World » 06 March 2012
Gavin Gough - Q&A
I work with iZone on GT Academy and I've been very impressed with it. I see what I do as working with iZone. In terms of the simulator the driver is working at the conscious level in my view. What I did with Jann Mardenborough and Bryan Heitkotter, in 2011, they did driver training in the simulator and I did the mental training with them later. Basically I back up what iZone do. When I go to a team or I talk with a driver coach, quite often I'm met with at best curiosity and at worst hostility. A lot of people see me as a threat to what they're doing. I complement what they do. For example, a driver coach is working with a driver who's having difficulty with a corner. The driver coach is looking at a conscious level: 'I want you to break a bit later in this corner and turn in earlier.' If the driver's unconscious mind is unhappy about doing that, it's not going to happen. What I can do with my interventions is take the driver through mentally rehearsing the change the driver coach wants him to implement. The idea is to create an environment in the driver's unconscious mind where he sees himself doing exactly what the driver coach wants him to do and as he's doing that, to feel very strong and feel confident.
It's important to keep that mind intact when other members of the team may not be performing well or something happens on the circuit that's not expected...
It's coincidental you raise that point. Only last Sunday I had a phone call from one of my kart racers and he had just lost his head. On Saturday he was three-tenths off the pace and on Sunday morning he qualified well but he qualified three-tenths off the pace. During his first heat, the red mist came down and he drove into another driver. He phoned me and we went through a couple of interventions on the telephone. He went out and he led the final for a while and ultimately finished second, setting the fastest lap. They also made a couple of changes on the set-up but I got his mind back to where it needs to be.
As well as Magee who are the other karters that have turned their form around?
There's Ben Willshire. There's a young lad called Chris Setterfield who's made some seriously strong moves forward. Rossano Bhandal, who went out to India to do the Force India Academy. He qualified second in Mumbai and in Goa, he couldn't get into the top twenty. Quite what went on there we're not really sure. Rossano's a class act, very strong mentally as well. Oli Myers comes to mind who's a class act. I've got a lot of time for Oli, lovely kid, lovely family and he's a super driver, an instinctive racer.
We see the FIA Driver Academy and Alex Wurz joining Williams as a driver coach, do you think your ways are getting more popular now?
Yes. I hold Jackie Stewart in great esteem. For a number of years, I've heard Jackie Stewart say there's a lack of driver coaching in motorsport. Is it because motorsport is so macho, so hard-headed or people think you don't need it? Jackie Stewart recognises a need for driver coaches even at the level of F1. The drivers take physical fitness coaches, they take dieticians with them but very rarely do they take a mental coach with them. My view is, in NLP terms, what one person can do, the rest of us can learn to do, provided we've got the will to do it and we can create that will, by NLP techniques.
Another intervention we teach at AlphaSport is using the race helmet as a trigger to access the zone. Forgive me if I don't tell you precisely how we do that. We are human beings and we react to triggers, either positive or negative reactions. We use triggers to trigger positive feelings. We use the helmet to feel good and to feel a certain connection in the mind where you just let it happen, all the good stuff just flows.
And you feel this should be introduced in karting?
Absolutely. I think what you learn as a child, the positives and the negatives, can be with you for a lifetime. In my book, when you teach these youngsters in karts these mental skills, those who are really serious, those who have got a chance to get all the way in motorsport, whether it'll be in GTs, Formula One or whatever, the earlier they learn the mental skills, then the better off they're going to be, the quicker drivers they'll be and the better feedback they'll produce, the more they'll feel the car.
We've been teaching about the lower vertebrae of the spine for three or four years. It's not only making the drivers aware of all these separate nerves that come up from the feet, through the backside into the spine and all come together in the spinal column and download into the unconscious. We teach them ways of actually feeling that and experiencing it in the unconscious mind through hypnosis and to visualise that happening. It's purely this seat of the pants thing. The more they can visualise it at the unconscious level then the stronger chance they have of actually utilising that. By doing that, they can intensify their feel of the kart or car working underneath them.
Oliver Rowland is a driver I rate very, very highly. I watched him at JICA in 2007 at PFI. His control of the kart was so fine that I had the idea that he's feeling the kart at that level. Because he's got that sensitivity at his lower vertebrae, when the kart begins to break loose, he's feeling that before it breaks loose and he's feeling that transition from full grip to minimum grip, he's making very tiny adjustments on the steering and on the throttle so the kart never actually breaks away. It always remains in that fine balance of traction and breakaway as Senna did. He was able to judge that fine balance of the kart and that's just a mental skill.
The remarkable thing is this isn't your full time job is it?
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