Racing blind: Visual impairment needn't stop you from hitting the track
Driving a race car is a visceral experience.
The senses are overwhelmed, flooding your eyes and ears with inputs from your fingertips, to the tips of your toes.
A racing driver uses all of these inputs to make thousands of split second decisions to keep their car on track.
And to chip away at their lap times.
Take away any one of those sensations, and you're at a disadvantage.
But take away the sensation of sight.
And it would seem impossible to even consider getting behind the wheel of a car.
Let alone, a race car.
A lack of vision, however, has not stopped Mike Newman.
Mike holds the blind land speed record as well as the water speed record, and today we have met up with him at Bedford Aerodrome to find out how he does what he does, and to try and do a few laps in his shoes.
My interest and passion for Motorsports began when I was a little boy, probably 3 or 4 years old.
I wanted to be a racing driver.
I was born with serious eye problems, so from a very early age I couldn't see very much at all.
So I never had, I've never had any sight of any significance.
I decided to see if I could experience.
The sort of things that my disability has robbed me of.
Whenever I wanted a glimpse of the things that excited me and interested me, when I go for the land speed records, I I'm in the car on my own,and we have a chase car with a driver in it obviously, and a navigator.
And, myself and the navigator are connected by a radio link.
And the navigator give me direction information.
Much like, much like a navigator does, in a rally.
So Mike had recommended that I go out on circuit in vision to be able to learn the track using my eyes as well as all the rest of the senses.
Now, I think that this is gonna be a huge advantage.
I've never been here before, but yet, just giving a couple of laps to see where I'm going, I think it's gonna give me a huge advantage.
But Mike thinks it's gonna give me too much confidence, and therefore, it will put me in bad stead when he blanks out my visor.
So I have a professional race instructor, George Collado alongside me.
Let's get in the car and go.
So, I'm just going to instruct you, you know.
Put your helmet down and let's go.
You're going to go straight and then give it full power and then we're going to brake at the end here.
And over there.
[NOISE] [INAUDIBLE] turning in.
[INAUDIBLE] all the way.
Good, now brake on it, that's it, [INAUDIBLE]
Just come off the track, having done a 53-second lap, and I think I know the circuit now, and I feel pretty confident about where it goes.
Be interesting now to see.
If it helps me to, when I blind fold myself, and step into Mike's world.
Alright, we're good to go.
So whenever you want to start it up.
That one there.
On the left you go on the right.
So you're going to start in first gear, run up to second, up to third, up to fourth, and then once you're in fourth, you'll just go for a.
What I'll do is, you can gently come off the clutch with a little bit of power.
I'll just steer it onto.
To the track okay so we can start from the straight.
And then after that what I'll do is just.
at every corner, I'll, I'll give you directions you know, through the intercom, but I'll also sort of nudge the steering wheel just to give you an idea when you need to turn, okay?
And, and like I said, we'll build up to it, cuz it's not easy to just go straight for it.
So we'll build up to it.
And yeah, let's go for it, whenever you're ready.
Little bit of power, gently off the clutch.
Keep it locked like that on the steering wheel.
I'll just steer you onto the track.
You'll feel yourself sort of bumping onto the track there.
There we go.
And, yep we're now straight on the tracks, so whenever you're ready you can give it a bit more power.
Good, you got it.
You got it, that's it.
Come on, that's it.
And now, straight.
Remember tighter, and try to rest on the power still, we gotta just feel the car on the right there, and pull the car [LAUGHTER] Just move it more, to the right there, tighter, tighter, tighter, there we go now, [LAUGHTER] Alright, steer to the right, and break it, break, break, there and left, left, left, left, left, break, break [LAUGHTER] [LAUGH] I can smell it.
Oh, oh, we're facing the wrong way.
It doesn't feel like we should be going that way.
[LAUGH] This doesn't feel right.
[LAUGH] It doesn't feel right.
Clutch [LAUGH] Clutch all the way down, we've got it at the end.
Gotta admit it's part of it.
It's part of learning your way around without being able to see.
[LAUGH] Keep going, keep going, now right.
Run right over, that's it you've got it [INAUDIBLE] Keep turning, keep turning.
I'd give it my best.
A nice respectful 59.5 second lap, but now it was Mike's turn to show me how it's really done.
Now we'll take a few laps you know just sorta to get use to that okay.
And remember everything in 4th gear okay.
Go for it.
All right, so you can just, here we are, I'll just put this behind you.
All right, so we're on the main straight, okay, so move up to second gear, don't give it too much power, yeah, that's fine, up to third gear.
