PITS: Part 1 of 2

It’s impossible to control everything on track so even the most careful drivers may find themselves in a bad situation from time to time. One of the most dangerous situations you may find yourself in happens right after an incident or almost-incident. Let’s call it Post-Incident Trauma Syndrome for the apropos acronym PITS. What is PITS? Simply put, it’s losing your cool when bad shit happens. Here’s a recent incident at Road Atlanta from the perspective of the hittee and hitter.

PITS interferes with optimal driving. Maybe you missed a shift, passed under yellow, went 4 wheels off, spun off track, or hit someone. Or maybe the something almost happened. You may feel rage for being a victim, embarrassment for the part you played, fear in the uncertainty of what follows, or some mixture of these and other intense emotions. Racecar driving is a cerebral activity best executed in a state of alert detachment where the moments between observation, decision, and action are unencumbered by thoughts of survival, worry, pain, etc. When you’re “in the zone”, you see, hear, and feel everything around you without effort and are able to drive at your greatest ability. Intense emotions (and especially pain) shatter your serenity and focus your attention inward. In this state of PITS, you are more vulnerable to making driving errors.

This next clip is the same incident viewed from a car that witnessed the crash from behind. Keep watching after the initial contact at 0:43 for two reasons. First, the driver does an excellent job of slowing down to make sure he doesn’t get caught up in the aftermath. Second, at 1:07 you’ll see the hitter kick up a dust cloud as he completely misses the entry of T3. Luckily, it’s a safe place to go off track. The driver was in a state of PITS. Wisely, he recognized he had lost his cool and pitted his car shortly after.

What can you do about PITS? Check back next week for the exciting conclusion. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Nanna, nanna, nanna, nanna, nanna, nanna, na…

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2 thoughts on “PITS: Part 1 of 2

  1. It’s easy to lose one’s reference points, even references points they didn’t know they had. Early in my track-day driving I found myself feeling pretty confident as over several laps I gained on, followed, then passed another car. As soon as that car was behind me, and the next turn was coming up, I suddenly realized how much I had been using them a queue for my own braking. Oops. Solved, tight? Not quite. In my first race (LeMons, naturally), I had my first race spin. No problem. I had been concentrating, focusing, it happened really fast but I had the clutch in and just as the car was about to stop sideways in T10 at T’hill I drove it off and out of danger. Presence of mind, unflappable, and so far so good. Yea, right. I safely got going again and almost went off in T11. My references were screwed up. Not my track references, but my reality references. I had lost them all and or thought I was now Superman or to master of race physics or something. At the moment I was sure it was the car and brought it in. At the end of the day I still thought it was the car. A month later, it wasn’t the car.

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  2. One of the things I love about racing is how reality eventually smacks you in the face. My first track day I had the hubris to time myself and I thought I was doing really well. Looking back at that now, I realize how ridiculous that was and how badly I was driving. I should post that video at some point because it featured a spin in T3 and then just like you, I almost lost it right after coming back on track. The reality is that I sucked at racing, and I still do. But I’m getting better, and that’s the important part.

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