Braking is probably the one skill that sets the fastest indoor karters ahead of the fast indoor karters, or at least the karters who win all the races.
In this article I will go in depth about braking, and different types of braking under different conditions. We will take the development of your braking technique in 3 stages.
Stage 1. No brake at all technique.
Stage 2. Straight line threshold braking technique.
Stage 3. Trail brake technique.
Now for stage 1 of your training I suggest working on a no brake at all technique. The reason for this is that you have to learn how fast you can actually roll through a turn before you can know if you are hitting the brakes too hard and rolling too slow through a turn. You have to learn the limits of your traction. You might be surprised how fast you can actually roll through a turn.
In order to execute a no brake practice session you have to first pick a mark as your starting “let off the gas” point. Drive up to this mark, let off and coast. Now if you slide on the entry of the turn, then you got off the gas too late, you’re coming in too fast, and you have to get off earlier and try again until you don’t slide the entry. If you slide on the exit, well that’s usually getting back on the gas too soon. We are also going to assume here that you’re on line and not turning too late or too early. If you can get through the turn without sliding, then try to push your let off point forward a bit.
Your goal here is to develop the “feel” for the limits of your traction. This is how fast you want to be rolling AFTER you have hit the brakes to slow for the turn. The nice thing about a no brake turn, is that it is usually very stable, and so you can really feel what it’s like to load up the wheels and coast at the limit of traction.
First my advice for standard braking is not to fall for the drama you see on TV as you watch Formula One racers making crazy late braking moves down the inside straight as they make a pass. That late braking move is NOT fast, even though it’s enabled them to pass another driver. It’s actually very slow and inconsistent. It’s slow because they’re way off line, and it’s inconsistent because it pushes the limit of the threshold and runs the risk of breaking loose. And anytime you break loose on an entry you can expect to vary your lap times by 300th of a second. And you don’t want variance like this, it will get you passed.
As always my golden rule for indoor karting is no sliding allowed, so the goal is *almost* always to brake without inducing a slide. Yes there are exceptions to the rule, but it is very rare that an entry slide is going to be the fastest approach to a turn.
So there are two main things you want to strive for with your braking. Consistency, smooth weight transitions.
You want consistency because it’s better to take a corner 100th of a second slower than the fastest lap possible, if that fastest lap involves a late threshold brake with a high risk of losing it. What you’ll find when you study videos of those sessions is that your corner times are going to be all over the place, and your average is going to be less than the consistent approach. Mike Smith was always a big advocate for smooth consistent braking. He was never the fastest lap, but always the champion. And he took that idea to he nationals and won.
So now you have a no brake technique down, and you’ve had a chance to do some sessions and feel the limit of traction, lets go to stage 2, straight line braking.
Now we are going to move our brake point ahead a bit.
The most important thing though for a consistent braking experience is to have a consistent braking point for each turn. I usually use a marker on the side of the track, maybe it’s a dark patch of oil, or a crack in the track, a tire on the side, sometimes paint on the track, and some tracks will let you arrange cones on the sides of the track. Use that mark as your starting point for your brake zone.
For consistency I start with a steady but moderate braking pressure, which I will increase as the speed comes down and the risk of breaking loose comes down with it. This gives a smoother weight transition, with your inertial mass moving from center balance to the front wheels very gradually. This is important because it sends you into the turn with very steady balance and a high level of grip. This allows you to consistently hit a turn at greater speed. It is better to brake a little bit earlier than try to push your limit right up to the last inch.
Now again if you find you are sliding on the entrance then you are coming in too fast, and you need to brake earlier. Note I didn’t say, brake harder, I said earlier.
Now if you manage to make it stick and you are getting through the corner easily, then you can move your brake point forward. I usually move in increments of about 1 foot forward and backwards, but once you are close to the ideal mark, you can try moving +/- 3 inches. But again, I suggest you don’t try to push your luck with a brake point if you want to be consistent.
Now in stage 2, we only want to brake in straight lines, we don’t want to brake and turn the steering wheel at the same time. This is because the wheels are already doing the maximum work trying to slow you down, now if you add an extra load on them to turn as well, you’re running a high risk of losing the back end and going into a slide.
So in stage 2, you will brake in a straight line and as the turn in starts, you’ll release the brake and go into a coast. You’ll coast all the way to the apex, and then you’ll get back on the gas with a squeeze.
You should know by now what speed you need to carry through the turn so you should find this is very fast. This is the technique Mike Smith used to win the nationals, so it’s really fast. But it’s not the fastest.
The other common problem with an entry slide is that you are turning the wheel and braking at the same time. This is called trail braking. And this is an advanced braking technique that I will now. For now, you don’t want to start with this, you want a straight line braking system to work for you first. That’s because a trail brake is a very hard thing to master and can take years to get consistent. But let’s talk about it now.
Stage 3, the trail brake.
Now you are basically going to do the same thing as stage 2, only now you are going to move your brake zone forward even more and continue to brake past your turn in point. So you brake down the straight, then through the turn in entry. Again if you can’t stick it, then you brake earlier, and maybe even softer. If you do manage to stick it, then you can push your brake point forward even more.
For this I like to brake fairly soft and steady so the weight can transition slowly and build up on the front of the kart. In some corners you’ll want to brake all the way to the apex. In some corners you’ll only brake for a little ways into the turn before releasing for a coast. The magic of a trail brake is that it will allow you to enter a turn with a good portion of your weight baring down on the front wheels and it sets you up nicely for roll speed through a turn.
Again the risk here is that you lose go over the threshold and lose the back end. This happens easily because all the weight has shifted to the front of the kart, and the back is light. You’re going to need to get the rear weight back down in order to be able to accelerate safely.
Sometimes a trail brake that throws a lot of weight forward can delay your ability to get back on the gas, and so you can lose feet as you try to get the rear to gain traction again.
For this reason I like to use a blip on the gas (or two) before I actually start to squeeze on the gas. The idea is that the blip will force a more rapid weight transition back to the rear wheels, BEFORE you start to accelerate. This can allow you to compensate for the extra forward load, and balances the weight more quickly. The idea of the blip is that it will only cause a small inertial weight displacement, shoving the kart forward a little bit, but not cause the rear wheels to break loose and spin out. If you were to say quickly, ‘one and then two’ This is about the timing that you need to do a blip and squeeze application of the gas.
And so that’s my tips to develop advanced braking techniques in an indoor go kart.
Good luck, see you on the track.
I’m typically a heavier driver. In my proudest moment, I ran a full league season against our strongest class of drivers, starting at 30lbs over the weigh in, and miraculously won the season. That was truly amazing because at least 3 of the drivers were ranked in the top 20 US indoor karters at the time. Mind you, I went on a keto diet the night we started the 8 week race season and finished my last race at legal weight, but for 7 of those races, I was over the weigh in.
Anyone with any karting experience knows that even just a difference of 10lbs will essentially rob you of about 0.015 of a second per corner. While that’s not much, it adds up when you have like 6 to 10 corners to deal with. And it really adds up when you’re at like 210lbs racing against a 180lb driver. We had 7 corners in our series so I was running at a 7×0.015 x3= 0.315 second handicap per lap. And our races are 50 laps long!
So how did I pull that off?
Well let’s look at how extra weight in a go kart causes problems and what you can do about those problems.
The problem is acceleration zones and corners. Without getting too scientific about it, basically Newton’s laws of kinetic energy are working against us.
(Stuff it, I have to give you formula, K=mv^2/2. Kinetic Energy = Mass x Velocity squared, divided by 2. This formula tells us how much energy is required to reach any speed.)
The problem is that to reach the same velocity a heavier driver requires the engine to deliver more energy than a lighter driver requires, and the engine can only deliver the same amount of horsepower per second to both drivers. The lighter driver has a serious acceleration advantage. And that means the lighter driver can slide around and will be forgiven. You, the heavier driver, will not be forgiven for a slide.
