How to get better at go-karting
We caught up with professional go-kart tutors and Daytona lap-record holders Dante Dhillon and Kieran Ives to pick their brains about some common tips to improve go-karting technique, improve lap-times and ultimately win more races.
If you'd like to receive more detailed analysis and feedback on how to improve your go-karting skills, you can book a tuition session with one of our experts. Tuition sessions include a guided track walk, taking the track corner-by-corner, theory work, laps completed in our two-seater go-kart, lead & follow exercises, correcting common mistakes, benchmark lap times and access to years of racing experience via our tutors
Improving karting technique
Mastering The Racing Line
The most important element of improving and maintaining your speed in a go kart is by following the racing line. The racing line is the optimum route to take to keep your momentum throughout the track. Depending on the corner and track layout, will determine the racing line you’ll need to take.
You can split the racing line for a corner into four parts:
- The braking point – i.e. when you take your foot off the accelerator, and start to brake.
- The turn-in point – which usually comes just after and determines when you start to turn the wheel.
- The apex – also referred to as the clipping point, this determines a point on the ‘inside’ of a corner – or the route drivers need to cut across in order to manage an angle most efficiently without losing speed.
- The exit point - which determines how far across the track you need to be placed to keep your racing momentum.
Tips for better Kart Control
Steering wheel grip
Having a firm grip on the steering wheel is very important – however, it’s important to note that locking up your elbows and shoulders into a stiff posture could be detrimental – it's key to have a firm hand grip but try to relax your upper body.
For the most part, you don’t want to move the steering wheel erratically, it’s important to have smooth steering inputs – i.e. the way you move the steering wheel needs to be calm and relaxed. You don’t want to overturn the steering wheel either – i.e. jolting it from left to right rapidly and this will cause unnecessary friction on your tyres and make your kart more unpredictable round corners.
It can be tempting to press the accelerator and brake at the same time – however not only is this bad for the kart – it could also affect lap time as it will be reducing your throttle. Daytona have high-performance rear brake karts – which means that you’ll need to be more careful with you brake use round corners as it can be easy for the rear of your kart to spin out. You should brake in a straight line, i.e. when your steering wheel is at 12 o’clock position, and brake firmly but not too sharply.
Excessive drifting or sliding through corners will not help to maintain your speed. Having finesse with your accelerator pedal is as important as the brake – you progressively use more throttle as you exit the corner to minimise sliding – especially in wet conditions.
Cornering Like A Pro
Although drifting may look cool and feel great, it actually slows you down round corners, due to a loss of traction on the track. It can also be dangerous, especially if you have traffic close behind you.
In order to maintain consistent lap times, mastering hairpins is important. Hairpins are 180degree corners, which can vary in their tightness. The most important consideration on a hairpin is exit speed and maintaining a perfect racing line. Hairpins allow for a range of common overtakes, including switchbacks and divebombs. Each hairpin you encounter will require a slightly different strategy depending on the layout of the track. We recommend studying the track map before racing competitively.
A chicane is two corners in opposite directions in quick succession. Mastering a chicane requires a lot of attention to kart placement within the racing line. Chicanes are commonly single file areas of the track and an opportunity to gain an advantage on the exit with flawless execution.
Leaning involves distributing your weight from one side of the kart to another, which can improve the handling around the corner. Racers lean in the opposite direction to the way they’re turning the wheel to achieve better balance round corners. Generally speaking, this is an advanced technique, that racers should adhere to once they have perfected the racing line.
5 Ways to Overtake in Karting
Overtaking is widely regarded as the most exciting part of go-karting. Overall, it determines who will win the race and is often a talking point for much drama and strategy. There are many ways to successfully perform an overtake, as detailed below.
Generally speaking, you’ll find that not all drivers on the track stick to the racing line. You should stay behind the person in front, learn their technique, and capitalise on any mistakes they make, or weaknesses they show, using the following methods.
When the driver in front of you goes too deep into a corner, you can take advantage by undercutting them coming out of the corner. This is a great tactic to use when the driver in front is defending against you as it enables you to drive out of the corner with more speed and momentum.
Full send/ divebomb
‘Divebombing’ is a common but considerably riskier maneuver as there is a greater chance of losing control of the kart. It involves breaking the racing line and braking considerably later than the driver in front, surprising them and getting alongside them as you’re turning in for the corner. This will block the opponent from taking their normal racing line.
