Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Being the helmet

McLaren, it seems, have a Human High Performance Programme. This double alliteration is slightly troubling, not least because the apparent need to qualify the programme as 'human', might be thought to imply that the 1998 World Champion Constructor is also in the process of preparing an army of androids or extra-terrestrials to fulfil some indispensable, high-performance function within the McLaren Technology Centre. It certainly places McLaren a step ahead of the opposition, who will have to rely upon mere fitness coaches, physiotherapists, and the odd sporting psychologist.

Of course, it may be that McLaren have taken on-board the lessons expounded in Clyde Brolin's 2010 book Overdrive, and recognise the performance benefits to be had when a driver enters a trance-like rhythm called 'the zone'.

In the spirit of Overdrive then, here's a particularly vivid account of what it feels like for a racing driver to be in such a state. What's most interesting in this recollection is that, whilst the driver doesn't lose his sense of having a spatial location fixed behind the eyes, he does describe an apparent loss of spatial extension. In effect, the driver seems to be describing a partial decoupling of the conscious mind from the body; there is temporal structure but no spatial structure to the driver's point of perception.

Those who fancy a challenge might wish to identify the driver.

"When I'm in that groove, I can go on forever. I wish I knew how I got into that state. I don't. I simply find myself in it...

"Then I drive out of that window in my helmet. I look through that window and what I see out of it is the sole and only thing that exists in the whole wide world; everything is happening out there in front of me. My legs and arms and every other part of me are just parts of a whole and doing what they're supposed to be doing automatically, so that I don't have to think consciously about gearing or braking or accelerating; that's all going on without any orders from me. I concentrate, intensely, on everything that's in front of me: be it a car or a corner, there's an invisible line extending from that window in my head to whatever's next. My body is in unison. It doesn't really exist; it's compacted, the whole of me is bunched up tight inside that little area of plexiglass. I'm entirely in my helmet and I think of myself as being the helmet, looking out. Everything, body or car, obeys that module.

"The sensation is not physical...I'm seeing more than I ever have before. My vision is enlarged and the sensation is purely mental."


Sorry, no clues.

13 comments:

douglas.hudson said...

Is it The Stig?

Gordon McCabe said...

No.

Michael said...

Stirling Moss

Gordon McCabe said...

No.

Gizzle said...

Senna?

Mike Capon said...

Ayrton Senna da Silva

Gordon McCabe said...

Nope, not Senna!

Ago said...

Jackie Stewart ?

Gordon McCabe said...

No, it's not Jackie.

douglas.hudson said...

Could it be Bez from the Happy Mondays?

Gordon McCabe said...

Now you're just guessing.

Pyrope said...

Might I suggest Damon Hill? Not one that immediately jumps to mind, but he's the only driver I can remember having mused at length on this topic.

Gordon McCabe said...

No, not Damon, although you're right, I can recall him just last year talking about being in the zone at Suzuka in '94.