Long ago I was taught about the difference in accuracy and precision, but I’d never really applied it outside of scientific pursuits. But as an iRacer, I began to realize that the racing version of accuracy and precision is important in progressing from beyond a novice level.
For myself and I’m sure most others, when starting out you want to be fast and win, at least occasionally. The trouble was that I was willing to cope with a high amount of risk in order to be able to stay with others who were faster. Inevitably what happens is the faster novices would crash and have to reset and, while progressing up the charts, I would also end up crashing. The result, in a lot of cases, was the old ‘tortoise and hare’ situation where more careful drivers always ended up over-achieving and us wannabes were left frustrated and disappointed. Lesson learned.
“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. … He wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.” -Sun Tzu
I began to not focus so much my placement on the leaderboard, but that I was consistently hitting my braking points, and not mashing the pedals, but taking extra care to be consistent. The end result was not only less incidents during the races, and generally finishing higher up on the leader board than my pace would have predicted, but I was also enjoying it more. I was more relaxed, and oddly enough this began to result in me turning my personal best lap times during races. I was not striving for the perfect lap but trying to drive within my limits, and thus was paradoxically able to get much closer to the perfect lap…
A driver who races with precision – that is always hitting their braking points and being consistent from lap to lap – will almost certainly outperform a driver who is generally faster, but less consistent. When a driver is pushing their limits and willing to accept a certain level of error, the price to be paid in time lost to spins and resetting the car, will vastly outweigh the gains made by being a second or two faster on a successful lap. Therefore one must always strive for control first to achieve consistency.
In many cases a problem with getting precise (consistent laptimes) can be due to a setup not suited to the drivers driving style or abilities. I often struggle with setups I download since they are suited to people with more talent for dealing with oversteer or with more advanced threshold braking capability. If you are not able to dial in your own settings with confidence, look for advice or search for ‘non-alien’ or safe setups, until you can confidently put together a string of laptimes within a narrow window. Time trial sessions are great practice in this regard.
Once consistent lap times are accomplished it is easier to experiment with different lines, or carrying more speed through the turn, etc. in order to whittle your average time down in a controlled manner. Such a pattern of consistency will go a long way in achieving good race results early in your career, compared to drivers who strive for speed first but lose so much time to errors.