Go karting is just about the most hair-raising, heart-pounding, blood-pumping, thrill ride that you’ll ever experience, but if you’re not doing it right you’ll never know just how amazing it can be!
And bad news people… most of you aren’t doing it right!
But don’t hang up that helmet just yet, because I’m here to turn you from a karting klutz into a karting king!
This isn’t exactly Formula 1, but just because you’re not borrowing Jenson Button’s car keys doesn’t mean this is easy. Karting, like most sports, is simple to pick up but challenging to master. I’m going to tell you how to do it.
I’ll also be going over some important safety information because you’ll have a hard time winning a race if your kart’s upside down at the edge of the track!
Let’s start with the basics…sitting in the kart! We all know how to sit down. I’ve sat down pretty much every day of my life and so have you! Yet some kart racers aren’t doing it right. The key to a smooth and controlled ride is to sit back comfortably in your seat and resist the temptation to lean forward as this will affect your handling of the kart. These are small, sensitive machines and the slightest imbalance could be the difference between getting around the track and getting around it faster than everybody else.
Maintaining stable control of the steering wheel is equally important. Keep those hands of yours at 10 and 2, or 9 and 3. And remember the secret to a great kart drive is keeping that wheel straight as often as possible.
Ok, so we can’t keep the wheel straight all the time (you’re bound to find a wall before too long) but by mastering an efficient cornering technique, you’ll find your lap times coming down and your excitement levels heading up and up.
The key is not to get things too muddled up in your brain-box, and we do this by breaking the turn into separate stages and conquering them one at a time.
Stage 1: Braking! We hit the brakes early and firmly, so that the rear wheels lock, and then we release the brake before we reach the apex of the turn.
Stage 2: Steering! We steer into the corner with an even and controlled turn…but we don’t do it too early! This is really important. Too many racers jump into the turn too quickly and then they’re forced to compensate in the other direction which makes the kart go a little crazy. We take an outside line around the corner and keep the wheel straight as long as possible before turning the wheel evenly into the bend and holding this position until the momentum of the kart has pulled it beyond the corner. At which point, we straighten as efficiently as we can.
Stage 3: Accelerating! Once the weight of the kart is evenly distributed across all four wheels again, and we’re straightened up with the next section of the course in front of us, we can hit the accelerator and power into the straight. If we hit the throttle while the weight of the vehicle is still leaning to one side we will unsettle it and make our exit slower and more awkward. We apply firm, even pressure to the pedal with our right foot and we build up as much momentum as we can until we reach the circuit’s next braking zone. Then we repeat stages 1 to 3…and before you know it, we’re hosing down the competition with our celebratory bottle of bubbly, while they feign excitement and wish deep down that they could have cornered as well as we did!
Go karting is such a challenge to perfect because raw speed isn’t enough to make you a great competitor. Flying into the turn will probably leave you flying off course! It’s not how fast you get around it but how fast you blast out on the other side.
Slow into the corner, fast out.
Practice makes perfect (if you’re practicing the right things) and while most karting venues require you to complete practice laps before your race, it is also possible to visit the track for a GP Experience session, in which you pay to hit the circuit for a designated period of time, in a non competitive format. These arrive and drive experiences give you the opportunity to experiment with different driving lines. Hitting the corners later and wider and then narrowing in the straights. You’ll learn how to optimise the effect of the stages and you’ll shave seconds off your time. If you’re interested in a GP Experience drive our helpful Karting Nation staff will be happy to make the necessary arrangement, so don’t hesitate to give them a call.
Now that we’re done with the fun stuff, let’s talk about safety. This is crucial, not only so that we can avoid accidents, but also because the safer and smoother we drive, the better we drive too!
Before we get down to business, it’s time to don our helmets and the rest of our karting gear! This includes a helmet which covers the whole of the face, a set of fireproof overalls, and a pair of gloves, all of which should be provided by the karting facility. Your job is to bring the right footwear. Sorry guys, there’s no room on the kart track for those killer heels! The preferred footwear for racing here is a comfortable training shoe, and it is recommended that the shoe have a thin sole, as this greatly improves the driver’s control over the pedals. Kart pedals are extremely sensitive and the best way to master them is to have total appreciation of this fact…which means no platforms either!
Every karting session is preceded by a short safety briefing, conducted by venue officials. There seems to be a very little known fact about this tutorial…it helps if you actually listen to it! Many of us are ignorant of race rules and procedures before we take the wheel and this information could well be the difference between a really fun and memorable experience and one that you remember for all the wrong reasons.
During your race, venue officials will communicate to drivers using a series of coloured flags, and you’re going to need to know what these flags mean. The flags colours and their meanings are as follows:
- Green – You guessed it! Green means go! This flag signals the start of the event, though has been replaced at some facilities by a green light.
- Yellow – Caution! In the event of an accident or a spin, marshals may wave a yellow flag instructing you to slow and approach the obstruction with caution.
- Blue – Allow a faster driver to overtake by yielding the racing line.
- Red – Stop! The race has been stopped and all racers must slow and leave the track or follow the instructions of the safety marshal.
- Black – Disqualification! This flag is used when a serious foul has been committed, usually involving dangerous driving, and results in your ejection from the race. You don’t want to see this one!
- Black with white circle – A mechanical fault within your kart means that you are required to leave the race.
- And finally…The Chequered Flag! The one you want to be the first to see! This flag signals the end of the race. Reach this one first and you’ll be stepping higher on the podium than anyone else.
So, that’s all you need to know to get you started. Karting really is the most fun you can have while zipping along a racetrack at up to 70mph with your butt-cheeks mere inches from the ground.
It’s an adrenaline fuelled activity that anyone can enjoy, but in the right hands, it can be an experience unmatched in speed and skill.
The karting buzzword is ‘smooth’: the smoother the ride the more successful. These nippy little vehicles won’t respond to being manhandled, they’ll skip and spin. If you’re braking too hard, slamming the throttle and wrestling the wheel you’ll never be in total control and you won’t be able to focus on the contours and intricacies of the track. But master a calm and efficient technique and you’ll be able to manage your opponents, and the twists and turns of the circuit.
Zooming around the track feels great, but zooming around first feels better. Enjoy!
Book your karting experience now or call us on 0844 745 5006