Speed Secrets: Let's Hear It For The Oldies
Use your age to your advantage.
We’ve all heard the stories about Paul Newman starting racing when he was 47 years old, and Juan Manuel Fangio winning five World Championships while in his forties. But these seem to be exceptions to the rule in a sport where youth is the norm, now — at least in professional racing. Hey, Max Verstappen made his debut in Formula One at age 17. But we’re not talking Formula One, here.
Motorsport — from HPDE events to pro racing — may be more accessible to older participants than other sports. No matter what your age — or level of abilities — there is almost always some type of motorsport you can participate in. But isn’t there an advantage to being young in this sport?
Comparing older drivers to younger ones, I think it comes down to desire, effort, resources, experience, fitness (physical and mental), and your approach to practice.
To me, the single biggest difference between a young driver and an older one is simply the level of risk one is willing to take. This mostly comes down to an awareness of what can happen, and how much the driver has to “lose” if something goes wrong. Many young drivers are naïve to the consequences — they really don’t think something can happen to them — whereas some older drivers have seen enough in their lives to believe that anything can happen to them.
This is the risk-reward balance, and ultimately it comes down to just how bad you want it. It’s how strong your desire is, and whether you’re willing to accept the risks that go along with it.
Related to this awareness of risk is the desire to put in the effort to do what it takes. Often, the older driver has many other demands on their time, so even if they want to put the effort in, it’s difficult to do. But there’s no doubt that to be the best you can be, it’s going to take commitment. It’s going to take time and effort, both at the track and away from the track. In fact, I’d say the biggest difference can actually be made away from the track, as the time on track is so limited. If you want to improve, either to get ahead of younger drivers or to keep up with them, what you do away from the track (mental and physical training) is likely to make the biggest difference.
When I talk about resources, I’m referring primarily to money and time, as well as access to other people.
This can work in a few different ways: The driver with money to spend, but very little time due to family and/or business life commitments; the driver who has gotten their professional life to a point where they have time on their hands but is having to watch the budget very closely; or some other combination. One thing that most older drivers have as an advantage over younger drivers is access to other people — more resources to help them improve — through a larger network they’ve built over many years.
Of course, desire, effort and resources are interrelated.
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