But fear not, most drivers have no idea what makes a kart slow or fast, and so make loads of mistakes. Your job as a heavier driver is to not make those mistakes, and to approach it with advanced knowledge of your machine and how it works, so you can drive it with control and purpose.
So tip #1 . DO NOT SLIDE!
That means you have to be very accurate with your turn in timing. You need to have very clear marked out turn in points, and you need to hit them with absolute precision, every time. One way to work this out, is to walk the track and find marks and angles from the outside of the track to the apex. You want about a 45 degree turn in point to the apex. Mike Smith the US national indoor karting champ (of 2007 I think) would stand at the apex then count the steps to measure the width of the track. Then he would turn 90 degrees and walk back down the track the same number of steps, then turn around and his foot would be at 45 degrees to the apex. That was his turn in point. At least the starting turn in point from which he would adjust according to how his kart handled.
The way I handled the problem was I got a go pro and I captured my fastest laps from a helmet cam. Then I went home and studied my fastest laps in slow motion and worked out exactly what happened, where I turned in, where I exited. And I took note of marks on the track that lined up with my wheels. Then I could go out and hit those marks every single time.
So Tip #2. Get a helmet cam and study your fast laps in slow motion.
One of the other reasons people slide is that they are not steady with their hands in a turn. A big part of being steady is just getting your turn in timing right, but it is also making the conscious decision that you are going to go through turns using as little hand movement as you possibly can, once you’re loaded up and going through the turn. You might need to fiddle about a bit on your turn in to catch your balance, but your ultimate goal is to get smooth and steady and to not be wobbling your hands around like you’re trying to counter steer every little bump and slide. I see many beginners driving what I call nautical miles. Like they’re trying to drive over the waves of the ocean. You can literally see the front wheels of their karts flapping left and right as they go through a turn. Don’t do that.
Tip #3, Aim to keep your hands steady and fixed through the greater part of the turn. Do not wobble the steering wheel all through the turn.
Now the best way I have found to achieve this, steady hands and steady front wheels, is to first realize that you actually have full visible access to those front wheels. This is not like a car where you can’t see where your wheels are pointing. A kart is more like a formula one car, you can see where the wheels are pointing! I can’t stress enough how important that is, you need to use this to your advantage.
What you do is put your eye directly on the apex, with the intention of aiming your front wheels right at that apex so you can get as close to it as possible. Remember your goal is not to try and use steering tricks to counter sliding through a turn. Your goal is to have no sliding and just flow through the turn under a steady G force.
So this gives several tips.
Tip #4. Put your eye on the apex as early as possible from way up on the straight, not as you turn in (that’s too late).
You need your eyes on apex early, when you are back on the straights. Looking at the apex too late is the major reason for people missing the apex.
Tip #5. Watch where your front wheels are pointing through the corner of your eye, (while your eyes are on the apex). Then just deliberately point your wheels at the apex, making the minimal adjustment needed to keep them pointed.
When you do this you become very smooth and consistent. You will find you are able to approach corners faster because you don’t break loose as easy or as often. So you don’t need to slow down as much for turns.
Tip #6. Always try to get your kart as close as possible to the apex, every time.
The reason for always being as close as possible is that any distance at all off the apex, makes the track longer. There is pretty much NEVER any speed advantage to being off the apex, and there is pretty much a 100% chance that you’ve made the track longer. How much longer? Well consider a 180 degree turn, if you are 2 feet off an apex, then you have to travel 2 feet further down the approaching straight. Now you have 2 extra feet to travel to get back on line as you go down the exit straight. That 2 feet off the apex, cost you 4 feet of track length, with no advantage in speed. This is probably the number one reason that races are won and lost, the fastest drivers are actually driving a shorter track, while going the exact same speed. So while you still need to get out wide for most turns, in an indoor kart situation you need to be looking at how you can make your turns just slightly tighter than your opponents, without losing traction.
Next we will talk about ‘the bind’, and how it can effect heavy drivers.
Now one of the major problems for a heavy driver, is that an indoor kart has a solid rear axle. This means that both rear tires travel at the same rotational velocity at ALL times. That means that the rear wheels when both firmly planted on the ground want to push the kart in a straight line at all times, even when you turn the steering into a turn. If you try to turn the steering wheel and push a kart in the pit, you’ll see what I mean, it’s like the brakes are jammed on, it doesn’t want to roll. This is known as binding, and it is a major loss of momentum energy. When you turn the wheel the front wheels and the rear wheels go into a fight, and if all 4 wheels are planted down flat and hard, unless the rear has lost traction, the front wheels are going to lose the battle.
This describes what happens when a kart is “pushing”. It also describes what happens to a kart when it slides, because essentially the outside rear tires have lost grip. The loss of grip causes the inside rear tire to slam down, because there is nothing resisting the lateral inertia. And so a kart that has just slid, has totally lost it’s geometric advantage, which I will describe now.
Now the kart is actually designed to deal with the solid rear axle problem by setting the front steering geometry up in a way that causes the kart to twist and tip over when you turn the steering wheel. Kind of. The inside rear wheel (when you are decelerating) lifts off the ground when you turn the steering wheel. So a properly functioning and operated kart is actually on 3 wheels through a turn. One back wheel on the outside, and two front wheels. In this case the solid rear axle, is no problem, the inside wheel just spins in the air. This works best when you are decelerating into a turn.
But if you are accelerating out of a slow turn, that rear wheel is much less likely to lift off the ground, because it does not have the forward weight bias to push the front wheels down and lift the rear wheels. This means that a heavier driver is more subject to an effect that we call ‘the bind’. The bind is where the weight bias due to the effect of acceleration is pushing the rear wheel down before it gets a chance to develop lateral inertia (the sidewards G force you feel in the middle of a turn). The heavy driver is extremely handicapped by the bind, much more so than a lighter driver will be.
So here’s the answer to the binding problem when under acceleration. You have to learn how to, violently and rapidly snap at the wheel when you begin your turn in. The pro drivers call this, ‘the snap in’ technique. It can be achieved in several ways, one way is similar to ‘the Scandinavian flick’ a trick that is used by rally drivers where you kind of initially turn away from the turn to load your weight onto the inside before turning back into the turn to cause the weight to aggressively transfer to the outside of the vehicle. This works best when there is a lot of traction on your track say from built up rubber and the bind is out of control. My preferred method is to over turn the steering wheel on initial entry with a very fast snap at the wheel, and then to release that pressure half way, and then return to a steady mid point. In timing it’s about 1/2 a second total from 1. snap in, 2. recoil, 3. aim at the apex and hold. If you can imagine the weight jarring quickly from one side to the other, which tips the kart up onto 3 wheels, and now you have to catch the momentum or things will get out of control. Mind you, the Snap In is NOT for corners that you are approaching quickly and decelerating into because there is no need to worry about binding in these situations. You should always be on the alert for situations that are causing binding, and thinking about how you an tip the kart over to deal with it.
So Tip #7, learn how to snap at the wheel when you’re accelerating into a turn, in order to tip the kart over sideways onto 3 wheels. This will give the heavier driver roll speed that he would not normally have due to his binding handicap.
Now there is another place where the bind can happen, and that’s on the exit as you accelerate out of a turn. If you have not achieved a 3 wheel tripod effect, then you’re going to bind your exit. You’re going to have to analyze your weight transfer and listen to your engine to know if you’re in this situation because different things can cause it, and it’s not always easy to realize you’re binding on an exit. But lets talk about some of the things that can cause it. Of course the usual culprit is that you’ve slid the rear out, ever so slightly, and you’re slipping a little as you start the exit. It’s hard to catch yourself doing this. But as general rule, the cause is from getting on the gas too early. Well that’s the easy fix, just coast more, and get on the gas later.
When you coast through a turn you maintain the 3 wheel tripod so much easier, and we call this ‘roll speed’. So you should really practice this first because it is very fast. But, it’s not the fastest way to get through the turn, and as a heavier driver trying to beat a lighter driver, now I’m going to tell you something that breaks this rule. But really, you need to master the coasting technique first.
