Coaching

What is the difference between the instruction I received at my driving school when I was first learning to drive and “coaching”?
Why do I need a coach?
Should I be concerned if my coach has not had any
experience driving the type of car I drive?
Should I be concerned if my coach has not had any experience driving the track I will be driving?
Yeah, sure, whatever! I’d still like to know what tracks you have had first hand experience with.
What can I expect from my first coaching session?
Why should I pay someone to tell me to “go faster”?
Is it worth the cost?


Driver Development

At what point in my development as a driver should I use a coach?
I am already a championship driver. How can you help me?
I rolled my car three times last season. How can you help me?
How can I most effectively use our time together?
Is it better to work with several different coaches or to stick with one coach?

 

Other

Others I would love to have some coaching but I am on a budget. How can I make the best use of my available resources in this regard?
I have just purchased a new race car.
Can you help me learn its limits and capabilities?
I have just modified my race car (suspension, more power, etc.). Can you help me sort it out and get the most out of these modifications.
Who is Michael Lord?
Why is Michael Lord the best choice?



What is the difference between the instruction I received at my driving school when I was first learning to drive and “coaching”?

When you were first learning high performance driving you were, to some extent, a blank sheet of paper. The job of the instructor was to show you what you needed to do in order to understand the basics of vehicle dynamics and high performance driving and apply it on the track. The instructor was inputting information. Lots of it! If you are like most of us it took repeated attempts before you were able to absorb and assimilate the often overwhelming amount of information coming at you. At this phase in your driver development you needed to “over learn” everything in order to learn anything. In other words the same information needed to be taught, demonstrated, and practiced over and over again before it sank in and became something you no longer needed to think about in order to accomplish. It is at this point that the coach begins to replace the instructor.

If you think back to the people you have learned the most from chances are they often asked you more questions than they answered for you. The educational process required that you be a creatively active participant in that process. While their questions may have led you in a certain direction you still had to work out the solution(s) for yourself. The benefit of this approach is that, for most people, the information they figure out for themselves will be retained much better than the information or knowledge they are shown or told.

A good coach then is skilled in pulling the information out of you. In that process you will discover for yourself a new level awareness and capability in your performance and your vehicles performance that you may have had no previous access to. The coach’s job is to offer you a set of tools and a learning environment that aids and guides you through this learning process. Learning is often no more than coming up with the right question. Often the proper question will make the answer to that question obvious. While a coach may know the answer to a given question your learning will be more effective and complete if you come up with the solution for yourself.

Of course instruction and coaching can, and often do, overlap but in a perfect world you will show me what it is you need to do to go faster. In a perfect world you will discover for yourself the true capabilities of your car. In this less than perfect world I can provide you with the tools you need to accomplish this.

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Why do I need a coach?

If you are like most of us it is difficult, if not impossible, to be objective about a subjective experience. Because you are a part of, or inside, the experience of driving it is difficult, at best, to stand outside the experience and recognize a bad habit or a flawed technique for what it is. By definition a bad habit is generally not something you are aware that you are doing. It’s a habit so you never give it a second thought. You never even know there is anything that needs a second thought. As such, you have no way of knowing the limiting effect that habit is having on you and your performance as a driver.

I know drivers that constantly show up for test days and spend all day driving but never learn a thing or see significant improvements to their lap times from weekend to weekend. In fact the large majority of the drivers I see at the track are this way. If a person wants to drive just for the fun of driving I have no quarrel with this but a person shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that they are actually learning something by simply practicing the same thing over and over again. I think it was Einstein that said something to the effect that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

A driver should never go out onto the track without a plan. A plan that says, “I need to go faster” is not a plan. Without a good plan a driver may eventually, through trial and error, stumble upon an awareness of, and a solution for, a given bad habit or flawed technique. Sadly this process, if it ever occurs at all, can sometimes take years and often involve expensive damage to both car and driver. A good game plan for each session, usually involving no more than two or three specific items to work on, can make all the difference in the world. It can take a back of the pack driver and put them in traffic. It can take a mid pack driver and move him or her to the front. It can take a front running driver and keep them there.

Your coach is an objective set of eyes and ears who can help you formulate that plan, session to session, week to week, season to season and keep it on track. Baseball teams, football teams, basketball teams, golf Pros, you name it; they all have coaches. Racers have been slow to catch on but that is changing rapidly.

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Should I be concerned if my coach has
not had any experience driving the type of car I drive?


