I have been karting since 1994 when I was 10 years old. After a long struggle of growth and trying to improve in the 2000’s I started to achieve success at a National and International level. I took my new knowledge that took many years to perfect, and began working as a driving coach/ tuner. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best drivers in North America, winning Rotax World Championship, Challenge Of The Americas, SKUSA Pro Tour, Florida Winter Tour, 2X US National Championships, qualify 10 drivers to the Rotax Grand Finals and Rok World Cup through various series. I have taken drivers like Sting Ray Robb at the beginning of his karting career, where he was almost lapped at his first Challenge Of The Americas race, and turned him into one of the best drivers in North America winning National races. No matter how old, World Champion or brand new, driver development is the most important factor to winning races.
In 2014 I was working with my brother, Bryce Choquer who is one of the best drivers in North America. This was the first year he competed at the FWT, what I consider the best series in North America. Now Bryce is still young but he does have some International experience including competing at the Worlds three times with his best finish in 2010 at La Conca for 6th place. I have worked with him since day 1 when he got in his little Comer 80 back in 2000. I have seen him develop throughout the years and every race I see new techniques, a better understanding of the dynamics of chassis, and just overall more experience. His racing experience at National and International is very limited, when I compare him to his teammate like Ben Cooper 3X world championship, but having said that Ben is at the peak of his career, and its very difficult to find more speed for a guy like Ben. However, Bryce on the other hand has not hit his peak, and will continue to get faster and develop.
In Ocala we made very little changes to the chassis. We focused mainly on his driving and throttle application. I knew the chassis and engine was strong, but Bryce struggled through two mid speed corners and always complained about a lack of grip. We were losing 2 tenths through this one section. So we tried various chassis adjustments and still the same problem. Then we looked at the data, and it was clear he was accelerating to hard and the lateral grip just was not able to accept the power. So I instructed him to adjust his driving with more rolling speed and less throttle application and before you know it we were 2 tenths faster and running in the top 6 all weekend. On Sunday he started 3rd in the final and took the lead, before getting knocked out. It was a great weekend because Bryce developed his skills and was running with some of worlds best at the front. I know Bryce could be winning FWT races, Nationals on regular basis, if he were to continue and gain valuable experience from competing at such elite races, and follow it up with practice. This past weekend he got a taste of that success with winning at FWT in the Tag Senior class, followed by great top 10 results the following weekend in the Senior class.
Having said that I see many kids with parents spend more money on purchasing the latest chassis, a $5,000 engine, Lucky Design helmet, Alpinestars gear, another $5,000 engine because the last one isn’t fast enough, and then hire a tuner or join a so called “Winning Team” who knows nothing about driver development, and still no results race weekend after race weekend. Parents are convinced that there engine isn’t working, the chassis is sliding, tires are old, excuse after excuse. I am pretty sure I could write a page of excuses from what I have heard throughout the years. Now this is pretty much the standard response when we talk about ones race, and we always give an excuse why we didn’t finish where we wanted, and never discuss the real issue.
I like to watch the Micro and Mini class to see the kids who I think are amazing drivers, or great potentials. To me its like prospecting. Lets take Anthony Gangi for example, that kid pretty much wins everything. He is “the kid” in mini max right now. Everyone always discusses that Gangi has the best engines, and I am pretty sure there are parents in the pits that bought a Tony Kart just because they saw him win a race. The truth is when I watch him, he is smooth, hits every apex every single lap, carries rolling speed, maximizes track usage, executes perfect technique in passing and race craft. To keep it short, he does not put a wheel wrong. If I were to guess, I would bet he is in a kart more often then any other driver in the field. That amount of time in a kart builds huge experience, and at the end of the day its repetition, repetition, repetition.
I Am Off Pace….
As a parent I know how much we love our children and believe in them, but imagine if you were a Scout for Andretti Motorsports. If you were to break down each driver and choose the ones who had the best technique where would we actually put our kids in ranking with Anthony Gangi, Nick Brueckner, etc. The truth is the kids that are winning on a regular basis top 3-5 in America are almost perfect every weekend. From 5th place to 10th place they are usually making 1-2 mistakes per lap, 10th-20th place can be 2-6 mistakes per lap.
To break it down on track every time you miss an apex, consider that a minimum loss of one tenth. Miss 4-5 apex and you can be half a second slower easily. Don’t hit the apex coming onto the straight, not only are you not going to hit max rpm at the end of the straight, but you are losing time the whole length of the straight, which would make one believe there engine is no good.
This sport is about being perfect every single lap. The ones who don’t make mistakes usually win. If my child was half a second off I know because of my experience I would be looking at my driver, but for the average parent they would be focused on the kart or engine.
Finally even if you hit all your apex’s, there are still three variables that determine time. breaking time, rolling speed and throttle application. I see many kids with good technique but just need to work on one of these variables. There lines and apexes are correct but these three variables can equate to three to five tenths of a second a lap easily.
Every team sport we play, the first thing we do is meet our coach. You buy a new kart and the first thing we do is hit the track. Right from day one, we do what feels natural but the truth is, we are developing bad habits. The longer we drive without training, the harder it is to break those habits. Hiring a driving coach is going to be your biggest asset. I truly believe they are more important then a tuner. Now before we go into depths lets define a tuner and driving coach. A driving coach is one who instructs a driver on proper technique, race craft, and learn how to adapt to various conditions or the chassis and make the chassis work to its maximum potential. A driving coach will also work on developing mental strength, visualization and prepare a driver for as many situations as possible. A tuner, works specifically on the kart, to make the chassis and engine work alongside the driver to maximize the drivers technique and set up the chassis to what is technically correct for the current race conditions.