Okay, so the reason we are binding our exit acceleration in the last example is because we are sliding ever so slightly, because we pushed for too much acceleration too early. The problem with pushing for acceleration too early is that the forward weight bias that is created by a deceleration into a turn has not had the chance to settle and return the weight bias to middle or rear. So the back is light and does not yet have adequate down force to accelerate through and out of the turn. This is why we coast, we are waiting for the forward weight bias to return to an equilibrium. But here is the thing, when you are in a turn there are actually many things that will cause the weight to shift forward and rear quicker or slower. For example if you were to hold the brake down longer and deeper, then the weight will stay forward biased longer. If you brake for a shorter distance, then the weight will stay forward biased longer, because you will throw more inertia towards the front of the kart. As opposed to say if you extended your braking distance by say just 3 more feet earlier. You see the weight transition would be smoother and more gradual. That would actually allow you to trail brake into the turn and load the front wheels up more carefully. That actually allows you to roll through the corner more quickly and ultimately it allows the weight bias to return to equilibrium sooner.
So that’s one way, don’t slam the brake hard at the last split second. Think about how that’s going to effect your weight transfer and loads and traction. Your goal under high loads is to smooth and slow the weight transitions.
As another example, now when you turn the steering wheel into a turn, those front wheels act a bit like brakes, ever so slightly, the turning is causing the weight bias to push towards the front of the kart. Now if you release the turn in, the weight bias will gently release back to the rear of the kart. Or at least to the middle. It ever so slightly releases forward weight pressure. That means if you release your steering pressure, just before you begin accelerating, you get a rear downforce bonus at the split second you release steering. That means you dont get the little slide that breaks you loose, and you get to get back on the gas earlier than if you waited and held your steering steady. The trick is that once you have acceleration started, you reapply the steering pressure that you had initially. Do you get it? We call it the 1-2-3 because it kind of happens in a 3 phase process, again it all happens in a split second, maybe a second at most. The acceleration rate by the way is not usually a stomp it’s a squeeze, so you don’t induce slide.
so Tip #8, learn to release steering pressure ever so slightly before you accelerate, and then squeeze the gas and reapply steering pressure. This allows earlier acceleration without sliding.
Now if you understand what we just did, then you’ll understand the next thing I’ll explain to you. Notice that we just caused the rear downforce to return to our rear a little bit sooner by releasing the steering before we accelerated. But there are other more aggressive ways to do this too. I should mention here that the reason we need to have all kinds of different methods is that in a rental kart scene, we have all kinds of different broken karts. Some karts you have to be very gentle with, others you can do aggressive things to them and they’ll grip up for you. You have to feel your way, and adapt as conditions change and tires temps and pressures change.
So the final expert advanced method to induce an early rear down force is to double blip and even triple blip the gas before acceleration. Now this is my favorite trick because it lets me get full throttle way way earlier than normal. As much 6 to 8 feet earlier, and that means your acceleration time and straight length is much longer. This allows a heavier driver to compete with lighter drivers but you have to be very careful not to overdo it and slide anywhere. You are really going to be on the edge here. So I’ll explain what I believe is happening here. You’ll typically see the apex about a kart length to a kart and half in front of you when you start this move. And normally say with a coasting technique, you can’t touch the gas until the front of the kart has reached the apex. You begin by blipping the gas briefly. Now if you were to hold it down, you would slide out for sure. But you don’t hold it, you just go blip(1), release(2), squeeze(3). The whole 3 moves are done in about one second timing. The actual timing you will learn to be able to feel. You’ll actually become sensitive to the weight transition to the rear during the first blip. I can feel it as an increase and change in the feeling of the seat against my back. As that pressure increases I start to squeeze the gas. That first blip throws the weight to the rear, but because we release the gas, the tires just down force and grip up. Now you can squeeze on the power with traction and power out. Be very careful not to slide though, because if you do, you bind, and then any acceleration bonus is cancelled out.
Tip #9, Learn to double blip the gas before accelerating and you’ll be able to start accelerating a kart length earlier than normal, without sliding.
Now we have talked a lot about binding being caused by the dragging of the inside wheels. And here we are talking mainly about indoor karts, which have thick strong chassis’, and are much less flexible than outdoor karts. There is another trick that helps with indoor karts which involves using your heavier weight and strength to your advantage. Basically when entering a corner, you have to push your heal in against the base of the stirrup towards the inside of the turn. So if you are turning left you push your left heal down towards the turn. And likewise if you are turning right, you push your right heal down. What you are trying to achieve is cross tension across the frame. It’s a bit hard to explain why this works, but basically it assists that inside rear wheel to lift off the ground and assists your kart to roll through turns with extra downforce in the places that it is needed. If you do this while on a set of scales in an outdoor kart, you can see the wheel weights change as much as 20lbs from left to right. You have to push fairly hard. It’s pretty unnatural to do this, so it takes some practice but it can really help with karts that are broken and twisted, particularly karts that push and are bound up. For a heavier driver that can be bound up through sweeper turns, pushing in with your heal to twist the chassis can make a huge difference to roll speeds. If you think a bit about what it does, you’ll realize why. Imagine you are pushing with your left heal, and you pushed the front left wheel down on a left hand turn. That would cause the outside rear wheel to push down, and inside rear wheel to lift up. That’s what cross tension does.
Tip #10, Learn to use your heals to create cross tension across the kart.
Now being a heavier driver it is very important how you distribute your body weight in the kart. In short, you have to LEAN OUT of the turns, DO NOT LEAN INTO TURNS. This is so super critical it can’t be over stressed, it should probably be lesson and rule #1. To explain, it goes back again to that solid rear axle, but it also relates to the direction of down force and lateral force on your wheels. Remember that solid rear axle requires us to lift up the inside rear wheel. Otherwise you bind up as the inside rear wheel drags. So it follows that leaning outwards will lighten the load on that inside rear wheel. A 200lb person can easily shift 50lbs from one rear wheel to the other, even if the wheel doesn’t lift off the ground. But now we have to also consider the angle of the lateral forces from that weight. It’s best explained with an image. If you are leaning out then the angle of force on the rear outside tire is more downwards, which promotes traction. But if you are leaning inwards then the angle of the force is more outwards than downwards, in this case you are inviting the kart to slide out. Drivers who lean into turns, are more loose and prone to slide, and then they bind up. Drivers who lean out, have more traction and therefore less slide and are less likely to bind up. It takes some practice to get used to leaning out, because you have to resist the urge to fight inertia, but once you have it down, it’s very natural. Note also that when you lean out of a turn you DO NOT LEAN OUT WHEN YOU ARE IN THE TURN, LEAN OUT WELL BEFORE THE TURN IN, WHEN YOU ARE ON THE STRAIGHT.
Tip #11. Lean OUT of turns, DO NOT LEAN INTO TURNS!!!! IMPORTANT.
My last idea is to be very mindful of how the weight transfers from front to rear when you release the gas from full throttle. This is important for sweeper turns, or fast turns where you basically enter at top speed and hope to fly through. Often in these turns you find the kart going into a slide at the apex and just not able to hold full throttle through the whole turn.
The slide we are talking about here is known as ‘snap oversteer’. It is caused mainly by the shift in weight from the rear to the front as you get off the gas while you are at maximum inertial load in the middle of turn. The release of gas lightens the rear and back goes into a drift.
