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Three Reasons You Should Hire a Racing Coach Instead of a Racing Instructor

Talk to any track day enthusiast, weekend racer, or professional driver and one thing they will all tell you is that getting faster requires getting information and feedback. This comes in the form of lap times, data logs, and onboard videos but it also comes from racing instructors and coaches.

The question is, what’s the difference between an instructor and a coach? And which one should you work with to get even faster?

Instructors vs. Coaches

The biggest difference between instructors and coaches is that instructors often use a step-by-step approach with the goal of presenting new information and developing new skills. Instructors will breakdown a process into small steps to help drivers build new skills through repetition and practice during a relatively short timeframe, such as an afternoon or weekend.

Coaches, on the other hand focus on problem solving and self-learning, over a longer timeframe (often months or years) to help drivers understand how to use the skills they’ve developed and maximize their performance. Coaches often focus on helping drivers develop confidence, self-belief, and awareness of their own skills.

Think of it this way, an instructor will use a set of corners or a specific track to teach you how to brake, turn in to the apex and get back on the throttle as quickly as possible. A coach will teach you how to apply these skills at new tracks, where you have to find each of these reference points for yourself.

It’s important to point out that many driving instructors are a blend of instructor and coach. Likewise, many driving coaches are a blend of coach and instructor. We’re talking about a spectrum of skills and techniques here, so there is no hard and fast line in the dirt that perfectly differentiates instructor or coach.

If you’ve never worked with a driving coach, here are three reasons you’ve been missing out and why a good driving coach may be your ticket to lower lap times!

Reason 1: You Already Have a Good Set of Technical Skills

Let’s face it, having a solid set of technical skills gives drivers the foundation for building speed and doing it safely. Finding the racing line, maximizing braking zones, and getting back to throttle as quickly as possible are all skills that take time to develop and refine. And these are all skills that a great racing instructor will help you understand and develop through drills and time on track. But what happens once you know what to do and how to do it? What options are left to continue improving your performance?

This is where a driving coach may be what you need to get even faster. Working with a driving coach at this point can help you evaluate how you’re utilizing the skills you’ve developed. You understand the concept of a corner apex and how to get there. But what happens if you move the apex to later in the turn? What happens if you move it to earlier in the turn? What strategies are right for this particular track, your vehicle and most importantly, for YOU? A driving coach helps you “zoom out” and see the bigger picture. They help you take the technical skills you’ve developed and evaluate how well you’re applying them and where you have opportunities to change what you’re doing. Most importantly, they help you develop improvement goals and build strategies to get to those goals. Turning a lap time under two minutes may be a perfectly acceptable goal. But what’s your plan for getting there? Work with a coach. Develop a plan. And you’ll have a roadmap to know exactly when and how you will get to your goal.

Reason 2: You Like Hitting Up Multiple Tracks

Talk to any speed enthusiast and they’ll likely tell you that the quickest way to build your technical skills is to focus on a single racetrack. This provides you with a consistent environment where you can concentrate on hitting your marks and learning the limits of your vehicle. But what these enthusiasts will also tell you, is that part of the passion and excitement of pushing the limits on a racetrack, is doing it at a new and challenging venue. In some ways, this can feel like starting from scratch with what you know. Now let’s be honest, you don’t lose all of the technical skills you’ve already developed but being on a new track forces you to apply these technical skills in new ways. Doing this successfully requires a unique skill set altogether. A skill set above and beyond your technical capabilities.

In addition to the solid technical skills you’ve developed, your ability to problem solve and learn from your mistakes can be the difference between enjoying a new track and feeling lost on a winding road. You will need to take your technical knowledge of apexes, braking zones, throttle control and the racing line and shift how you think about each of these elements. You’ll no longer be focusing simply on how to do each of these things well. You’ll need to think about when and where to do them well.

What’s exciting about working with a driving coach in these situations is that you may actually know more about the technical skills than they do. But a good coach will increase your self-awareness, help you evaluate what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong, and challenge you to push yourself. They can get you to think differently about the way you approach a new track and guide you through a process for applying your technical skills in new and different ways.

Reason 3: You are Focused on Long-Term Improvement

If you’re someone who enjoys hitting up different tracks, you’ve probably discovered a strategy for developing speed at new venues. You find the apexes, set your line, and begin picking out visual cues to mark braking and turn-in points. With each lap, you push yourself and the limits with the goal of getting your lap times as low as possible. But how do you know just how fast you can go? What’s a good target lap time given your vehicle, skills, and track knowledge?

What you need is a goal (or set of goals) that isn’t focused on setting the fastest lap time. It’s focused on setting YOUR fastest lap time. You also need a strategy for achieving this goal or let’s face it, what you’ve got isn’t a goal, it’s just wishful thinking.

This is where a racing coach can be your best answer. They understand how to push your mental and physical abilities to perform at your best, and the importance of designing a short-term and long-term strategy for getting you to your goals. They’re thinking beyond a single track day and drawing from their experience to put you on a path to success.

Get the Feedback You Need to Go Faster

Just to be clear, instructors aren’t bad. In fact, they form the foundation for our sport in so many ways. They give us the critical skills to get on track, go fast, and be safe. In fact, if you haven’t worked with a racing instructor that’s exactly where you need to start. They also help to keep this sport alive by passing the torch to the next generation.

I hope you also understand just how much additional information a racing coach can provide to help you go faster. They bring a unique skill set that builds on your technical skills, increases your self-awareness, helps you problem solve, and moves you toward a level of self-learning that will help you build speed quickly, no matter where you’re future takes you.


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