The very word “record” implies that whatever is being attempted is out of the ordinary, not within reach of mere mortals – but prefix that with “World” and the enormity of the endeavor becomes surreal.
The right record
The first challenge, of many, is to decide on the challenge itself. Do you go for enormity, just as the Toyota Center in Russia did by fitting 41 people into a Rav4? Do you go for time, as German freediver Tom Sietas did when holding his breath underwater for 22 minutes and 22 seconds? Or do you push for distance, as Tomislav Lubenjak from Croatia did when he pushed a car 106.938 km in under 24 hours?
The right time and place
When you know what, the next challenge is how. From this point on, your world shifts its axis so that every thought and waking moment focuses on achieving the goal. Venue, training, equipment, support crew, regulations, sponsorship, and so much more have to be accounted for. The majority of this can be controlled, but there are times when the uncontrollable helps you achieve greatness.
Sometimes good planning is given an opportunistic helping hand, as was the case with American Mike Parsons’ 2008 world record for the biggest wave surfed. Set by riding a 77 ft wave at Cortes Bank, located 100 miles off the southern California coast, Mike’s record was given an unexpected boost from a storm passing over the area. The storm generated giant swells with buoys recording 80 to 100 ft waves.
See the unseen
Part of engineering a world record, therefore, involves your ability to either overcome unforeseen challenges or at least make the most of unpredictability when it arises. And this is where mental and physical preparation plays a key role in creating success.
Olympic athletes, as well as motorsport competitors, have long used visualization as part of their mental preparation. Al Oerter, a four-time Olympic discus champion, and the tennis star Billie Jean King were among those using visualization in the 1960s.
Over time the practice of mentally simulating competition has become increasingly sophisticated, spilling over from the actual event to imagining the content of news conferences or, in the case of motorsport, using a race-car simulator to replicate race conditions.
Not that any two athletes’ preparation is ever the same. In the lead up to the record-setting attempt for the Fastest ascent of Doi Chang mountain road by car, the two title contenders chose distinctly different training regimes. Natasha Chang, the eventual title-holder, chose meditation. While KC Montero (KC) focused more on physical and mental training with time in the gym.
The right diet
The brain is an important organ you feed with thought as much as food, but you can’t ignore the rest of your body. In order for you to extract the best from your mind and body, you must rely on a balanced diet that will unlock strength while also giving you the stamina to go the distance.
Olympic athlete, Usain Bolt, required 81.58 kJ of energy when he lowered the 100-meter world record to 9.58 seconds at the Berlin Olympics in 2009. Amazingly only 7.79 percent of this was used to achieve motion; the remaining 92.21 percent (75.22 kJ) was used to overcome aerodynamic drag.
This is not unlike the boost Caltex’s Techron Fuel and Havoline oil gave to Natasha’s Honda when attempting to set a world record at Doi Chang.
The right ingredients
Preparation is, however, more than just honing your mind and body, it extends to equipment. In athletics, runners spend hours with biokineticists before any record attempt, evaluating running shoes and even clothing weight to make sure they have the best equipment for the job.
In the record attempt at ascending Doi Chang, drivers Natasha and KC relied heavily on the support of their highly skilled technical crew to provide them with the tools and ingredients to tackle the challenge.
This team was to Natasha and KC what dieticians, physiotherapists, and biokineticists are to track athletes. Possibly even more so. If the car doesn’t go the distance or performs badly, not even a super-human effort by the driver could help clinch a record.
Practice makes perfect
The final element in a record attempt, and possibly the most important, is practice. Only by practicing the actual event can you evaluate your preparedness, discover any weakness, and hone in on your strengths.
By practicing the event, previously unseen problems can be identified: a shoe that doesn’t offer enough support, a javelin that doesn’t fly true, or a car that suffers from oversteer while negotiating a specific turn.
Team Volkswagen, with their Electric I.D.R driven by Romain Dumas, started their own hill-climb practice at the famed Pikes Peak on May 30, 2018. They eventually set an outright record time of 7:57.148 minutes on June 24, having made hundreds of changes to the car while Dumas honed his skills.
Once the day of the record attempt arrives you will have to be at your very best. A small error of judgment or a slightly delayed reflex can abruptly bring a tearful end to months of preparation.
While no record attempt can expect to be successful without a well-engineered plan that encompasses all these ingredients, there is another element that is always present and beyond the grasp of a technical support crew, contestants, practice, or mental and physical preparedness – Lady Luck. And sometimes she is the final building block in a successfully engineered world record.
Visit Caltex Record Rides to discover more about Natasha and KC's world record-setting attempts.