For Better And Worse
Blame it on my upbringing, or just a natural inclination, but once I really dedicate myself to something I suffer from a tunnel vision that only sees mistakes or places for improvement. While this can be helpful in making a great product, I can also miss moments of wonder or celebration. Driving and filmmaking, two of my favorite things, both offer life-long learning and huge improvement comes from tiny changes in approach or execution. This show has combined my two great loves, but sometimes causes me to miss the good in pursuit of perfection.
On our recent trip to Europe I found myself challenged in every driving experience, but also encouraged. Our friends at RSR provided instructors for all the drivers we brought to Spa and the Nurburgring. We had some with no track experience going slow around the track, while others chased tenths of a second. Everyone learned. Everyone had fun. The mistakes never overshadowed the enjoyment.
As I blasted through my first lap of Spa for this trip, I was keeping mental notes of where to improve. Eau Rouge needed more speed. The end of Kemmel straight had too much braking. My turn in point was off on Bruxelles, and Pouhon needed more throttle to rotate the car.
My inner calculations were interrupted by my instructor, a man who’d driven 24 hour races at both the Nurburgring and Spa.
“Have you ever raced?” he asked
“No,” I answered, certain I was doing something wrong. “But I’d like to.”
“You should,” he said. “And right away.”
My day instantly improved. And my driving became more... joyful. We continued, doing five more laps together as he gave me minor corrections and helped refine turn in points on problem corners. But more than his helpful instruction, he reminded me that while there’s always room for improvement, I’ve been focused on the bad and not the whole picture.
When I edit for the show I'm able to step through corners, run passes in slow motion, and generally obsess on what my driving ability should be instead of what it is… experienced, and growing. Somewhere along the way editorial critique suffocated the things I’ve accomplished. I expected to learn from this instructor, but trusting my experience and having fun wasn’t on the list.
For the rest of the trip I was never as fast or as perfect as I wanted to be. Yet, I’ve never had more fun on track. While you might think it’s impossible to not have fun on Spa or the Nurburgring, the truth is I’m prone to over think the experience. Meanwhile, the guy that flipped his Megane last year clearly under-thought the problem, so there’s bound to be a happy medium.
In the end, I’m reminding myself to enjoy driving while learning, instead of making learning a quest for perfection. One of the reasons I so enjoy canyon roads is they have no official times and competition is irrelevant. But racetracks call to me as a way to improve and quantify my experience in relative safety and free of costly tickets.
Later that day I had another instructor sit with me for a few laps. From him I learned that my line through Eau Rouge wasn’t nearly aggressive enough, and Blanchimont corner can be taken with much more speed. In case I missed it, the conclusion of the day wasn't to believe I'm awesome. There’s always places to improve. I want to be better, but I could be far worse.
Just like dancing a car through a corner, balance is key.