In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon senses a strong Force presence in Anakin Skywalker. He then arranges a deal with Watto whereby if Anakin wins the Boonta Classic pod race, Watto will grant Anakin his freedom.

It is well established that both Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker both have a natural gift for flying, making them some of the best pilots in the Galaxy.

However, Qui-Gon has no way of knowing this, and seems to be operating under the assumption that Anakin's innate Force will assist him in winning, rather than any "natural" talent.

Yet in the original trilogy, it isn't until Luke consciously "lets go" that he can allow the Force to guide his shot to the ventilation shaft on the Death Star, implying that actually using the Force to assist in piloting requires some level of Force training.

Did Anakin actually use the Force in the Boonta Classic, or was it merely his natural piloting talent? If Anakin did win through his talent alone, why did Qui-Gon feel this would be a valid test to see if Anakin might be the Chosen One?

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    I always thought it was Qui-Gon that used the force to help Anakin win. :-) – Stephen Jan 27 '13 at 23:29

Yes, he has this "natural piloting talent" because of the force.
From The Phantom Menace Script:

ANAKIN: (Cont'd) Mom, what? I'm not bragging. It's true. Watto says he's never heard of a human doing it.
QUI-GON: You must have Jedi reflexes if you race Pods.

And later:

QUI-GON: You should be proud of your son. He gives without any thought of reward.
SHMI: He knows nothing of greed. He has...
QUI-GON: He has special powers.
SHMI: Yes...
QUI-GON: He can see things before they happen. That's why he appears to have such quick reflexes. It is a Jedi trait.


Yes he does. According to the official novelisation, in addition to possessing abnormally fast reactions (something the film refers to as "Jedi reflexes"), there's a point in the race where Anakin explicitly used the Force to sense his surroundings:

A piece of steaming metal flew at him out of the haze, careening off his right engine housing and barely missing his head.

But the boy was seeing with more than his eyes, sensing with his mind, calm and steady within himself. He could feel the danger waiting, and he worked the thruster bars smoothly, sliding past the wreckage.

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