True Tales from the TDI Cup -- Jake Thompson Mid Season Review The extremely small number of you who regularly read my updates will know that the previous installments of "True Tales from the TDI Cup" have been a light-hearted, sarcastic, and...
True Tales from the TDI Cup -- Jake Thompson Mid Season Review
The extremely small number of you who regularly read my updates will know that the previous installments of "True Tales from the TDI Cup" have been a light-hearted, sarcastic, and mostly un-true account of my experiences during the first half of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup season. They haven't been pointless however. Regardless of whether anyone found them funny, or even half-ways entertaining (which is doubtful), they served to remind me that ultimately racing is fun, it's what I love, and I shouldn't allow myself to be crushed by the pressure. And believe me, there is pressure.
In the racing world, there are too many "feeder" series out there to even count, and each one comes with its own unique pressures. In some series it is all about building your reputation and where you end up in the championship isn't necessarily as important as impressing everyone in the paddock. But the Jetta Cup is what I like to call a prize series, where the champion gets a lucrative award, in our case $100,000 in career advancement with VW. Obviously, I still want to build a reputation as a fast, professional, and marketable driver, but I know that nothing is going to help my career as much as winning that Championship. As a result, last race I found myself feeling immense pressure, and forgetting all about how much fun I usually have at the track.
Rewind 2 months ago, and I was coming off my second consecutive poor finish of the season, and I was languishing outside the top 10 in the championship standings. Although the season was only 3 races old I felt like my title dreams were already crushed, so when I arrived at Miller Motorsports Park for Round 4 the pressure was off, I was loose, excited and ready to have some fun. The result was I drove by far my best weekend of the season, taking pole and a race win which vaulted me back up to 2nd in the championship.
Two weeks later at Mid Ohio I showed up at the track and I all I could think of was the point standings. I had anxiety attacks before every session, I worried about the car, I panicked about my tire choice, I was stand-offish with everyone around me, and frankly I drove horrible. I also had no fun. Mid Ohio might as well have been an autocross track at the North Pole because I found no joy in driving the car, and for the first time this year I didn't bother with a light-hearted "True Tales" column after the weekend.
The pressure got to me, and not only did I perform badly on the track, I was miserable off it. I represented myself poorly through my frustration, and as a result I hurt my championship hopes as well as my reputation. The 6-week summer break came at the perfect time and I have been able to re-group to make sure I am stronger mentally in the 2nd half of the season. Thanks to the incredible support system VW has provided us I was able to have a long chat with Ryan Arciero this week to make a plan for how to manage myself going forward. I have some key points I need to work on at Chicago, and I know that I am going to be in a better place for that event.
In many ways the struggles I had at Mid Ohio are more important to my development as a racecar driver than the win I managed in Utah. I have learned a valuable lesson to focus only on what I can control, which is how I drive and how I represent myself. And although I can help my championship chances by reaching my potential, ultimately winning requires some luck and a number of external factors, so I can't let myself worry about it. All I can do is take it one session at a time, try to improve every time out, and let the points add themselves up at the end of the year.
If anyone has actually bothered to read this far, I am both shocked and impressed, but it was something I needed to write for myself, to get a few things out of my system and enter Round 6 with a clear head. I promise that I won't let the pressure override the fun anymore, so you can guarantee that I will be poking fun at myself again in this space next time.
Thanks to everyone for their support through the first half of the season, and I can't wait to be back on track in 10 days time!!!!
(PS. We have raised an AMAZING $5800+ already for Right To Play, find out more about their cause and how you can help at jakethompson.ca/righttoplay)