In these cases people usually get off the gas WAY WAY too late. It seems counter intuitive, but you usually have to get off the gas way early, WHEN YOU ARE ON THE STRAIGHT or just ever so slightly after turn in. That seems way early, you have no risk at all of sliding on the straight, what gives? The reason is that releasing on the straight causes the weight to shift forward BEFORE the turn in. As the front wheels bite down and you start the turn in you can now reapply the gas, and you can stomp down fast and hard. The whole kart geometry has changed from being flat biased in the rear with a middle biased center of gravity, to lifting the inside wheel and establishing the correct 3 wheel bias for roll speed, the slight drop in velocity on entry tips the kart forward and over as you turn in. Now if you have leaned out correctly and early, and you are pushing in with your inside heel, the center of gravity will create downforce and grip on the outside wheels. Now you can push full throttle through the whole turn with no risk of sliding and no need to release the throttle. Again your eye is on the apex, and you are aiming your front wheels with a steady hold of the wheel. Sections like this are usually where I pick up a lot of time on other drivers as I watch them lose traction every time they lift up.
Tip #12. If you are sliding pr binding in a turn that should be taken at full throttle, blip off the gas, when on the straight, just before turning in. Blipping off the gas creates forward bite and tips the kart over, releasing bind. This increases roll speed, and traction.
The trick is to be very mindful about how shifts in the weight are caused by getting on and off gas, or by steering input, and how these might create slides when at full loads, and then to think about what kind of geometry might be in play at that time. Then you can think about what you can do to change the geometry and weight distribution in advance. You will find that things like trying to make adjustments to your body position when you are in a turn already is probably too late. Note also that many of these tips involve manipulating the weight transfers to give you the ability to hold the gas down full when normally you cant.
These are actually not only tips for heavy drivers, they’re tips for any driver. The good thing is that lighter drivers are usually not effected by bind and sliding as much, so they don’t work on it as much. But for heavy drivers, getting these things perfect are really your only hope of evening the odds. The good thing is that when race time comes and ballast is added you will dominate your weight class.
Tip #1 Don’t Slide.
Just get it in your head now, SLIDING IS SLOW. Sorry to break it to you, because it’s a lot of fun, but sliding and stomping full throttle through a turn like a Dukes of Hazard rerun, is going to get you into an accident and passed by any above average driver. Every slide is going to cost you between 0.100 to 0.500 of a second per corner. Sliding through turns is the number one thing that makes newer drivers slower.
How do you not slide?
So as a general set of rules.
If you are sliding on the entry. You came in too hot and fast. Slow down.
If you are sliding on the exit. You probably got on the gas too soon, wait wait wait and coast to the apex.
Wide Slow Entry, Tight to Apex, Wide Fast Out.
We go wider, so we can carry more momentum from one straight to another, it’s a basic way to lower the G forces on the tires so they can have more grip.
But why tight to Apex?
Tip #2 As close as possible to the apex, every time.
The apex is the very middle of the corner and you want to travel as close as possible on every corner. Now this is a bit of an advanced idea because ultimately this is what sets the fastest drivers apart from the faster drivers. That being said, it’s also what sets the slowest drivers apart from the slow drivers. That’s because slow drivers drive down the middle of the track. Lets say for argument sake that you are on a 180 degree turn, and you are 2 feet off the apex when you are in the middle of that turn. Now there are only 2 ways you could have got to that point, you either made the oncoming straight 2 feet longer OR you turned in early and drove a straight line towards that point.
Let’s take the first possibility into account. Now you’ve made your incoming straight 2 feet longer, now the only way you can get back online is to make the exit straight 2 feet longer as well. By adding 2 feet to your apex, you just added 4 feet to the total track length. Even if you maintain the same speed and curve as the fastest driver, you’re still going to arrive at the finish line 4 feet behind, and all from a single corner. Do this on another 5 turns and you’re now 24 feet behind the fastest driver in a single lap, while travelling at the same speed.
Now the second possibility, that you turned in early. Remember that the whole purpose of a corner is take a kart that is travelling in one direction, and completely turn it around and send it the other direction. You have to do this while maintaining as much of the energy and momentum that you entered the corner with. Now the tighter the corner, the more energy is going to be scrubbed away, so steady wide corners allow you to carry the most momentum, in and out. As you get more advanced the width of corners becomes a fine tuned trade off, but as a general rule, wide turns win races. So basically when you turn in early, you’re forcing the kart to rotate within a tighter circle because you will kind of drive straight at the apex and then do all your rotation on the exit. This will be slow, so not only would you have made the track longer, but you are also going to be slower through the turn, which means you’re losing a lot more than 4ft in this turn. It’s much better to spread your rotation out over a wider area and that means turning in, not too early and not too late, but just right. Which means, you need to perfect your timing.
So it’s not about reflexes! How do you perfect your timing?
Tip #3 Find marks so you can time your actions perfectly.
So this is how we perfect our timing. We use some kind of mark on the track to determine our brake point, our turn in point, our let off point. We even look for marks on the exit that we can judge our last turn for accuracy. Using cameras on your session is a great way to handle this, because you can examine in slow motion marks on the entry and exit of corners during your fastest laps. This will give you targets that you can aim for every time. Basically in an indoor kart you have view of your front tires at all times, so you can use this to point your wheels at targets, and line them up with targets. And the primary target for speed is the apex, which brings us to the next tip.
Tip #4. Eyes on Apex, early and always.
The most critical point on any corner is the apex. You need to be as close as possible every time. Now the expert drivers are going to be within a centimeter of the apex every time, and quite often you’ll see their tires hitting the walls of the apex. If you’re even off by 2 inches, you’ll lose feet of track every lap.
So how do you do it? You look at the apex early from way back up on the straight. Now you still have to use marks to time your turn in and your brake points, that’s fine, you just do it with your eyes on the apex and watch for marks out of the corner of your eye.
Many pros turn their head towards the turn in advance, which allows them to see down the inside of the corner, in case people come diving in. But the head turn in allows you to get oriented for the apex well in advance and as he corner approaches there will be a point at which you are not looking out the corner of your eyes, but directly straight ahead. This is your turn in timing mark. It’s a little different then lining up your tires with a wheel, crack or mark on the road, but it’s a very effective and consistent method for timing your turn ins.
Another reason you want to look at the apex early from back up on the straight is that no matter how fast your reflexes, you still have about a 1/5th of a second reaction time. If you find yourself looking at a brake point, applying the brakes and THEN turning your head to locate the apex, then it’s too late you can’t possibly be smooth and steady and direct and on. Once you find the apex, then you have to start controlling the steering and.. sorry you’re going to miss it by miles. This is probably the #1 cause for newer drivers to miss the apex even when they’re trying to, they did not have their eye on it early enough. That’s usually because they were looking at the kart in front of them instead. And that’s a mistake that will cause you to be only as fast as the guy in front of you. When you catch up with someone, don’t look directly at them, look at the apex instead.
Tip #5 Don’t lean in, Do lean out of turns.
This is a bit of an advanced tip and it has to do with the mechanics of the standard rental go kart. The reason is because karts are made to go faster when they are rolling with their weight biased towards the outside of a corner. When you lean in towards the center of the turn, you actually create a braking effect on the kart. This is all a very technical thing and you can go and research about solid rear axles and how leaning in causes a braking and sliding effect. It actually reduces your traction and acceleration when you lean in, and improves your traction and acceleration when you lean out. Now the thing is, again you have to lean early, you don’t want to wait to the last minute because you’re going to mess up your balance and timing. And the thing to remember is that balance is everything. Perfect balance means you can increase your roll speed through a turn, which means you can push the limits and go faster without losing control.
So how else do we achieve balance?
Tip #6 Steady hands, don’t wobble the steering wheel when in a turn.
Now in the very middle of the turn you are likely to have the highest G forces and the only thing keeping you from sliding is the down-force on those tires. The problems come when people try to adjust their steering in the middle when under maximum load. The other thing intermediate and newer drivers will do is change their acceleration and braking in the middle of a turn instead of keeping it steady. The more steady you can keep things then the more traction you will have because as the weight rocks around left to right and forward to back, you will only have as much traction as your weakest moment. Once you lose it, you’re in damage control. So how do we do this?
When you have a perfect turn in point and get your timing perfect, there is a kind of set and forget process. You set your turn in, the weight shifts a bit, you steady it, maybe with a little counter action to balance out. Then you get ready to hold steady through the turn and ride it out.
