In our effort to deliver the best value in sports car racing, Mazda Motorsports Factory Driver Kenton Koch was brought on to be the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires series coach. Below, he shares his experience and process
The Mazda Road to 24 has been an integral part of my career. On that road, I ran in the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires, an experience that was more influential than I ever could have imagined. That series was the most competitive and fun series I have ever raced in to date.
The one thing that I wish I had more of during that time was extra guidance on race craft and coaching on the driving side. There is so much to learn and take in that it is difficult to soak in EVERYTHING completely on your own.
Understanding that there is a significant growth phase for many drivers in MX-5 Cup this year, Mazda Motorsports decided to offer complimentary coaching to the MX-5 Cup drivers. When they asked me to be the coach, I was thrilled. And as the coach for the series, I have enjoyed seeing improvements in so many drivers.
Providing a series coach gives drivers with access to someone to go to for help and advice. You would imagine with 40 drivers in the series that it would be difficult to coach every single one of them. You are correct. But many of those who already have coaches in the series, typically through their respective teams, tend to stick with them; this leaves me with about 15-25 drivers who look to me to provide guidance.
The value I offer is mainly for the new drivers and teams entering the series. Generally, the new teams and drivers are stepping up from the club level and have yet to experience professional coaching. It has been amazing to open the eyes of some of these drivers to the value of a professional coach. I can tell you, I was much busier during the second race weekend than the first as drivers started to see the value more and utilize the time I have for them. I fully expect to be running around like a mad man trying to keep up with all of the drivers at Road America, for which I am glad.
I offer the drivers a variety of lessons both on the track and off the track. During practice sessions, I usually go out to different corners to take splits and observe driving habits to be able to provide feedback on driving technique. To prepare for qualifying or the races, I focus more on the review of video and data to help drivers understand the strategy involved. With so many cars on track, race craft is key. Every driver has racing video I can look at to help decipher good or bad decisions on track. While going over video, I ask about how their car reacts and offer suggestions to improve their car handling. Also, Mazda Motorsports partnered with iRacing, so we have an iRacing simulator set up at the track we can use. Using all the tools we have, not only do I help improve each driver’s ability, but I help them understand their car setup and even their mental focus and attitude. Putting it together is not easy, so helping to identify the larger opportunities is critical in continuing to improve as a driver. Simply, we follow a process and continuously improve.