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