Racing With A New Driver

All race vehicles start out with a new driver at some point in their lives.  The following are a couple items to help that unknown:

A. Throttle Issue
WIth reference to our Fuel Injection Racing Secrets book about new drivers, throttle rattling can occur where the driver ends up going ON & OFF & ON & OFF in rapid repetition of the throttle without control.   After that happened to me, I concentrated on leaning my foot against a nearby frame rail to settle down the foot action.  The fuel injection book provides pictures of changes to linkage geometry to slow down the throttle response with the initial opening of the foot throttle and an explanation of how the weight of the foot is moved from rapid acceleration.

B. Relaxation Technique for New Drivers
The fastest car I was in before I drove my funnycar dragster was a street car that went zero to sixty MPH in the 5 second range.  In my funnycar, it went zero to 60 MPH in one second.  That massive jump in acceleration was very scary at first.   I recall one of the first times I drove my funnycar.  As I climbed out of the car after a partial pass, I started shaking.  It took 30 minutes to stop.  I could not imagine staying on the throttle for an entire run with the amount of power that my first blown alcohol engine made.  I got through it after many partial passes.  I did not have any driving familiarity or habit to rely on.  Certainly after a lot of test runs, those were developed.   Then driving became easy as I became more fearless.  That maturity was nothing more than the power of the mind over the body to overcome any fear.  A power that was lacking in the beginning.

Yoga to Restore the Power of the Mind over the Body
I am active in Yoga that involves simple exercises with controlled breathing & mental relaxation.  It took practice at controlled breathing and mental relaxation methods before dramatic reductions in tension and blood pressure occurred.   Yoga became very effective at calming me and others in my relaxation classes.  Throughout the Yoga classes, I often experienced practices that I wish I knew when I first climbed behind the wheel of that first powerful racer.  These practices can be done very effectively by a new driver to help get past the fear and apprehension of a new racecar or race boat ride with a lot of power, noise, vibration, & speed.

Breathing to Relax
The first practice I was taught was breathing.  Breathing control is one of the most effective methods of relaxation.  Inhaling with concentration, then exhaling with concentration.  Slowing down to deep breaths instead of short, rapid fast breaths from a tense moment was very calming to me.

Inhale for a Count of 4; Exhale for a Count of 6
One of the tricks to breathing for calmness was to exhale for a time period that is longer than the time period for inhaling.  For example I settled on inhaling for a count of 4; then exhaling for a count of 6.  Other frequencies can be done such as 2/3, 2/4, 4/5, 5/6.   As I adjusted the amount of inhalation & the frequency to comfortable levels, my mind settled down as a result of a repeatable & steady amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

All Suited Up and No Where to Move
In the past, I experienced both a restrictive racecar fire suit & helmet and a race boat APBA approved live vest & helmet.  Every-so-often from wearing either of these heavy and bulky coverings in the snug driver’s seat, my breathing would get rapid and seemingly out of control.  I watched other new drivers who were all suited up who had to hyperventilate to slow down breathing.  I watched one new driver jump out of the racecar in the staging lanes before a run and walk around for 45 minutes to calm down.  His breathing was rapid, and he did not know how to settle down.  I watched another new driver carefully place his helmet on the ground next to his racecar before he climbed into his new racer.  He yelled at anyone who tried to touch his helmet as he got ready.  He behaved like he was a wreck.  Alternative controlled breathing exercises would help instead.

A Better Alternative was My Right Arm
The next practice from Yoga was to concentrate on each of my limbs, one at a time, to shift my awareness to different parts of the body.  First the right arm.  To consciously think about all of the muscles, flexing, raising it, moving it, then relaxing it.  The key was concentrating on that limb to interrupt the mind from wandering or having idle thoughts from the unfamiliar.  Sitting in a new driver’s seat can set the mind off into fear and apprehension.  Concentrating on a fixed object such as a part of the body can occupy the mind away from that wandering.  In a drivers position, that concentration can extend to the movement & flexing of that arm that is necessary in the operation of the racer.  A mental exercise of what that arm will go through can be repeated until a familiarity is achieved.  Also that will confirm the feeling of the location of any controls to be operated by the right arm.  In my case the shifters, brake handle, fuel shut-off, parachute levers, and fire bottle trigger were operated by my right arm.  Several of those levers were relocated after a couple initial passes to put them into a more comfortable location.  In fact, during our second outing, we actually interrupted our outing to relocate the entire steering wheel assembly at a nearby weld shop on that day.  I was a basket case after that experience that could have been avoided with a Yoga practice of concentrating ahead of time on the feeling of my arm locations and movement.  That exercise would reveal the steering problem before the outing.  Ahead of time would be much better then after I was all suited up on the starting line, in front of a crowd with racetrack officials watching to see if I was qualified.

Now the left
After the right arm is sorted out, then concentrate on the the left arm the same way; then the right leg, the left leg, torso, neck, head, face, & eyes.  I was going through an awareness and calming practice for each part of my body.  Somewhere throughout that exercise, I was overcome by a wave of calmness.  It is an amazing exercise that can interrupt a tense moment.  My blood pressure would be at all time lows as a result.  I could think straight, and I could better concentrate afterwords.  I would remember important things that I overlooked otherwise.

Practical Application
I can now imagine the benefit of those breathing & body awareness exercises when I was behind the wheel although I never knew of them at that time.  Yoga now helps me to maintain the power of the mind over the body in tension causing experiences.  That is also the power of a calm mind over a tense mind.  What I know now would have put me in control a lot sooner than trial-and-error through the driving unknowns that I experienced.