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Lunar orbit must be a lonely place these days. Four decades since NASA abandoned it, sports stars have followed suit. 'Over the moon', long the location of choice for beaming post-match soundbites, has given way to 'in the Zone'. So where's that exactly? On television, no one has time to find out. The Zone is rapidly becoming a cliché for a good day on the pitch, court or course. Overdrive uses the example of Formula 1 to halt that decline in its wheeltracks.

During qualifying for the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna pulled into the pits terrified after he found himself driving two seconds per lap faster than anyone. He later revealed he had no longer felt in conscious control of his car, having unlocked a brand new level of ability - like something out of The Matrix. But Senna's mystical moment was far from unique.

At their finest hours racing's greats go beyond their usual world-class ability to this Zone, an otherworldly state of consciousness that lets them fly. The timesheets tell of raw speed but inside their heads they are not remotely revved up. All is totally, blissfully calm. Featuring exclusive interviews with dozens of stars of F1 and other sports, Overdrive shows how essential this Zone is for finding the true limit.

Chapter outline

1. Speed of flight

Featuring material from those who knew him best - including nephew Bruno, sister Viviane and former colleagues Gerhard Berger, Ron Dennis and Jo Ramirez - this chapter explores the experience that changed Ayrton Senna's life.

2. Harbour masters

Lewis Hamilton is one of many racers to have flirted with this magical sensation on Monaco's streets. France's Olivier Panis recalls his 'day of days' when he won in the wet in 1996 and Martin Brundle explores the mental side of his own special races.

3. Human racing

Recent championship contenders Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber recount their greatest moments at the limit. F1 psychologist Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli insists all the top drivers are of similar talent and physical fitness - what differs is mental: a grand prix is a marathon - for the brain.

4. The Holy Grail

Fernando Alonso insists even a championship cannot match the Zone. Mika Hakkinen and Jacques Villeneuve agree it is a factor in reaching the top as do winning machines Sébastien Loeb, Jimmie Johnson and Tom Kristensen. Jackie Stewart concludes those who reach the summit repeatedly have learned to tame the Zone to access it at will.

5. Statistics, damn statistics

So what drew Michael Schumacher back to racing in 2010? Life at the limit, rather than the results, is what he treasures most from his career - and the inspiration for his cameo on motorbikes. Other greats on both two wheels and four Valentino Rossi and John Surtees explain how this very joy at what you're doing is essential for success.

6. Other kinds of magic

World boxing champions David Haye and Amir Khan, cyclist Chris Hoy and stars of sports from athletics to darts explain how they reach the Zone. This subtle magic can be found in everything from music to cooking. Arsène Wenger and GB rowing coach Jürgen Grobler reckon it can spread to entire teams too.

7. Danger Zone

'The Zone' was only named recently yet Fifties legend Stirling Moss experienced it too. Moss revelled in danger and everyone from stuntmen to astronauts describe how perilous situations can lead to the Zone. Others who raced before the relative safety of today's F1 add tales with one factor surprisingly consistent: time slows down.

8. Crash and learn

The ability to go into 'slow-mo' seems preposterous but it is most common in a crash. Racers and 'normal' people here describe accidents on track and road, as does Travis Pastrana, a YouTube legend thanks to his madcap stunts. At such moments adrenalin increases the brain's processing power of the brain, illustrating our unused potential.

9. Driving out of your skin

If bending time can be rationally explained by medical science, bending space cannot. Yet in one accident Jackie Stewart recalls clearly watching himself from a few feet above his cockpit. This Out-of-Body Experience is not even limited to the crash - as biker Troy Bayliss and multiple world touring car champion Andy Priaulx reveal.

10. Godspeed

This may all be more at home in the East's Taoism or Buddhism but what of 'God' in his Western form? Many of the world's hyperstars of sport brave the God Squad jibes to attribute their glory to a higher power. In F1 the Brazilians lead the way, led by the likes of Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa. They are not alone, though...

11. On a clear day

Former racer Alex Dias Ribeiro, now Brazil's World Cup football chaplain, explains how faith can help on the field of play. Hocus pocus? Not quite. Based on interviews with Brazil's Kakà, Cafu and Careca plus Liverpool legend Ian Rush, this chapter asks whether such beliefs could help ease open the gateway to the Zone.

12. Uphill battles

Japan's Ukyo Katayama never reached the top in F1 but he finds the Zone by scaling the world's highest peaks. We all have some version of Everest to climb, whether it's passing an exam or bringing up a child. Zone veterans insist it can be found in all but only by freeing the mind of the daily grind - and many dont have that luxury...

13. Lucky for some

Alex Zanardi cheated death in a horror 2001 crash, losing both his legs. Yet, just two years into an agonizing recovery he returned to racing. Superman? No way. Zanardi says his Near Death Experience made him see just how great a machine the human being really is - and he claims we all have the same astonishing potential.




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