If you turn in too early you wont be able to do this, you’re going to have to add more steering input as you go through the turn, particularly on the exit. If you are doing this, then you are definitely slow.
If you turn too late you might have to miss the apex completely or keep adding more steering input on the entry than you need.
Ultimately once you reach the apex you want to be either holding steady or releasing the steering pressure (preferably). Because if you are releasing steering pressure then you are accelerating.
This is the typical process of slow in, fast out.
Tip #7 Head up, lean back for hard braking zones.
This tip really makes a difference for shortening braking distances, and is especially helpful when passing. It is common for newer drivers that are racing to lean forward more and more. The problem is when you do this you take downforce away from your back tires and you become loose. John Kimbrell the multiple US indoor national champion, always pushes his seat all the way back and leans back, no matter the kart. As you become more experienced you will be able to tell a difference when you lean forward and backwards with your braking and your cornering.
That being said, sometimes a kart is really bound up, and it wont accelerate out of turns. In this special case you want to try and lean forward to get the weight off the rear so the kart will not drag out of turns. Usually though a kart that drags out of turns is because you got on the gas too early and did not allow the weight to stay biased towards the front enough to roll through the turn. Remember when you get on the gas the weight will shift to the rear and if you have not completed the turn fully the rear axle, being a single solid bar will push both rear wheels to the ground at the same time. In this case the kart will start wanting to go in a straight line, because the axle is solid and both wheels must travel at the same speed. Now you are in a situation where the front wheels want to turn and the larger rear wheels want to go straight. They will fight, and often the rear wheels being larger will win. If the rear don’t win, then either the inside rear wheel will drag and spin, or the outside will drag and brake. Either way, this is a situation where you are slow because the rear wheels are dragging the kart down.
Tip #8 Sharp and Snappy inputs when entering turns under hard acceleration.
For slower corners with hard acceleration on entry.
This is the kind of corner where you haven’t had time to get up to full speed and you’re still accelerating, it’s usually one of a complex of turns. In this case it’s a very different situation because your weight is going to be rear biased, and the front wheels are going to struggle to steer. You wont need to brake for this kind of corner. Instead of being slow and steady and soft, you actually want to be snappy and jerky with your inputs. You will want to jarre the kart into and through the turn but you do NOT have to worry about getting on the gas too early because the back will not be light. The back only get’s light when you are entering a corner under high brake pressure. So be mindful of the difference.
Tip #9 Slow and steady inputs when entering turns under heavy deceleration.
For fast corners with hard braking on the entry.
Don’t rush in too fast, try to brake a little bit earlier, softer and steady without jamming on the brakes hard. Just give yourself a couple more feet than you think you need. If it’s a heavy braking corner, then brake in a straight line and don’t try to brake AND turn at the same time. As a general rule try to coast into the turn once you have completed braking, and give the kart time to re-balance and settle the weight back down into the rear. This settling is important because if you jam back on the gas too soon and too hard, you’ll go into a slide. As a general rule, wait until you have reached the apex before you get back on the gas. You can stomp as hard as you like then.
The main idea here is that you want your weight transitions to be slow and steady, you want the inertial pressures to build up slowly and steady. Ultimately you want to attain a point of balance where you can hold steady through the turn and make the most of your rolling speed.
Tip #10 Be mindful of how the weight shifts from front to rear and side to side, maintain balance, and you maintain traction.
Now we get to the really advanced stuff that you can work on for years. The ultimate driver is very mindful of all the things that can shift the weight of the kart. Subtle effects can cause slides when you are under maximum loads. Take a sweeper for example, these are usually very easy turns to get into, you just blast into them at full throttle, usually from a straight. The sweeper is a large corner with slowing down needed, or is there? Often at the very peak of the sweeper it just gets too much and you pass the limit of traction. Knowing this most drivers will let go of the gas and give in. The problem is as soon as you let go of the gas under maximal load, your weight will shift forward just slightly. But that’s all that’s needed under maximal load to create a slide every time. A lot of drivers think this is normal. But often it is not, the expert drivers do not slide here. How do they manage it? They know that modulation is probably needed in the turn, so they modulate their throttle on the straight before the sweeper, even though there is no chance whatsoever of losing traction on the straight. You see the weight shifts before the turn, lifting the inside rear wheel up lightly. The front wheels bite down and the rotation into the sweeper starts in earnest. Then they the expert stomps on the gas and accelerates into the sweeper with an enhanced outward weight bias that raises his outside down force on the tires. They then drive full throttle through the section that everyone else slides in. This is how the expert is mindful of the weight transfer and subtle ways the weight shifts around under maximal load. You see any input will shift the weight, be that brakes, gas, steering, and the movement of your body.
So the tip here is that when you are analyzing your sessions and thinking about where you are sliding a little, think about what you are doing to move the weight around in the kart. Come up with a strategy to create the weight distribution that you need for optimal traction and control. It’s not always easy to implement these strategies because they often seem counter intuitive, you will find yourself accelerating when you are usually letting off the gas. This is what sets the expert record crushers apart from the above average drivers.
Weight Transfer is probably the last thing you will develop a sensitivity to when learning how to be competitive in a go kart. It’s one thing to be aware that there is an advantage to managing the shifting of the weight, quite another to make use of it consciously. It took me years, but I’m going to save you years of head scratching and give you the secrets.
The problem is that our reflexes are not really fast enough to deal with changes in inertia. I mean the average person has a visual response time of about 0.250 seconds. We see something happen, it enters our brain, gets converted into some kind of neural pattern, we concoct a plan to deal with it, signals shoot down our nervous system and we execute the plan. Then we gather input from our actions, visual, audible and tactile, another plan is concocted and we shoot more signals down the nervous system to the controls. By this time another 0.250 seconds have passed. So 0.500 seconds have passed between situational awareness and the beginnings of adaptation.
So how far do we travel in half a second?
Just 22 mph is about 30 feet per second. You’re going to travel about 15 feet in half a second.
Even at just 2.2mph you’re going to travel about 1.5 feet in half a second.
That’s pretty slow, and 1.5 feet is an eternally long distance to be off line in a go kart.
If you are 1.5 feet off a line, or late to a turn in, off from an apex, you are WAAAAY off pace.
IF you turning in 1.5 feet late, and maintain the exact same arc (because you’re travelling at the exact same speed), then you would add 1.5×2=3 feet to the length of your track. Whatever the case, you’re going to add length and time to your lap time.
So reflexes can’t possibly be what the top drivers use to maintain consistent laps that are within 0.250 of a second of each other on EVERY lap.
And it also can’t be what you use to manage weight transfer.
So what’s weight transfer about? How do we manage weight transfer?
First of all, let me give you a little secret here, the primary tool in the expert drivers toolbox, is timing.
The more perfect your timing, the more perfect you are going to hit your marks. And really that is the secret to being online and it’s also the secret to managing weight transfer because weight transfer is part of having a consistent plan for how you are going to navigate the track.
How is that? Well weight transfer is NOT something you manage by the seat of your pants when you are in the moment. I’m not sure if that is a surprise to you, but for the longest time, I thought that’s what it was all about. But it’s not.
Managing weight transfer really happens off the track, when you’re analyzing what is happening after the fact.
Managing weight transfer is all about having a technical awareness of the geometry of the kart, and being able to model in your mind how the inertial mass is being shifted and displaced as you go through different sections of the track. Then, knowing how the weight is being shifted in your model, you work out how that is affecting the traction levels and grip through those sections. Invariably that’s where time is gained and lost, from loss and gain of traction.
So managing weight transfer is all about modeling the effects of inertia and this usually happens in analysis, while off track.
