Ok, so this may not be quite as extreme as jumping from airplanes a kilometre up in the sky but it’s still a great one for adrenaline junkies!
For many people go kart racing conjures up fond memories of racing friends and family down the closest neighbourhood hill in a home made contraption that may, or may not, have made it safely down the hill. A piece of wood, mounted on 4 wheels that were salvaged from a lawn mower or something similar, with a piece of string attached to the front axle for steering! Classic go kart stuff!
Fast forward to modern times and the go kart has become a sophisticated piece of equipment reminiscent of a miniature racing car. Go kart racing is also a professional sport with a prestige not unlike Formula 1 Grand Prix racing! Indeed, kart racing is considered a type of motorsport, albeit a very inexpensive one compared to the Super Cars and Formula 1 models. It’s also an inexpensive way to go really, really fast on 4 wheels. The small light tube steel bodies weigh around 75 kilograms or 160 pounds. They’re fitted out with small and simple but powerfully engines that can propel the karts around at speeds in excess of 160 KPH.
The driver is important in go kart racing. It’s a highly intense, very competitive, very fast competition where even the smallest error can make or break the race for a driver. It also takes courage, and very good judgement, to get that vehicle around the turns and corners as fast as possible. Plus, with the vehicles being so light, driver position and weight allocation is also important, as we’ll explain later.
Nevertheless, if you’re a beginner to motor racing, trying your hand at go karting is a great way to start out. It’s safe, it helps develop racing skills such as quick reflexes, precision control over the vehicle, and decision making skills on the fly. It also develops competitiveness along with good sportsmanship. Plus it’s a whole lot cheaper than motorcar racing. Many of today’s racing greats also got their start, and their racing bug, in go karting.
There are indoor kart tracks and outdoor kart tracks. Whilst indoor karting may not sound as much fun as racing around one of those spectacular outdoor kart tracks, you’d be surprised at just how much fun indoor go karting is. It still requires a great deal of skill if you’re going to do well at it, particularly if you want to race.
Some of the typical skills you’ll need to develop include:
Learning how to hold and use the steering wheel correctly. Such a simple thing but it’s one area where beginners often go wrong, and it can affect how your go kart goes. The best hand position is in the quarter to and quarter past positions. If you can maintain this throughout the turns and corners, so much the better. You also need to avoid holding the steering wheel too tightly as this will also affect the way the kart goes and you’ll develop pressure sores.
Learning when and how to brake. When you’re coming into a corner, keeping a steady pressure on the brake will help prevent you from breaking suddenly. The amount of pressure you apply to the brakes is also important. Too much and the kart will spin out. Too little will cause you to run wide on the turn.
Learning to use more of the track. There is a knack for getting fast lap times and learning how to come in and out of corners effectively is one of the most important. Approach your turns from the outside of the track and move through to the inside of the track as you go through the turn. When you come out of the turn, or corner, head for the outside of the track again. This will set you up to take the next turn correctly.
Learning how to overtake safely and correctly. If you’re being overtaken, keep your position on the inside line and keep your speed up. This will make it harder for the other driver to overtake you. On the other hand, if you’re just driving around for fun, by all means slow down and let them pass. If you’re the one doing the overtaking, get up alongside on one of the straights and build up speed to get past them as they brake.
Adjusting your body position. This is probably the trickiest thing to get right in an indoor kart. Leaning forward in the kart puts more weight on the front wheels, which gives them more grip. However, it also means the rear tires have less grip, and this can result in over steering. To correct over steering, lean backwards. If you find you’re under steering, lean forwards. There’s a pretty fine line between under and over steering that you’ll need to learn to recognise. Then finding that right balance between the two will take some time and quite a bit of experimentation.
Safety In Go Karting
As with most sports, safety is of paramount importance in both indoor and outdoor go karting. Choosing the right go kart for age and level of experience is one of the first safety considerations. Electric go karts are probably the safest option for children up to the age of 15 as they’re battery operated so don’t emit the fumes or make as much noise as gas powered karts. They’re also easier to use and cheaper to maintain, and are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The added weight of the battery also makes them more stable and less likely to tip over.
Another safety feature is ensuring you have the correct clothing. If you’re only going to be doing it for recreation, you can get away with basic karting clothes. This includes:
- A safety helmet.
- Fire proof overalls
- Correct footwear – this is usually trainers but experts recommend not wearing thick soled ones as this reduces the amount of ‘feel’, an important consideration for safely braking and accelerating.
Most kart centres provide the first 3 items as part of their karting package but the footwear is up to the karter to supply.
Ultimately, go karting is great for the entire family, or it’s great for motor racing wannabees to cut their teeth.