In North America, many parents have gone wrong thinking they need to hire a tuner, who has limited driving knowledge, but works for a large team, or a really good driver who has won some big races. These so called tuners become Celebrities in our sport. Parents believe that once they hit the magical setup and engine jetting the wins will start rolling in. Pretty much anyone can call themselves a tuner, and get a job these days. Inexperienced parents are told, they need to hire a tuner and it will be the answer to all our lost podiums, right? WRONG.
Hiring a driving coach you will spend more time at the track practicing, and less time racing. I have always said to my customers one day of driver training can equate to 6 months to a 1 year of experience. I won’t get into details on what needs to be worked on our how, the important thing is, that the drivers techniques basically go through a microscope. Once a foundation of skills is built, you will continue to work on that. Having a driving coach work with your child, should be an ongoing basis, weekly if the budget permits it. Once you have worked hard during practice, having your driving coach there during a race weekend, basically is like having co-pilot the whole weekend watching, analyzing techniques, lines, looking at data, and making adjustments with the technique to make sure the driver is driving the track to its maximum ability.
I have always said, “a race weekend is not a place to be learning new technique, its a place to execute what you have learned in practice and training.” Hiring a driving coach just for a race weekend is only putting a band aid on a cut that needs more then just a band aid. It may work one weekend, but on a consistent basis you are not going to maximize your results if you have spent the time before with training.
As I said before, you need to shop around, and make sure you hire someone that knows how to communicate with kids, and that creates an environment that they feel confident in and not afraid to make mistakes. Just because you hire a World Champion from the biggest team as a driving coach does not make him a good teacher. You are going to want someone who you respect as a person, and is a good roll model, that is a strong communicator and knows how to talk to kids at there level, and explain a very strong knowledge base, that a kid can understand. A driving coach in my opinion should be someone who has a big resume, with driving at international level, National championships, and has been involved in the sport 10+ years. The more knowledge and experience your coach has as a driver the more skills and techniques he will be able to pass down to your child. Hiring the local track champion is not who I would be wanting to hire as a coach, because there experience is very limited.
Whats The Cost
For starters, you can’t think of it as an expense. This is an investment into your karting program. One really needs to try and allocate as much financial resources to this as possible. If you can afford only two sessions a year, then that will be worth it. In a perfect world where you are wanting to be competing at National level, you would work with your coach at least once a week to train and prepare, and then on race weekends. Your decision should not be based on price alone. Just because they are expensive ($500 a day) does not make them good. The other aspect is just because they were a good driver back in the glory days does not make them a good coach. Shop around and ask the right questions about teaching style, how they communicate to drivers, previous customer examples and their development process. Most times when I start to work with a new client, I get them to purchase my DVD series I produce called the” Winning Setup and Science Of Driving ” so they can see my style of coaching technique and how I approach chassis setup and tuning. You need to feel that the person is not only knowledgeable and experienced but has the ability to explain in a effective way. My DVD’s is what allows my clients to get a solid starting point and feel confident in there new learning process ahead of them.
Super Tuners & Teams
Now if you show up to the track, with a driving coach who has raced Porsche GT3 only, at some point you are going to hit a wall (not literally). He is going to know basic technique and apply what what he knows, but at some point car dynamics vs kart is completely different and will struggle trying to get to the next level. You want a driving coach that knows kart chassis setup, engines and can combine the three worlds. This is what I would call a Super Tuner or a driving coach/tuner. These are the types of coaches you are looking for. Now most guys that have 10+ years, know how to setup a kart, build engines, Know how to drive usually end up starting there own teams. Now looking for a team, you can not just shop for the cheapest price. You want the best service, and be in a structured environment. You get what you pay for. Just make sure the team delivers what is promised before hand. Now I have worked for individuals that have pitted with some of the largest teams in North America and to be honest there driver development programs are very poor or don’t even exist. They spend more time focused on “tuning the kart/engine” and focus on the team members who are the fastest. Not to mention when teams consist of 8 drivers or more, or the biggest I have ever seen in Florida 25 guys, how can you possibly work with each driver and develop them. The larger teams are really all show, and have top drivers running with them to look good.
You want to be apart of a team that focuses on driving and has the resources and driving coaches that can do that. Too many parents see a so called “winning team” and join them thinking they are going to get the secrets and soon be winning. The truth is you want to look at teams that have taken drivers from the very beginning worked with them, developing there skills, mental and soon becoming a National contender. Don’t pick a team which I call a cherry picker, picking up guys who are super fast, give them a good deal so they race under there team, to win races. You are just buying into a false hope.
If you are looking for improved results, spend the money and get some one on one driver coaching and implement it into your practice days. It will be the best investment you make, that I guarantee you. Work with a driving coach as much as possible because I guarantee you there is more time in your child then there is in that kart or expensive engine.
I hope this article helps and I wish you all the best. I fell in love with karting since day one when I was 10 years old, and have continued to be involved in the sport ever since. Working with kids is one of the greatest enjoyments for me, when you can see the huge improvements over time how happy and confident they become knowing there getting faster. Karting is more then just a sport. It is packed full of life lessons, and all of these lessons, and struggles is what is going to help them succeed in all aspects of there life when there older. When we struggle and are off pace, that is the time we come back with a game plan and work hard. Put in the effort and the results will come.
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