OVERDRIVE: Formula One In The Zone – MORE BOOK “REVIEWS”

OVERDRIVE: Formula One In The Zone – MORE BOOK “REVIEWS”

Sourced from: http://www.overdrivef1.com/review.html

Tags (key words): Motor racing, motor sport, Grand Prix drivers, Formula One, “the zone”, sport, success, achievement, mind, mind-power, motivation, champion, elite sports-people, excellence (enough there now, craig)

Laurence Edmondson (ESPNF1.com – April 29, 2010)

Talk of being “in the zone” has become clichéd among sportsmen in recent years. It would be easy to assume their vocabulary has simply run short in trying to describe a good performance, but is it possible there is something much deeper and more meaningful to the phrase?

In Overdrive, Clyde Brolin examines the possibility that finding the zone could be a route to some sort of spiritual enlightenment as well as heightened performance. Fortunately, he’s as cynical about the premise as you probably are and the book is more an exploration of the idea, rather than an attempt to prove it. By focusing on F1 drivers’ journeys to the zone he looks at what is truly possible from a man, two pedals (three in the good old days) and a steering wheel.

Brolin’s investigation begins in the most obvious place: Ayrton Senna’s jaw-dropping qualifying lap of Monaco in 1988, in which the Brazilian claimed to have an out-of-body experience while lapping the street circuit 1.427 seconds faster than any of his competitors. It’s a good place to start, but of course you can’t base a whole theory on (whisper it) a self-confessed bible-basher, who might have got carried away in a press conference. Fortunately Brolin hasn’t. In fact, he’s done the opposite and interviewed around 100 other F1 and sporting personalities who have reported similar, if not quite as dramatic, visits to the zone.

This is the book’s biggest strength but also a potential flaw. The accounts are almost endless. But, much like reaching the zone, the hard work is worth it as the book puts beyond any doubt the importance of psychology in sport. What’s more there are some brilliant descriptions of the zone, most notably darts player Bobby George who describes the feeling as, “Like having a thousand starlings flying out of your arsehole”.

So with the premise well and truly established it would seem logical to explore how it’s possible to achieve such a feat. Unfortunately this is the difficult bit, and Brolin doesn’t really attempt to address it. Instead he leaves it to the drivers to try and explain, and judging by their widely differing accounts, there is no single answer. But that’s certainly not a criticism of the book, more proof of just how fascinating the subject topic is.

Masses of time has clearly gone into researching Overdrive, and the end result leaves you looking at some of sport’s greatest achievements in a very different light. The fact that F1 hasn’t embraced sport psychology in the same way as other individual pursuits, such as golf or tennis means a lot of the content is incredibly fresh. While the book is not likely to revolutionise the sport, it will add another dimension for any F1 fan willing to open their mind to it.

Simon Briggs (The Daily Telegraph – April 2, 2010)
Imagine piloting an F1 car at 140mph round the streets of Monaco. It’s a pretty frightening circuit, even for me who have been racing all their lives. The elder Nelson Piquet once said that driving at Monaco felt like ‘flying a helicopter around your living room’.

Now imagine that the car is still romping around those hairpin bends, but rather than watching the road through your helmet visor, you are looking down on yourself impassively from above. You can no longer feel your hands on the wheel or your feet on the pedals; instead, it is as if some third party (God? The id?) is performing all the mechanics quite independently.

Most alarmingly, the car seems to be moving faster than it has ever gone before. That is the sort of out-of-body experience that Ayrton Senna reported after his extraordinary qualifying lap at Monaco in 1988. That drive has gone down in grand prix folklore. After beating his McLaren team-mate Alain Prost by a second-and-a-half, and the rest of the field by fully two seconds, Senna admitted: ‘It frightened me, because I realised I was well beyond my conscious understanding’.

This phenomenon of driving on autopilot fascinated the motor sport writer Clyde Brolin so much that he wrote a book about it. And after 10 years’ labour, he has produced ‘Overdrive’, an analysis of the mental states that top athletes – mostly, but not exclusively racing drivers – go through when they compete. Brolin’s main theme is the concept of ‘the Zone’, that oasis of heightened performance where time seems to slow down. Most of the drivers he spoke to could remember entering this trance-like condition a handful of times during their careers, but only the very best – the Sennas and Schumachers – made a habit of it.

The abandonment of ego, at least temporarily, seems to be one of the prerequisites. According to Jackie Stewart, his early performances in F1 were held back by the red mist that often surrounds the angry young driver. It was only after three years’ racing that he realised he needed to be totally detached, to the point where Stewart was almost humming a tune, while his brain performed its calculations like a computer.

When Brolin consulted other drivers about such stories, many dismissed them as fantasies on a par with Luke Skywalker’s ability to fight blindfolded. But the author was reassured by the fighter pilot, who told him that ‘breakout – where guys feel they’re sitting on the wing looking into the cockpit at themselves – is a well-known phenomenon in military aviation, particularly fast-jet flying.’

For the most, ‘Overdrive’ is insightful and leaves you with a fresh perspective on F1. Which is exactly what Senna experienced in Monaco all those years ago.

