How you handle the lead-up to a big race can make a difference in how much you enjoy it
Every racer and autocrosser has milestone moments. Maybe it’s the first time you race against someone really fast. Maybe it’s your first U.S. Majors Tour race or national-level autocross event or professional race. Whichever, there’s going to be uncertainty and nervousness. How a racer prepares for it can make all the difference in how things play out.
“You’ll hopefully reflect back on it as a lot of fun rather than a lot of nervousness,” says pro racer and driver coach Tom Long. “The most important thing to focus on is the things you can control. There’s a lot of nervousness because of the anticipation of not knowing what’s going to happen and how it’s going to unfold, so I tell folks to focus on what you can control and not to worry about the rest. You can’t control everything, but you can be prepared, right? You can expect at the start the most likely things to happen, and then be mentally prepared to adapt to the situation.”
Nervousness is to be expected, and as Long notes, most of it comes from unknowns. So, the first thing to do is erase as many unknowns as possible. On the road, Mazda’s engineers have incorporated the latest safety tech to better help everyday drivers to better cope to unforeseen circumstances. In racing, it’s mostly on the driver to correctly anticipate how things will unfold. Here’s how.
“Listen,” says Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup points leader and driver coach Drake Kemper matter-of-factly. “Other people have been there longer than you have. Take a lot of their opinions in. Don’t think people are talking down to you just because they’re giving you an opinion. Remember why you’re there, and if you’re not having fun, don’t show up. It’s way too expensive of a hobby to do if you don’t enjoy it.”