Let’s be clear about something; you are not paying a coach to drive your car! That’s your job! My job is to help you discover for yourself the true limits of the vehicle you are driving and to learn to exploit them to their best effect. Put another way you are paying a coach to help you better understand what your car needs from you to be driven at its limit and to clearly define for yourself what those limits are. The techniques utilized apply equally to any type of vehicle and are less about the car than they are about the driver. To quote an oft used phrase in my business; “The best high performance upgrade you can make to any vehicle is to tighten the nut behind the wheel.”


Yeah, yeah! That’s all well and good but I’d still like
to know exactly what kind of vehicles you have worked with before.

I have instructed, crewed, coached, and/or personally driven or raced several different types of open wheel cars, as well as closed wheel cars including BMWs, Porsches, Corvettes, Ferrari Challenge cars, Miatas, RX-7s, Sports racers, Mustangs (both modern and vintage),as well as numerous fwd cars of various makes and models.


Should I be concerned if my coach has not
had any experience driving the track I will be driving?

You are not paying a coach to drive the track. You are paying the coach to help you find the line that works best for you and your car and how to cope with the constantly changing circumstances present on track in any given race weekend. The techniques employed for this do not vary from track to track.
Working up a track from the side of the track is a relatively easy task. Combining what you, the driver, have learned from being on track with what the coach has learned from observing you and other drivers from vantage points all around the track it is possible to very quickly assemble the basics of any track. Usually most of this work can be accomplished in the first session.
At the end of the day it boils down to you, the driver, and how well you are driving your car. If you are truly hustling the car and paying proper attention to what it needs from you to stay on track the line will pretty much take care of itself.


Yeah, sure, whatever! I’d still like to know
what tracks you have had first hand experience with.


OK fair enough! I have crewed, coached, driven and/or raced, tracks from the Nurburgring and back with stops all across the US and Canada.

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What can I expect from my first coaching session?

Everyone learns at different rates and utilize different approaches to that learning. The first session therefore is usually spent assessing the driver, getting to know each other, and building a working relationship and a game plan for the work to be done. This does not mean that you should not expect tangible results from our first session together. Quite to the contrary! Arrive with an open mind, ready to learn and you will come away from the day a changed driver.


Why should I pay someone to tell me to “go faster”?

The most common joke regarding my profession is someone will pretend to be talking on a two-way radio imploring his driver to “Go faster! Go faster!” (HAHAHA! That’s pretty funny! I haven’t heard that one today!) Of course if my job were that simple I would be out of a job. The fact is I will probably pay very little attention to “going faster” or chasing lap times.

What I will spend time on is your ability to take in, assimilate and utilize the information coming to you through your senses; what you see, what you hear, and what you feel kinesthetically. If I can improve the quality of this information do you think that your performance as a driver will also improve? Absolutely! By increasing your awareness in these areas you will develop a more intimate awareness with your own capabilities as well as the capabilities of your car and the track you are driving. Your speed and lap times will take care of themselves.

You will likely never hear me say, “Go faster”. In fact you might even hear me say “if you want to go faster, slow down!”


Is it worth the cost?

How much did you just spend for that extra sticky set of tires from which you expect to gain an extra half second or so and that you will likely use up in one weekend? What if I said that I had something that could give you at least that much improvement in performance but you would only have to pay for it once and could use it for the rest of your life? Not only that but the more you used it the more results you would gain? That would represent a pretty good bang for the buck wouldn’t you agree? If only sticky tires got stickier the longer you used them. Now wouldn’t that be great?

Working with a driver over the course of several days or a season the results can be significant often exceeding what the driver ever thought they or their vehicle were capable of. Of course results do vary greatly depending on the driver and his or her current state of development. Some days working with a driver they have found no more time at all but were able to turn their best lap more consistently instead of occasionally turning a “flyer” but not being able to consistently back it up with another one and another one. On the other hand I have been in situations where drivers have drivers have been able to knock 5-10 seconds off their lap times, sometimes literally with in a few hours of working together. I have never worked with a driver where some significant improvement was not achieved.

Is it worth the cost? That is a question that only you can answer for yourself based on your own goals and objectives. Will you get results? Absolutely! Read what others have to say.

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At what point in my development as a driver should I use a coach?