**** (four stars)

Maurice Hamilton (The Observer – March 7, 2010)
Racing drivers drive as fast as they can. An obvious statement, perhaps, but for a driver at the highest level, finding a tiny bit extra makes the difference between winning and finishing second. When a driver reaches that outer limit, he is in “the zone”. It is an area almost beyond understanding but, once inside it, a driver – or any sports person – experiences a sense of calm and ease of action that comes close to euphoria.

Explaining how it happened is much more difficult, if not impossible. And because, say, a Formula One driver knows he has entered unfamiliar and therefore disturbing areas of the astro-physical and neurological, there is a reluctance to talk about it in case the listener thinks he is either mad or out of control when supposedly in charge of a vehicle capable of 200mph.

Ayrton Senna broke new ground when he described, without prompting, an “out-of-car experience”, when claiming pole position for the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix. Senna said the McLaren-Honda was going faster and faster and with such apparent ease that the Brazilian reached the point where he appeared to be above the car, looking down on it. Such an admission from a highly respected driver prompted others to confess that, very occasionally, they had experienced similar inexplicable feelings.

The full extent of this phenomenon has become startlingly apparent in Overdrive. Formula 1 In The Zone, a paper-back book that thoroughly investigates the subject. Clyde Brolin clearly has impeccable contacts and the respect of the racing community, judging by 100 interviews with top drivers and riders.

Brolin spreads his inquires to rallying (Sébastien Loeb), Le Mans (multiple-winner Tom Kristensen) and motor bikes (Valentino Rossi); but it is the F1 drivers who provide the meat for a revealing book on a fascinating subject. Gerhard Berger, the winner of 10 grands prix, provides a typical example.

“Qualifying was when you could really find The Zone,” Berger says. “On some days you are fighting the car, everything hurts and nothing seems to fit. You have no lap time and you know it. But at other times you feel yourself reaching a higher level. Everything would be just like in slow motion, everything becomes very smooth and very soft. When you’re really on it, it’s absolutely the best feeling in the world.”

Mark Hughes (Autosport magazine – Feb 25, 2010)
Medical understanding of the processes going on within the driver is still at a primitive level. But in a fascinating new book, Overdrive: Formula 1 in the Zone, Clyde Brolin takes a more intuitive look at the subject. He searches out those who have experienced that magical feeling in a racing car where they can do no wrong, where driving absolutely at the limit is the easiest thing in the world. It’s a feeling of invincibility rarely attained even by the top guys, but it is generally accessible by anyone. When a driver reaches this zone, that is when we see pure, undistilled, 100 per cent of his potential. It’s the place of which Ayrton Senna famously and mystically spoke when describing his laps at Monaco in 1988.

Brolin has interviewed many of the sport’s greats, as well as lesser lights and sportspeople from outside motor racing, about the phenomenon and the consistency of the themes is striking. Whether we assign neurological, technical, astro-physical or spiritual explanations to the experience is open for debate. And it would inevitably be a fruitless debate, because of the fundamental intransigence people with expertise in each of those fields tend to have about accepting theories outside their own area of knowledge.

The book doesn’t try to reach a resolution on this, but it does record the views of those who have them. Ironically, it is those with open minds who have ready access to the phenomenon. The only real conclusion the book reaches is that the zone is ‘free to everyone with the correct decoder’; but it ventures no theory on what that decoder is – and is all the better for that.

Brolin took years researching the book and it would be nice if he were rewarded for such dedication to a complex, ultimately unresolved but fascinating subject. Buy it: you’ll have spent a tenner but gained a fascinating insight.

Dr Gordon McCabe (McCabism website – Mar 1, 2010)
Overdrive is first and foremost a book about what it is like to be a racing driver ‘in the Zone’. This is the state of mind in which a driver attains mental clarity, he feels at one with the car, and in which driving fast at the very limit feels effortless. This mental state requires the conscious mind to relax its control, and allow the subconscious mind to take over. At times like this, the conscious mind of the driver is able to sit back and observe, from an almost disinterested perspective, the actions of his own body.

It is a unique and fabulous work. The author has extracted a gripping and fascinating collection of lucid recollections from many of the most famous names in motor-sport. Brolin has essentially unearthed a whole world of private experience, which has received little prior attention. The accounts rendered of being in the Zone should be treated as a treasure-trove for psychologists and neuro-scientists, and even the more overtly religious testimonies later in the book can be seen as an interesting anthropological study of the beliefs held by certain modern tribes. Buy it!

Sourced from: http://www.overdrivef1.com/review.html

About the submitter:

Craig is a motor racing “fanatic” ( a petrol-head”), who believes in (and loves) helping others to find their passions and gifts… through encouraging people to reach out for, then accomplish their “wildest” dreams. He truly believes people can overcome obstacles, rise to any occasion, and accomplish their dreams, even ‘Endless Possibilities, Far and Great Horizons’ in life with enough FAITH and PERSISTENCE.
Craig is currently “working” on a new manuscript ‘INSIDE THE MIND OF A GRAND PRIX CHAMPION, which forms part of true and inspirational stories of ‘Endless Possibilities: Let the Journey Begin’

PPS: For dearest dad, see the dream never died!

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