In­sight: MSA train­ing

When the go­ing gets tough, the MSA’S best driv­ers get the best train­ing . By David Evans

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - Pho­tos: Mal­colm Grif­fiths

“We are ex­plor­ing the fric­tion cir­cle” Nor­bert Filip­pits

Ire­mem­ber learn­ing about cen­trifu­gal force at school. But I never thought I’d see it demon­strated quite so graph­i­cally with­out a test tube. Mo­tor­sport News’ pho­tog­ra­pher Mal­colm Grif­fiths was pinned against the in­side of the left-rear win­dow of a Peu­geot spin­ning wildly out of con­trol. I was at the wheel. Oops. It wasn’t re­ally my fault. Some­body had lifted the rear wheels off the ground and shoved some sort of shop­ping trol­ley ar­range­ment un­der­neath. Go­ing around a cor­ner at any­thing be­yond walk­ing speed inevitably ended up in fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion in clas­si­cal and quan­tum me­chan­ics: me fac­ing for­wards, then back­wards lots of times and in quick suc­ces­sion.

Nor­bert Filip­pits is a very pa­tient man. He’s seen enough. He gets in the pas­sen­ger side and pro­vides per­fect ad­vice. No more spin­ning, much more speed.

“What you are do­ing here,” says Filip­pits, “is ex­plor­ing the fric­tion cir­cle and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween lat­eral and lon­gi­tu­di­nal grip.” I knew that. Let me in­tro­duce Filip­pits a lit­tle more for­mally. He’s from Aus­tria and he wears glasses. He also hap­pens to be one of the best driv­ers I’ve ever had the priv­i­lege of sit­ting next to. But you won’t have heard of him in the same way the wider world hasn’t heard of David Lead­bet­ter. Lead­bet­ter makes holes in one hap­pen. Nor­bert takes the world’s best driv­ers and makes them bet­ter.

This week’s all about mak­ing good great, cre­at­ing elite out of ex­cel­lence. Team UK is the cream of the MSA Academy and Bri­tain’s gov­ern­ing body has delved into the cof­fers to put some of the best coaches and coach­ing fa­cil­i­ties at the dis­posal of our most promis­ing rally and rac­ing driv­ers.

Elite Sports Per­for­mance (ESP) puts the in­fra­struc­ture in place for the Academy and pro­vides all aspects of train­ing in­clud­ing in-depth work on all aspects of hu­man per­for­mance, phys­i­ol­ogy, nutri­tion, hy­dra­tion and some fas­ci­nat­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal-anal­y­sis.

ESP is run by 2001 World Rally cham­pion co-driver Robert Reid. It was the Scot and for­mer For­mula 1 driver and Le Mans win­ner Alex Wurz who got to­gether to pro­vide the FIA with its Young Driver Ex­cel­lence Academy, grad­u­ates in­clud­ing An­dreas Mikkelsen, Stof­fel Van­doorne and Alex Rossi.

For the first time, Wurz’s com­pany Test and Train­ing In­ter­na­tional has ar­rived on th­ese shores to im­part some of its knowl­edge on Bri­tain’s shin­ing stars.

For the first time, the the­ory’s be­ing put into prac­tice. Not just yet, though. Be­fore Filip­pits hands out the keys to ESP’S fleet of V6 Lexus lined up at Knock­hill, there’s some beast­ing to be done.

And the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh’s the place to do it. How can you fail to be in­spired, work­ing in the Kather­ine Grainger Row­ing Gym?

MSA Academy man­ager Greg Symes is keen to push this side of things. “We’re cre­at­ing an elite en­vi­ron­ment for Team UK,” he says. “Th­ese are the guys at the top of the pro­gramme – the ones with the best shot at For­mula 1 and the World Rally Cham­pi­onship. The MSA’S in­vest­ing a lot in th­ese driv­ers.”

It cer­tainly is. Coach­ing fees alone run into tens of thou­sands, but that’s not all fo­cused on the dozen or so at the top of the tree. There’s a drip-down ef­fect from Team UK down into the Academy Squad (which in­cludes a pool of 30 driv­ers from which fu­ture Team UK driv­ers are pulled) and the per­for­mance mas­ter classes which pro­vide an in­tro­duc­tion to the work of the Academy to driv­ers as young as 14.