Now it is possible to do this somewhat while you are on the track, and it makes a huge difference to your ability to be adaptable to new conditions and different karts. But usually the answer to a problem section of the track doesn’t come until you’ve got off track and thought to yourself, ‘what the hell is going on here?’. Some of my biggest ‘ah ha!’ moments have come when I examine slow motion helmet video, frame by frame, of my fast laps. Often I will examine a corner where I was exceptionally quick for some mysterious reason, and ask myself, ‘why was this fast?’. At this point I start to model in my mind how the inertial displacement is unfolding and what I am doing that is causing this, and how I might repeat it. Quite often I realize the answer and driving inputs change for that section.
By driving inputs I mean this. There are many ways you can shift the inertial mass of your kart around, here is the arsenal of your weight transfer toolbox.
Acceleration (blips and pulses on the gas)
Deceleration (throttle let off, coasting, slight frontal down force)
Coasting (gentle and gradual re-centering of weight displacement)
Steering input (left and right displacement – but also when under load of a turn, forward and rearwards weight displacement when you increase and decrease steering input)
Brake input (jarring frontal down force)
Body position, (leaning forwards and backwards, head up, head down, leaning left and right, hopping in seat)
Sometimes giving an input that does not seem necessary at the time can give you an advantage in RPM, or traction, and both.
Lets consider parts of the track where you might often lose traction, or where it is easy to lose traction.
A brake zone where you come in hot and often lose traction.
If you find the back gets loose under brakes. Well there’s always the suggestion that you’re just braking too hard and too late, and so lighten up a bit and brake earlier. Often the problem is related to trail braking, where you are turning and braking instead of straight line braking. Our suggestion to newbies is to straight line brake and don’t brake and turn the kart at the same time, this means you brake earlier and straight, then let up and coast into a turn, and wait to get back on the gas at the apex. But for an expert driver, trail braking is definitely where you want to be. The thing that makes braking more effective in a kart is to lean far back in your seat and lift your head up high and back in the seat, because it adds downforce to your rear brakes (and you don’t usually have front brakes in an indoor kart). Doing so can give you a surprising boost in traction. This is managing weight transfer to a degree. You’re shifting weight to give you an edge.
But in the above scenario your modeling of the shift of inertial weight, shouldn’t end there. As you enter a trail brake scenario, the bulk of your inertial mass starts to move from the front center to the outside front wheel, while your rear wheels get light. If you are ever to get out of this turn with any kind of advantage in acceleration, you need to think about how you’re going to transition the inertial mass back to the rear wheels and how you will return down force to the rear of your kart. This is invariably why you tend to slide in these corners, because there is no down force in the rear.
Consider a turn where you came in under brakes and need to accelerate to get out of it, and you tend to slip a little as you go through the turn.
The easy and natural fix for this kind of problem is to wait wait wait after braking as you go through the turn, coast, coast, coast, and get on the gas later, typically at the apex. This works, full traction, and no slide. And this is what we tell newbies to do, because we know it’s just timing, and it will absolutely work. But this is not what the expert drivers do.
Note that the weight is loaded up to the outside front of the kart. Now note all the tools in our arsenal. There are several tools that can shift the weight from front to rear. Releasing brakes, releasing steering input, coasting, acceleration, and blips and pulses on the throttle. They will all displace the weight to varying degrees, some more aggressive than others. Note that the most aggressive would be to just accelerate, say by pushing your foot to the floor. But this wont work, because the back is light, so the back will just slide out from under you. So the next thing you can do, is blip and pulse the throttle. It turns out, if you do this on the entry of a turn, for a split second, you wont slide out of control. In fact you’ll push the weight back to the center and rear of the kart, and you’ll gain rear traction. From this point you can squeeze on the gas and be accelerating out of the turn, a full kart length earlier. The blip technique I just described we came to call ‘the double blip’ because you apply the throttle in a 1 and 2 motion.
There are other tricks you can use to finesse the weight transfer to the rear wheels, like in some instances it helps to release the steering pressure slightly as you apply the gas. If you find yourself in a loose kart, say during the cold of winter, you can try to add this as well. Some drivers don’t pulse the throttle at all, they just use a release of steering input to assist the rear loading, then they reapply steering input as they come on the gas and pass the apex.
A sweeper is corner where you can enter under full throttle and can usually power all the way through.
The standard trap of a sweeper is where you chicken out under load and release the throttle in the middle of the turn, this shifts the weight forward and makes the back wheels light, and you invariably go into a slide. This is known in racing circles as ‘snap oversteer’ and is a rather fundamental lesson in weight transfer.
As I outline in that article, the trick to the sweeper is to manage your weight transfer by causing your weight to initially lurch forward on the entry by letting off the gas just before you turn in. This allows the front wheels to bite. Then you stomp back on the gas and hold everything steady all through the turn. Without this set up, the kart will often slide out and break loose in the middle of the turn.
So all throughout these examples you should be picking up a pattern here. If you have a problem you need to be asking, ‘okay, what is my weight transfer doing? what am I doing to cause this?” And whether you have a problem or not, you should be asking, “what is my optimum weight distribution going to be in this situation, and what can I do to help achieve this?”. Where you answer these questions correctly, is where you gain an edge over the other drivers on the track. And that’s going to take mental visualization and modeling in your mind.
Lets look at some other scenarios.
Consider a very slow turn where you need to accelerate all the way through it, from start to finish. This is where you run into problems with the solid rear axle, and binding. The problem is that the solid rear axle wants to turn both wheels at the same velocity and when the kart goes through a turn the inside circumference is always shorter than the outside. If your weight is rear biased, because you are under acceleration, and you have come in flat to the ground, the rear wheels are going to go into a battle. Basically your inside rear wheel will act like a brake, and it will fight your engine.
So what can we do about this? Well go karts with solid rear axles are designed to tip over onto 3 wheels when you turn the steering wheel. This works better when the kart is slowing down, than when the kart is accelerating, because the inside front wheel is designed to push down, while the outside front wheel lifts up. When you are decelerating and turning the forward weight bias causes the kart to tip over onto 3 wheels and the inside rear wheel pretty much lifts into the air. I call this ‘The Tripod Effect’. But when you accelerate into a turn, from a very slow start, all your weight goes to the back of the kart onto the solid rear axle, you can lose steering control, but usually it just puts the brakes on and you don’t really realize it, because it seems like the kart engine is powering away and accelerating. You’re often slow, and you don’t know it.
So there are several things in the weight transfer toolbox to assist the tripod effect. In a particularly bad kart, that tends to ‘push’ that is, you turn the wheel and it just wants to go straight, you can jab on the brake slightly to throw the weight forward and to force frontal down force. If you have to do this, you’re going to be slow anyway, you have a junk kart, but it’s often going to be faster than just trying to drive through it.
The first technique that we offer to new drivers is to just release the gas a split second before you turn the wheel in. This causes the front wheels to bite down and tips the kart over. Then you reapply the gas and drive through the turn. This is usually quicker, but doesn’t always get a good lift.
My favorite technique for managing this situation is the ‘snap in’ steering technique. This is where you aggressively and quickly snap the wheel into your turn, with the goal of throwing the kart up quickly onto it’s outside wheels, you can often do this, without lifting the gas at all. To execute it, you kind of over steer your input way beyond where you would want your natural steering input, then you release the steering input back to your ideal. It plays out like a quick 1, 2, 3. You then rely on the lateral inertia to hold your kart up in the tripod position. I used this technique to give me an edge back during the Oregon State Championship, it freed my kart up all through the infield giving me a huge edge. I used a regimen of weight lifting off track to build the strength needed to sustain the ‘snap in’ during the 30 minute race.
Sometimes it is advantageous to lean forward in a kart. I discovered this once while watching a video of driver who pulled off a freaky fast lap. He gained his magical moment in a chicane. A chicane is a complex of turns that create like an S in the track as it leads onto a straight, it’s usually used to slow the track down a bit. Now normally he leaned back through the chicane and leaned out relative to the entry of it, but he was chasing a very fast kart that had twice his horsepower, and for some reason he sat up on this particular lap and threw his head forward as he exited the chicane, not only that, instead of leaning out when he entered the chicane, he leaned in. That’s very odd, it seems the very opposite of what we would expect and it was the very opposite of what he did usually. When we examined the delta for his time through the chicane, he had picked up 0.100 of a second in that section. Well well? why did this happen? We wondered. When we modeled in our minds what could possibly be going on it started to come together.
