Latest Ford Tech Unlocks The Secrets Behind A Racing Driver's Mental Performance

How Ford is using VR to give people the skills of a professional driver.

Ford Performance

In an increasingly connected world where constant distractions make it difficult to zone in and focus on important activities, the pioneers at Ford have discovered that tapping into the mindset of professional racing drivers could be the key to succeeding in high-pressure situations.

Attempting to uncover how a racing driver's mind copes with the split-second decision making needed to not only make it around the track, but beat out the competition, a new ground-breaking collaborative study from Ford Performance and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London has discovered how anyone can boost their own mental performance in day-to-day situations by using the same visualisation and mental training techniques adopted by Ford drivers.

Already proven to have impacted the motorsport world massively, many drivers have come out to champion the use of these expert mental techniques, with Ford's three-time winner of the FIA World Touring Championship, Andy Priaulx, revealing how they improved his performance on the track. Before being introduced to these techniques, Priaulx lamented that he had never won a circuit race, but the following year he enjoyed 13 out of 13 races at the top of the podium. He added, "I’ve given myself these tools to play with and it’s helped me to become a more complete package."

Ford Performance

Titled "The Psychology of Performance", the joint study analysed how the body of participants - made up of Ford veterans as well as members of the public - reacted when exposed to these innovative techniques. Using a special EEG headset that for the first time has been able to measure the brain activity, concentration and reaction times of professional drivers, all individuals took part in a VR driving simulator that mimicked the same conditions Ford racers are tasked with navigating in real life.

The results so far have been more substantial than the scientists working on either team expected, with the brains of the drivers performing up to 40% better in a state of high focus. What's more tantalising though, as Dr. Elias Mouchlianitis, the genius who designed the study at Kings Cross London explains, was that "when normal people performed the same mental exercises, they were also be able to reach this higher level of performance.

In fact, when exposed to the same simple breathing and meditation exercises, as well as a visualisation technique that uses keywords to help participants imagine the task ahead, regular drivers were able to improve their performance in the experiment by up to 50%.

Ford Performance

That all sounds great on paper, but what does it actually mean for the future? Well, the data discovered should benefit everyone, as Priaulx explains, “racing drivers aren’t necessarily born with this skill; our experiment showed that simple mental training ahead of a task can help anyone to improve focus and ignore distractions, making them more successful at the task in hand.”

Using this research to strive towards a new era of unlocking the secrets of a racing driver's brain, Ford is currently in the midst of developing an EEG-equipped helmet for their own in-house use. Being able to monitor the minds and bodies of its professional drivers with more complexity than ever, the company plans on using the data gained from this to pioneer the next evolution of performance and focus.

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