All of this is a big leap from the MSA Rally Elite, orig­i­nally formed in 2005 and fol­lowed two years later by Rac­ing Elite.

“We’ve come a long way,” ad­mits Reid. “What we now have is a much wider ap­proach to train­ing and de­vel­op­ment, go­ing from grass­roots right up to the top of the sport with guys like Elfyn [Evans, M-sport World Rally Team driver] and Alex [Lynn, Wil­liams F1 de­vel­op­ment driver].”

One of ESP’S key de­vel­op­ments in re­cent years is the in­tro­duc­tion of In­sights Dis­cov­ery, a psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing pro­gramme which uses prin­ci­ples first in­tro­duced by Swiss psy­chol­o­gist Carl Gus­tav Jung.

I was deeply sus­pi­cious of how this could pos­si­bly get Evans closer to Se­bastien Ogier or help a GP2 driver shave a tenth off a lap time. Nev­er­the­less, I went through the de­tailed ques­tion­naire on­line and sub­mit­ted my re­sponses.

Reid’s part­ner in ESP, Brian Cameron as­sures me there are no right or wrong an­swers. Yeah, I’ve heard that be­fore…

“Have you been hon­est?” says Cameron, eyes nar­row­ing.

Of course. And I re­ally have. I’m as in­ter­ested as any­body to find out what Jung would have made of me. Turns out I’m a pur­ple re­former. I’m in­tol­er­ant, abra­sive, anti-so­cial and lack­ing in diplo­macy. Sounds about right. Equally, I’m an in­tel­lec­tual per­former who main­tains and de­mands high stan­dards while re­main­ing task-fo­cused.

Shall I re­peat that last bit? I like the sound of that. Cameron hands me a 38-page guide to my­self via In­sights Dis­cov­ery. Ob­vi­ously I’m far too im­pa­tient to read, so he takes me through the high­lights. And shows me that, ac­tu­ally, this isn’t all about me. It’s about how I in­ter­act with oth­ers. In­sights Dis­cov­ery colour codes peo­ple. Hence me be­ing pur­ple. GP3 racer Matt Parry’s red. “I’m de­mand­ing,” says Parry. “My en­gi­neer’s blue. We both did the pro­file and it re­ally helped our work­ing re­la­tion­ship. For ex­am­ple, he likes a good track walk. I’m happy to do that, but he wanted so much de­tail from it. Now I un­der­stand why, his re­sults showed him to be very data-driven and re­ally an­a­lyt­i­cal. I get that now. I get him and that’s helped us to get even more out of each other.”

ESP’S de­vel­op­ing a pro­gramme for the com­mer­cial world out­side of mo­tor­sport and the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits to com­merce in both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor are blind­ingly ob­vi­ous.

But for now, it’s back to the track. Cas­tor-car done, Filip­pits lines up a set of cones and a brak­ing test. Some of the driv­ers are a lit­tle sur­prised by such triv­i­al­ity.

Not for long. Filip­pits trans­lates ev­ery­thing they’ve done in the class­room and brings it to life in an ev­ery day car and an al­most ev­ery day sit­u­a­tion. Of course there are some big drifts, not least from Ju­nior WRC star Osian Pryce and his muddy col­league Chris In­gram. Ben Bar­ni­coat gets it. “The weight trans­fer work we did in the slalom was re­ally good,” he says. “If I’m go­ing into a cor­ner this year and strug­gling with the change of di­rec­tion, I’ll think back to what Nor­bert has taught us here. We’re not about to find a se­cond a lap here, but the Academy gives us so much. From sim­ple stuff like mak­ing sure there’s a re­sis­tance band in our bag in case there’s no gym at the ho­tel to go­ing up climb­ing walls to demon­strate a freer way of think­ing and mov­ing. The driv­ing side is the ic­ing on the cake.”

The MSA’S com­mit­ment to driv­ing fu­ture tal­ent for­wards has never been stronger and, thanks to ESP, it’s de­liv­er­ing on ev­ery level pos­si­ble. ■

The Team UK driv­ers went to learn at Knock­hill Robert Reid is in charge of driver train­ing

Our man failed to get to grips with a trick Peu­geot Driv­ers were put through their paces in Ed­in­burgh

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