First it became evident that leaning out on the first turn, was not helping him at all, it was better than he tried to set his weight up for the exit of the chicane, because the displacement of his weight from left to right while navigating the middle of the chicane was too unsettling. He might not be in the optimal position for entry, but being in the optimal position for exit gave him an advantage as he pulled onto the straight. So we learned there that leaning into a chicane in prep for the exit is the key to a fast chicane. Next his head thrown forward put his weight more towards the front of the kart and off the rear of the kart. This would give him bite as he turned into the final turn and onto the straight that followed and would free up any potential binding that might happen because of the weight transfer from the left rear to the right rear. The exit wasn’t enough to induce any kind of slide, instead he had rear binding problems that were retarding his ability to accelerate out of the final turn. So leaning forward gave him bite, and freed up the bind. After this examination we both started doing this in this section, and it was a consistent 0.100 seconds for us every time. We were in different weight classes at the time, but we both won our racing seasons easily. Little secrets like this in every turn gave us the edge.
So hopefully by now you have an idea of what it means to manage weight transfer to your advantage. It’s all about modeling in your mind how the shift of the inertial mass of the kart is affecting the handling of the kart. You can model to fix problems, and you can model to imagine the theoretical optimal weight distribution. With this in mind, you can concoct unique and optimal tactics for each turn.
With that I will leave you with a problem to ponder. Let’s say you have drawn a random rental kart and upon driving it, you realize that it wants to veer off to the right. What could possibly be causing this? And so what would the optimal place for your weight be? You can be sure that one of those wheels is dragging against the others when you try to drive in a straight line. Taking away down force for that wheel is not going to solve the problem, but it will give you a better time than if you just left things be.
The trick to winning an indoor racing season is that you just need to be able to drive the junk karts better than everyone else can drive them. Weight transfer will give you that edge.
If you find your kart sliding in a sweeping turn, (a long steady turn of maximum throttle from entry to exit) even if you are breaking loose slightly, then you’re losing time to the guy who makes it stick.
So you need to start thinking about WHY the kart might be slipping at that spot. In racing parlance we’re about to enter the realm of ‘weight transfer’. The first thing to ask is, “what is your inertial mass doing?”
More precisely, ‘is your inertial mass shifting about? (of course it is) and what are you doing to cause it to change?”
What is inertial mass? Think of it as the direction of force on your kart. Under deceleration the inertial mass is biased towards the front, and under acceleration your inertial mass moves towards the rear. But there is also down force which exerts itself on your tires and is a combination of the total mass and your center of gravity.
The first rule for increasing traction in a go kart, is LEAN OUT of a turn, DONT LEAN IN
If you lean into a corner then you move your center of gravity towards the inside wheels, this lowers the downward pressure on your outside wheels and raises the downward pressure upon your inside wheels, this in turn creates an increased lateral (sideways) g force on your outside wheels. This effectively creates a lower center of gravity, and with less down force on the outside wheels and an increased lateral pressure the kart is more inclined to slide, than it is to tip over.
The counter to this is that as you lean outwards you shift your center of gravity over your outside wheels which lowers the lateral g force on your outside wheels and creates more down force, because it effectively raises the center of gravity relative to the outside wheels. This effectively increases the grip. So we might only be talking the difference of a few pounds, but when you are at the limits, this makes all the difference between being able to ‘stick it’, and ‘busting loose’ such that you have to deal with a slide.
With respect to leaning, you want to lean out BEFORE you begin the turn, because you want the lateral shift to happen while the inertial stress of the kart is neutral, which means lean while on the straight. If you lean after the turn in, it causes a shift in the inertial mass AFTER the tires are loaded, and that is a good way to bust yourself loose too. Some drivers place cushions in the side of their seats to stop their inertial mass from sliding around in the seat for this reason.
So while leaning out before all kinds of turns will help, it is not so much the ‘positioning’ of your inertial mass that causes or fixes sliding in a sweeper, the real enemy is the ‘changing’ of inertial mass while you are in the middle of navigating the turn.
A very common cause (but not the only cause) for sliding in a sweeper is Snap Oversteer. This is a condition where the back wheels break loose (usually slightly) in the middle of a turn. Particularly a turn that *should* be able to be taken at full throttle. Lets call this sliding area the drift zone. The primary cause for snap oversteer is a shift in the inertial mass that causes the tires to lose traction. And the number one culprit for this shift in the mass, especially in a sweeper, is releasing from full throttle while in the middle of a turn.
The key here is not THAT you lifted the throttle, its WHEN you lifted the throttle.
Here’s several ways that karters of various skill levels try to handle this situation.
Novice karters just keep their foot planted and ride out the drift zone, losing all kinds of control. They’re terribly slow even though they feel fast and create congestion out of the sweeper.
Intermediate drivers feel the drift coming on and THEN release the throttle to regain control. They experiment with timing for reapplication of power because if they try to get back on too soon, they drift more. Eventually they find their sweet spot and they can get through without sliding. So they basically use a coasting technique.
Advanced drivers pre-empt the drift and back off the gas slightly early BEFORE the drift zone, maybe going through the drift zone at 3/4 throttle to maintain control. They’re not coasting, they’re throttle modulating. It’s a bit quicker, and it’s really hard to execute.
Expert drivers blast through the drift zone at full throttle with no slide or slip whatsoever.
So how do expert drivers do it?
Well first of all, lets examine why the drift happens in the first place.
Snap oversteer is basically the consequence of the mass or weight of the kart being redistributed in the middle of a turn when the wheels of the kart are under maximum load. The redistribution causes a loss of down force and / or an overloading of the tires ability to hold traction.
While mass redistribution can happen in many ways, such as having unstable and shaky hands, the most common way that mass redistribution happens is when you let off the gas while your tires are under maximum inertial load.
That’s a bit counter intuitive to most drivers, surely letting off the gas slows you down and gives you more control?
But consider what happens to your weight distribution in the following scenario.
1. You come down a straight at maximum speed and hold your throttle at full power as you turn into your sweeper. No problem at this point, no slide, almost no lateral (sideways) pressure. Your center of mass is basically centralized but starts to slowly move to the outside center as you enter the turn.
2. As you enter the mass stays centered and your load starts to build up on the outside wheels. No problem holding traction at all at this point.
3. Now you start to approach the zone that the kart starts to get loose, usually somewhere near the apex. You’ve ran this corner many times, you just KNOW it’s going to get loose right up ahead. You’re almost halfway into the sweeper. So what do you do?
Most drivers will get off the gas.
But consider what happens next.
As you release the gas, the kart slightly decelerates and your centralized inertial mass starts to move forward. This causes the down force on the rear wheels to lessen and the forces on the front wheels to increase. Now in some vehicles (with suspension) under such conditions the front wheels might break loose if under maximum load, but in a kart what typically happens is the rear wheels lose their grip and back begins to step out. You just CREATED the very thing you KNEW was going to happen, by letting off the gas.
What you actually did wrong, was that you let off the gas, TOO LATE!
“Okay, no problem!”, you say. “so I’ll let off a bit earlier and maybe control my throttle through that zone”. Now you’re thinking like an Advanced Driver. So you change your strategy and at about a quarter of the way through the turn you back off the gas, and sure enough you are able to get through with no slide by modulating at 3/4 power through the trouble spot. This is REALLY hard to do consistently, especially in inconsistent rental karts, so I really have to commend the drivers that can pull this off. But guess what? You’re still going to be creamed by the Expert Driver.
