Houston: Rob Bunker preview

Rob Bunker has been practicing driving on walls and car-dodging to prepare for the Star Mazda Championship race on the streets of Houston on May 12. The Bridgewater, N.J., teen driver goes beyond the computer games of his generation, using ...

Rob Bunker has been practicing driving on walls and car-dodging to prepare for the Star Mazda Championship race on the streets of Houston on May 12. The Bridgewater, N.J., teen driver goes beyond the computer games of his generation, using sophisticated visualization strategies to enhance his race performance. He works with his coach Bob Perona on race-specific mental imagery, starting at least a week before each event.

"For Houston, I visualize me driving on the walls, getting as close to the walls as possible," Bunker explained. "Bob taught me an interesting way to visualize getting around other cars. He calls it car-dodging. I visualize driving around with cars shooting towards me going the wrong way. It helps me develop quick hands and get used to the sensation of driving around other people."

Bunker will drive the No. 18 AIM Autosport Pro Formula Mazda in the 45-minute Houston race. With the starting grid set by practice and qualifying times during the week, he hopes to be fast all weekend on the tight 1.7-mile temporary street circuit.

"Every session is technically qualifying, so we need to be the best in traffic at all times, there's no opportunity to miss. We also expect a lot red flags, so we have to push our hardest in every session," he said. "We need to utilize a lot of sensory input early in the weekend and work on being the fastest at both the beginning and the end."

Comfort is not one of Bunker's goals:

"Whoever gets up to speed the fastest has a good chance of winning. I've learned that every time I get comfortable with the car, I'm going too slow. I need to be nervous, uncomfortable with being comfortable. That's what it takes to win."

-sp-

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Series Pro Mazda