I’d entered. The only thing holding me back was that I didn’t feel like presenting to people was a strength of mine, so I saw this as an opportunity to develop that.

What’s it like to teach someone online? I mean, you’re not in the same room with that person. Can you connect?

The benefit of real life race coaching is that you can be in the car with someone, so you can get a better feel for how they’re driving and how the car is reacting. But despite that, providing feedback while the student is driving can actually do as much harm as it does good. The advice maybe be good but it may also prove to be distracting. So in that sense, I think the format of coaching we provide is actually really good, because there’s enough time to carry out a very thorough analysis for which the student can take one or two key thoughts back out onto the track and manage at their pace. In addition, the VRS software is a hugely powerful tool, which is essentially an x-ray of the students driving, meaning nothing can be missed.

David (far right) on the 2012 Gran Turismo Academy

At what level should you look into coaching?

Many people have the preconception they need to reach a certain level before they can get coaching. But I believe that when you first start sim racing, that’s the best time to get coaching, before you’ve had a chance to enforce any bad techniques. The longer you continue with bad habits, the more difficult it will be to unlearn them. So my answer is; straight away!

Who would you like to teach?

Someone who is eager and willing to improve, and will do what it takes even if it requires a struggle. Many people write themselves off as not having enough “talent” before giving it a proper go, or make excuses for themselves such as blaming the setup. I also have friends who have a similar attitude which is very frustrating.

If you’ve learned the telemetry software, then why could you not go from there and learn yourself?

Yes, that’s very true. It’s worth saying I always try to make my student proficient with the software so they can analyse their own driving without me. However, it’s impossible to pass on everything there is to know about racing in one session, especially with regards to car dynamics and technique. I’ve had students who’ve had over ten sessions, and we still have plenty to talk about. Sometimes you just need a second pair of eyes in case you’ve missed something, and although you might be able to see where you’re slower, you might not understand why. Most of us coaches on VRS now have more than an year of experience, so we’ve already seen many different patterns and repeated traits among our various students, meaning we can more efficiently assist new students better than ever before.

What’s the most common area your students need to work on?

Since most are already quite quick and within a second of the datapacks, most laptime is typically found during the transition from braking to steering, or put otherwise; the period from when you start to release the brake, turn in and reach the apex. For good drivers, that’s where lots of time can be lost or gained. It’s a very challenging part to get right which is why it separates quick drivers from the best, and I always emphasise this in our video tutorials.

If you can analyse everything with VRS, then why isn’t everyone at the limit?

It’s difficult to say. First of all, it’s impossible to define a limit. There’s a physical and somewhat more unknown mental limitation to everybody, which I wrote about here. This limit is the last tiny bit of ability which separates the best, but I also think it’s true that 99.99% of drivers never reach their own personal limit. So if you want to go faster, you must just assume that you have what it takes. The moment you say to yourself; ‘I can’t beat Martin Krönke’, your failure to do so is guaranteed.. But if you say; ‘I reckon I can beat Martin, I’ll put in the hours and do what it takes’, then it just might happen. The problem for most people is that they don’t have that attitude. It’s a lot easier to just say ‘well, he’s just better’, and give yourself that excuse. Martin is relentlessly determined, and that’s the main reason why he’s so near the limit.

So even though we can measure and analyse everything, the single biggest component of getting better is being relentlessly determined. If you want to call that talent, then sure. I think that mindset is true for anyone who’s successful, regardless of which field its in. And the brain is a curious thing. Clearly not everyone is physically cut out to be a top level 100m sprinter, but our mental limitations are way more flexible than we can imagine. For example, I learned to juggle when I was twenty, even though before that I believed only certain people could pick it up. I learned it in over three painful weeks, during which I was constantly dropping balls after just a couple of throws. Eventually my brain rewired itself to the point where I went from focussing like mad on each throw to now being able to have a conversation with you while juggling. It’s now a fully subconscious skill. Driving fast is a skill which can be learned in a similar way.

On of the many videos by David on the VRS YouTube channel

Do all of your students improve after coaching?

This one is actually difficult to answer because not all of my students are immediately faster the next time they drive having had a session with me. Most of them do find time straight away, but for many it’s more about setting them onto a longer term process with the right ideas and goals for how to eventually become a much better driver. I think it’s very important to appreciate that knowing why you’re losing time, and understanding how to be better doesn’t guarantee an immediate improvement. Sometimes deeply ingrained techniques and bad habits must be unlearned and replaced with better ones, which take time and concentration, and will often temporarily worsen laptimes. The important thing is that my students attempt to apply the changes we discuss, because in fixing the fundamental technique, the laptime will come later.

Being an online racing coach is a relatively new job. What would be your advice to people who also want to become an online coach?

I think it’s important to be a fast and accomplished racer before considering coaching, for two reasons. First, I think it’s good for your credibility, because why listen to advice from a slow driver? Secondly, you’ll be conscious of the struggles you personally go through, en route on becoming a great sim racer. So you can pass that knowledge on. To be a good coach, that self awareness and understanding is absolutely critical. So if you’re fast and you understand why you’re fast, well then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to help others too.