Why Most People Fail at Racing

Nascar stock car

1988 Olds Cutlass NASCAR stock car

My definition of failure is not winning.  Racing is a competitive sport and one reason we do it is because we want to win.  Why then do so few win?  Some of the reasons are lack of experience, poor driving skills, bad car set-up, etc.  Let’s look at what a pilot has to do to become a commercial airline pilot.

Pilots must have 1,500 hours of flight time to become a commercial pilot. That would be more than two months of flying if done nonstop, 24 hours a day. If you flew two hours a day, every day, it would take you more than two years to log those hours. Plus, this required hands-on experience is on top of the classroom study and homework necessary to qualify for flight time.

But that’s what we want from the people who have our lives in their hands.

Recurring training is just as rigorous. Each year pilots face a pass/fail oral exam where they must recite, from memory, procedures in response to emergency situations and details like the maximum crosswind limit on a wet runway with visibility less than three-quarters of a mile.

But that's what we want from the people who have our lives in their hands.

After pilots pass the oral test, they must then take two four-hour tests in the simulator, also pass-fail. That's when the pilots must succeed in spite of malfunctions, fires, wind shear, one-engine landings, instrument approaches and anything else the examiners can think to throw at them. And if everything isn't what it should be, the pilots fail and are grounded.

But that's what we want from the people who have our lives in their hands.

I would say that in order to consistently win in amateur racing you would need to have some percentage of this level of training and experience.  Based on my experience as a private pilot and race driver, I would estimate that percentage would be in the 10-25% range.  To win at the professional level would require at least the same amount of training and experience as a commercial pilot.  Malcom Gladwell who wrote ”Outliers” studied world class athletes, geniuses, business tycoons, rock stars and software programmers to find out what made successful.  One of the factors he discovered was in order to become world class at any sport or profession required at least 10,000 hours of work and experience.

When you climb into your race car you literally have your life in your hands.  Wouldn’t you want some significant level of training and experience to keep you safe and enable you to be competitive?  We want everyone to understand if you expect to be good at racing it will require a significant amount of time, effort and work.  We can give you the tools to reduce the amount of time and effort needed but you will still have to practice and apply the lessons we teach.

I see way too many people in our sport who don’t use driving coaches, attend driving schools or practice between races and, as a result, don’t improve their skills.  Let's talk about coaches for a moment. Professional sports teams have discovered that using coaches enables their world class athletes to improves the fastest. That is why they hire dozens of coaches paying them millions of dollars a year. Doesn't it make sense that coaches would help us less than world class athletes?

Also either they don’t hire the right people to prepare their cars or don’t take the time to learn how to do it properly themselves.  This results in cars that don’t handle well or have a mechanical failure.  This results in a lot of frustration and wasted time and money.  They do the same things over and over again and expect a different result which many people call insanity.

If you don’t want to put in the time and work, then find a different hobby that doesn't require the commitment.  If you would like to be involved in a sport that is challenging, satisfying and fun, then come join us in this great adventure that is motorsports.

Ardie Oji

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