Slip stream overtake
This overtake is most performed on straights. By closely tailgating the racer in front of you, they will be punching a hole in the air, the force of which will slow their momentum and create less drag for you. You can use this to your advantage, as your increased top speed will allow you to pull alongside them and beat them to the inside of the next corner.
The dummy is where you trick the opponent in front of you of your track position going into the next corner. Typically, they’ll look over their shoulder and see you on the racing line, and think they won’t need to defend, only for you to dart to the inside to make the overtake.
The reverse dummy
A less common, but just as effective concept, is where you trick the driver ahead into thinking that you’re trying to overtake them, by placing your kart on the inside, forcing them into a defensive position, compromising their speed through the corner, enabling you to complete the switchback overtake.
Defending Your Position
An important technical skill to learn in order to stop people from overtaking you and maintaining your race position. This involves strategic kart placement within the track in order to prevent an overtake from the driver behind.
Illegal defending vs Legal defending
Within the rules of kart racing, you aren’t permitted to change your direction more than once on a straight, for example weaving from left to right to take up more of the track than you need to. Not only is this dangerous, it will also slow you down and potentially result in a penalty.
You also shouldn’t use aggression or contact to push an opponent alongside you off the track. Racing room and respect must be always given to keep racing fair and safe.
Furthermore, ‘brake checking’ is forbidden and dangerous and will guarantee you a penalty. This refers to when you have somebody directly behind you in your slip steam and you tactically brake to slow them down.
Legally, one single move across the straight to maintain your race position is permitted. In the corner, you want to keep your racing line as tight to the apex as possible in order to prevent conceding your position by a switchback overtake.
Getting the Best Start in a Race
Rolling starts karts are gridded up in formation and then slowly drive towards the start line under yellow flags, with no overtaking permitted. There will then be a green light which signals race start, a test of reaction times, and often experienced racers will dart towards the inside of the first corner. This can be a contentious area, especially in competitive racing, as many drivers may try to gain an unfair advantage by accelerating before the green light.
Similar to Formula One, Daytona operate standing starts for our 4-stroke fleets. These starts are a test of reaction times. You’ll see a sequence of five red lights, which then disappear, and then you see a green light. You need to press the accelerator as firmly as you can and keep the wheel as straight as possible. You’ll often see experienced drivers ‘bunny-hopping’ to try and gain momentum.
Tips for Karting in Wet Conditions
Karting during wet weather conditions provides a completely different experience to that in the dry. It is important that racers are able to master their wet conditions as, let’s face it, in outdoor motorsport, weather will always play a factor. Many professional racing drivers pay attest to the experience they gained in karting in the wet to their successes in the varied conditions they face now.
Generally speaking, in wet weather, visibility is poorer, so it is recommended that you wear a clear visor and keep your distance from the person in front of you and stay out of their spray.
Avoiding spinning in the wet
Wet weather can cause what is commonly referred to as a ‘greasy track’ and the likelihood of spinning is much greater for inexperienced drivers. In order to master cornering in the wet, drivers must reconsider their racing line and driving style:
The Braking point – i.e. when you take your foot off the accelerator, and start to brake. In the wet, this will need to happen earlier than it would in the dry, and you should put less pressure on the brake. Slamming on the brake will leave you in a tyre wall.
The turn-in point – which usually comes just after and determines when you start to turn the wheel. The turn-in point in the wet will be later in the corner than it would in the dry – you should approach a corner deeper as there’s more grip there. In order to increase grip and minimise the risk of understeer, you should utilise the position of your weight more effectively by leaning forwards whilst turning.
The apex & exit point – also referred to as the clipping point, this determines a point on the ‘inside’ of a corner – or the route drivers need to cut across to manage an angle most efficiently without losing speed. In the wet, this is in a different place to in the dry, it comes slightly later because the ‘dry apex’ can be too tight in the wet and cause you to slide. This means your exit point is also slightly later on.
Overtaking in the wet – in the wet, more errors will occur and overtaking becomes even more common. As in the dry, it is advised that you keep your distance from the person in front, whilst monitoring their driving style, waiting patiently to capitalise on any errors they might make. Switchback overtakes, therefore, when you beat a driver on the exit of a corner, become much more common.
EXPERT TUITION AT DAYTONA
If you'd like to receive more detailed analysis and feedback on how to improve your go-karting skills, you can book a tuition session with one of our experts. Tuition sessions include a guided track walk, taking the track corner-by-corner, theory work, laps completed in our two-seater go-kart, lead & follow exercises, correcting common mistakes, benchmark lap times and access to years of racing experience via our tutors.