Generally speaking, once you have obtained a basic knowledge of high performance driving theory and technique you are ready to start working with a driver coach. At this stage of your development the earlier you begin working with a coach the better lest you practice and ingrain bad habits. It is much easier to establish good habits in the first place than it is to undo bad habits.

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” (Ross Bentley)


I am already a championship driver. How can you help me?

One of the things that I like about this sport is that there is always something new to learn, re-learn, develop and/or refine. The bar is constantly changing. In my experience the grid will always rise to the fastest driver in the grid. This means that you can never rest on your laurels. If you are at the front of the grid I can show you how to stay there. If you are near the top of the grid or occasionally on pole but want to run there more often I can help you discover how. The coaching techniques I have learned and developed over the years apply to any driver at any level.


I rolled my car three times last season. How can you help me?

This question really did come up. I truly wish the driver had talked to me before he rolled the car the first time. I consulted with him for less than twenty minutes, asking him to recount in detail each event. Without going into similar detail here the solution lay in his ability (or lack thereof) to improvise in unexpected situations combined with managing an undisciplined desire to win at all costs. Could I have helped him? Absolutely! Did he hire me? Not yet. Perhaps he will have to roll his car once or twice more before he feels he can afford me.

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How can I most effectively use our time together?

Once a session is booked a questionnaire will be sent out asking you to outline your driving history, your own assessment of your current capabilities and challenges as a driver, and what you hope to accomplish in our work together and in the future as a driver. Taking the time to answer the questions as honestly and thoughtfully as possible provides a firm foundation upon which to build. Often, just completing this questionnaire will lead the driver to a different perspective in and of itself.

This questionnaire will be followed by a conversation, usually by phone, to set the basic game plan for the day. Beyond this come with an open mind and a willingness to try anything.

Additionally, a quality in car, two-way radio system is extremely useful (some would argue essential) as is a video camera. In car data acquisition systems, while expensive, are also an invaluable learning tool.


Is it better to work with several different coaches or to stick with one coach?

The relationship between a driver and a coach is an intimate working relationship. Like any intimate relationship it can take time to build. The less time you spend building this relationship the more time you will have to utilize it. Working with several different coaches means that you will be spending more time building working relationships rather than making good use of an established relationship.

As a driver you are putting yourself in an emotionally vulnerable position when working with a coach. The relationship will require you to open yourself up, take risks, make mistakes, look “foolish” and push your limits beyond, in many cases well beyond, your known comfort zone. This is not easy. As such it is essential that you find a coach with whom you feel a rapport and a sense of trust. Once you have found this person I definitely recommend that you stick with them.

 

I would love to have some coaching but I am on a budget. How can I make the best use of my available resources in this regard?

The reality is that anything to do with racing is not cheap. However, if you are racing on a “budget” there are ways in which I can work my services to try and stay within that budget. For example in addition to my daily rate I can also work out package rates. I also offer consulting and “phone coaching”.
I like to use a Data Acquisition system in my car. Can you help me decipher the information and show me how to use it too my best advantage?
Yes! I have extensive experience on most of the major Data Acquisition systems including AIM and MOTEC. I am a big believer in the effectiveness of these systems.

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I have just a purchased a new race car.
Can you help me learn its limits and capabilities?


Yes!


I have just modified my race car (suspension, more power, etc.). Can you help me sort it out and get the most out of these modifications.

There really is no substitute for a good racecar engineer. I am not an engineer. However I have had the privilege of working along side, and learning from, some very knowledgeable people in the business. Additionally I have a great deal of personal experience from years of trial and error on my own racecars. Through all of this I have developed a passably good working knowledge of basic racecar suspension geometry and tire technology. Working with you I can help you determine what changes are driver induced and what changes are induced by the car itself. If you are already working with an engineer I can help to significantly speed the communication and feed back process between the two of you in sorting out the car.


Who is Michael Lord?

Michael's Bio


Why is Michael Lord the best choice?

Until we have actually worked together I cannot say with all honesty that I am “the best choice” for you. There are many choices on the market when it comes to choosing a coach. Some of them are very good at what they do. There are also a great many people out there who simply arm themselves with a clipboard and a stopwatch and call themselves coaches but can’t coach their way out of a paper bag.

Like driving, being an effective coach is a combination of training, experience, innate ability, creativity and good old fashioned “seat time”. In this regard I feel I am well qualified. Over the last decade I have had the privilege of working with and learning from some of the best in the business and as such I look forward to showing you what I can help you accomplish behind the wheel of your car.

 

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