That's it and up to fourth gear.
Right, so we're gonna brake about now, so brake, brake, brake, hard on the brake, turn right, remember hug your angle nice and tight, keep a little bit of power, little bit of power, little bit of power, bit more, straighten up, straight, that's okay, brake, brake, brake, turn right, left, good, on the power, seems to ve little bit smoother when yo get back on the power, doesn't it?
Let's go, and more power.
Turning right, right, right, that's good, a little bit more power, a little bit more, a little bit more, right, right, right, keep it going, full power, full power, straight, good, now brake here, brake harder, brake, brake, brake, turn right, let off the brake, and then past the orange cone, little bit left and on to the right, keep it going, power, off the brake, turn, now power, power, power, power, power, power and now brake, brake, brake, brake, good, turn left, turn left, good, get on the power, a little bit more.
To the left, now brake, brake, brake, off, turning, good, going to the right, that's it, turning it, turning it, keep turning, keep turning, little bit more, little bit more, full power, full power, go, go, go, get down, straight, straight, full power, go, go, go, go, go, brake, brake, brake, brake, off the brake, turning left, turn right, keep turning, don't give it power yet, don't give it power yet, don't give it power yet, oh, oh [LAUGH] Oh, that's all right.
Little bit of power turn it off to the right.
Well, that, I lost it, little bit of steam coming out of there.
Things starting to get a bit hot, and then we'll stop here.
Swing a bell.
Okay just flick it up for the fun too.
[LAUGH] Once again man we just thrown up there and get on with it.
[NOISE] Very good ride mate, very, very good ride.
It was a joy to even watch you out there, I have seen.
I've seen, many a driver, drive less smooth than you were driving.
It was absolutely beautiful.
I couldn't remember the circuit very well but, I did my best.
At every single lap that you, didn't spin, you were faster than I was.
After, 20 laps of trying.
Beautiful to watch.
I was, a couple of things that I was really struggling with.
In that I could see in my brain exactly where I thought I was on track.
But clearly I wasn't there.
So exactly where you thought you were, but not.
Exactly where you were.
I mean, it's a, it's, it's difficult because.
You know, Mike told you.
When he went out for the few laps sighted he kind of built a map of, you build a map of the, of the track in your brain.
And then once you take those, you know, those references away, it's just, you, I'm not saying you panic, but you sort of.
You lose yourself.
So, so Mike's time, my time was just under a minute.
Just under 59.
And, and, I felt fast.
I felt like I was.
I felt incredibly fast in my brain.
I will alert you.
And you said it felt fast as well.
I will give you that.
You, you were quite, you were very good, very quick at picking it up.
It felt good out there.
But Mike was three seconds faster and he looked epically smooth.
His throttle control, his steering inputs, there was nothing frantic about it.
It was beautiful to watch.
I can tell you from inside the car, it's not quite, not quite like that.
Because one thing Mike has.
And you'll have to forgive me the pun here, but it's, it's blind commitment literally.
Like, we'll, you know, we'll, we'll get to a corner where I'm saying to you, the same way that I say to you, right, we're gonna break here a bit.
And you'll sort of get on the anchors a bit harder cuz it's like, ooh, corner, you know, whereas Mike will sort of.
Brake a little bit, and he's almost waiting for me to just say, okay, off the brakes now, and he'll just nail it, you know?
And, as you saw, we spun a few times because of that.
Sometimes you get spit, keeping-
But, in carrying so much speed through the exit of the course,
Yeah, and that, that's it.
Through the back section there, after the back straight, that long right-hand that's sort of like double apex, he, he's just back on the pedal straightaway.
Sometimes I'm having him, to tell, you know, just back off, and, just a little bit, and just, and then get back on the power [INAUDIBLE].
I just tell him back off a little bit, get back on the power just to kind of correct the car through that section.
Cuz, as you know, those curves are quite harsh.
So it's a, but he was just playing through that.
So I think that's what he has that, you don't have that, I don't have that.
So one that's sort of excited and gets in the car blindfolded.
And, has the confidence to do at least straight-away, anyway.
He'll put his foot down, you know, because of the both races, so.
Amazing, amazing man.
Amazing to watch.
Well what a simply remarkable man Mike is.
Not only can he go flat out down a straight.
At 150, to 200 miles an hour, but he can drive a racing car beautifully around this e circuit, a technical circuit and also go incredibly fast, and remember that it is with no sight at all.
It's been wonderful to meet him and to learn a little bit more about his speed of sight charity that car remember designed for others with vision impairments and other disabilities.
To experience what it's like out on the track.
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