Briton James Walker puts Dunlop mindset to test on return to Nordschleife
British racing driver James Walker will return to the gruelling Nürburgring after a four-year hiatus, driving a Dunlop-shod BMW 235i in the ultra-competitive VLN series. After a successful 15-year career spanning single seaters and sportscars, Walker moved his family back to Jersey and gave up racing, until being tempted back to racing in Germany on 22-23 September.
Walker admitted he had reservations of whether it was even possible to make a successful return after nearly four years away. Dunlop has previously commissioned studies in conjunction with University College London, focusing on mindset amongst elite athletes. Tests confirmed the hypothesis that the mindset of elite athletes are able to handle intense situations and emotions better than non-athletes, and stay in control in high risk situations. This is essential in motor racing, where drivers are conditioned to negate dangerous situations and make split second decisions.
The tests also revealed that athletes have an area of the brain that performs 82 per cent faster than average under intense pressure, and perform significantly better under physical and mental duress than members of the public. Some may question the ability to return to the track and perform at the highest level, and Walker will try to prove that a break from racing doesn’t affect the mental competitive advantages shown by the Dunlop tests.
James Walker said: “I’d spoken to a few close friends within the industry who planted the seed in my head to make a racing return. Even so, when the opportunity came along I had to think long and hard about whether I was willing to put myself back in a racing environment with all the challenges and dangers involved. Having had nearly four years away from racing to concentrate on my family, it feels like the right time to return to the cockpit, but wonder if it’s even possible. Having pressed pause four years ago, can someone just press play and carry on where they left off? There’s only one way to find out. The concept fascinates me and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in at the deep end.
“I’m convinced that 80 per cent of driving is in your head. Once you have the technical skills required it’s all about how you adapt those skills in different high pressure situations. Being able to concentrate whilst under stress over a long period of time is one of the main talents that drivers or athletes in other disciplines require. Having been out of the cockpit for over three years I’ll be fascinated to see if this is something that has stayed with me, or whether it’s a skill I will have to re-learn.
“I’ve competed in Germany on a number of occasions over the years. In fact I took my first ever Formula 3 race win at the Nürburgring on the shorter Grand Prix circuit back in 2005. The Germans are crazy about motorsport. The VLN races attract huge numbers of spectators so the atmosphere is just electric. The 14-mile, 160-corner Nordschleife circuit is without doubt the toughest challenge the sport has to offer.”
Dunlop recently extended its partnership with the BMW M235i Racing Cup, the ultra-competitive class in the VLN and 24h race at the Nürburgring which all race exclusively on 265/660 R18 Dunlop racing tyres. They have been tuned for the demands of the Nordschleife, offering a wide performance window which gives confidence to both experienced drivers and beginners.