All right, so here’s the secret. Let off BEFORE or AS you turn into the sweeper. “WTH??! thats waaay too early”, you say. Well I know this probably seems counter intuitive because you have absolutely no threat of losing control way back at the start of a sweeper, but let me explain what this does.
First of all, immediately after letting off and turning in, like within a split second, you want to stomp hard on that gas and hold it down hard with no intention of letting up all the way through the sweeper.
So here’s what happens to the kart in an ideal world.
As you let off the throttle, the mass that was centralized before now moves forward slightly and causes extra down force on your front tires right at the moment of turn in. This causes the front tires to BITE on the tarmac and the rear inside wheel becomes slightly lighter and causes the kart to tripod onto 3 wheels. This has several advantages, first it raises your center of gravity and distributes it BEFORE the tires are under any load, so there is NO chance of a sudden overloaded mass redistribution and displacement in the middle of the turn.
Next, because this strategy assists torque in the chassis, which assists the tripod affect, the solid rear axle lifts the inside rear wheel, allowing the kart to roll speed without bind.
But that’s not all, provided that you are leaning out and not leaning in, BEFORE you turned in, the chassis torque creates extra down force on your outside tires, which means you not only have extra roll speed, you also have extra traction. That’s because a kart that is in a tripod configuration has a different center of gravity than a kart that has slipped out. Consider this, if a kart has slipped out, then it has no outside traction, and in that case the rear axle plants BOTH wheels flat to the ground, and a planted inside rear wheel in a turn can only act like a brake. That’s because the circumference traveled by the inside wheel in a turn, is ALWAYS less than the circumference traveled by the outside wheel. Remember that the solid rear axle means that BOTH wheels must rotate at the EXACT same velocity.
The tripod affect is extremely important in a kart, because it frees up the inside rear wheel that is on a fixed solid axle. The steering geometry of a go kart is specially designed to create this effect, so that under optimal conditions only the outside rear wheel is touching the ground. You want this, and you want to lean out to help it.
The next thing you need is a pair of steady hands that hold your steering at a single angle and input. No shaking of the hands in the middle of the turn. or at least through the zone of highest g force. Shaky hands will redistribute your weight and upset any kart at maximal load. There are several things you can do to assist this. First have a consistent turn in point, use a mark or some reference on the track. You want a single hand movement through the turn, so if you find yourself adjusting the angle of the wheels through the turn, adjust your turn in point forward and backwards until you find the sweet spot.
Next, keep your eye focused on the apex, no matter what is in front of you, train yourself to observe everything you need to observe through your peripheral vision, while your eye is focused on the apex. The general theory goes that the kart will go, where your eye is looking, so look at the apex. This is important because when you look at the kart in front of you, you invariably end up driving like the kart in front of you. When that happens, you might have been quick enough to catch them, but now you’ll stop doing what made you faster, and start doing what makes them slower. This is a common trap.
Next use your peripheral vision to your advantage by focusing on your apex while you peripherally watch where your inside tire is actually pointing while you are in the turn. Point your inside wheel directly at the apex. This allows you to make adjustments for various changes in track conditions.
When you get it right, there will be almost no hand movement once you have initiated turn in. There will no sensing and correcting of inertial sway from left to right. You’ll just be balanced, steady and loaded with no slip. That’s how you get steady hands.
Finally DONT LIFT OFF THE GAS until you complete the sweeper. This is because any lifting of the throttle when you are under maximal load will shift your weight and upset your traction. And that lifting of the gas IS the essence of what creates the drift of snap oversteer.
Okay so one more bonus tip here. Many indoor karts have a foot stirrup that you can push your heel into, just below the brake and throttle. This stirrup allows you to create cross tension through the chassis. Cross tension allows you to change the down force slightly through the kart. I have tested this on scales in a flexible outdoor kart, and just by pushing your heel into the left front stirrup you can create a extra 10lb to 20lb weight on the left front AND right rear wheel, at the same time. Push on the right front stirrup and you create the extra weight on the front right and rear left wheels. It’s interesting how it creates down force across the diagonal of the kart.
The idea is to push your heel in the direction you are turning. So a left sweeper needs your left heel to push into the stirrup. Remember to keep it steady throughout the turn, don’t release, because you don’t want to upset the balance.
So what does this do for you? This assists the tripod effect on the kart, and releases weight, pressure, bind and drag from the inside rear wheel. Cross tension also gives you extra traction on your outside wheels.
The short version of this is. If you want to go full throttle through a sweeper then create a throttle lift off point before you stomp on the gas full throttle, and keep moving your lift off point earlier and earlier until you find the sweet spot that allows you to push full throttle all the way through that sweeper without sliding. The sweet spot is almost always way back on the straight before you even turn your steering wheel, and never when you are already loaded up and into the turn.
In this video I give a slide show presentation of the driving techniques required to hit qualification lap times in the indoor karts at Sykart.
Members get access to this video as well as the in seat GoPro video of qualifying sessions, and also a frame by frame breakdown of every corner, the marks, timing and thinking that get you record times.
So if you just want to be in the 9’s or maybe just stomp your buddies, membership here will get you the inside edge.
Frame by Frame and in slow motion we step through an entire lap using GoPro video in the drivers seat with multi time Sykart karting Champ Tony “Heavy” H
Running a 29.6 second lap time in a 6.5HP kart @ 210lbs, a full second faster than what you need to actually qualify, we look at how to do it, and what thinking makes it happen.
In this video I take a close look at one of the faster laps of a GT2 6HP race night, where I qualified pole and almost lapped the field. I take about half an hour to go step by step through each turn using the Go Pro video from the session, and talk about what I’m thinking about through each turn.
I cover what line I’m taking, and what it looks like from the drivers seat. I go over Turn in Points, and Brake Points and how I look for these, line them up with the wheels to hit them every time with accuracy. I go over how I keep online and make adjustments if off line. I can usually correct any situation within split seconds using a trick that I explain in the video.
I talk about turn 1 at Sykart and my unique approach to handling it without any slide. I honestly believe that my approach allowed me to take this corner about .100 sec faster than anyone else in the past few seasons, and for the longest time I was the only one doing turn 1 in this way. My thinking here was confirmed when I watched the GoPro video of Kellerman (who usually holds the track record), and he was doing the same thing on his fast lap, but he didn’t do it on his standard laps of the session, so it looks like it was here that his time was being gained and lost.
I show the marks on the track that you can use to dial in turn 2 and 3, to make sure you are online every time. As long as your wheels hit these marks, you can be sure you took it as fast as you can.
I talk about my unique throttle modulation technique in turn 4, (180 degree right hander) which allows me to get extra rotation and acceleration through the turn and shortens the time spent in the turn.
I talk about my unique approach to turn 5, and traps to watch out for in the turn. I don’t take this turn like others, and a lot of people struggle with this turn because it can be very slippery. We all seem to have a different approach to this turn, and the corner has been going through changes. The main problem with turn 5 is that it used to have a lot of rubber left over from the old track, but this rubber has gone away, and the corner is getting new rubber. You can’t take it like a normal corner, at a normal angle, because you will slide, and lose time, so I explain how I have been taking it.
I share a secret to the back straight, that makes it faster. There is actually paint on the track and on the walls that give you marks to line up the sweeper so you can take it perfect every time. I’ll tell you where those marks are. I used these tricks to take the sweeper about .100 faster than everyone in the Sykart leagues. Using my turn 1 trick and sweeper trick, I was able to maintain a .200 of a second lead on the field through an entire race season.
In the sweeper I share a secret technique that lets you take the whole sweeper at full throttle without sliding, the same idea can be applied to 9hp karts too, when you qualify. I break down some of the traps in the sweeper and reveal the marks that you want to use to make sure you are online and entering and exiting properly.
In turn 7, I show a trick that lets you know you’re getting through the turn faster, you’ll see a lot of the fastest guys doing this. And I show how to adjust if you’re off a little, and how to get yourself back online, and what to look for on the exit to make sure you are on track.
In the last turn, I show the marks that you need to hit the turn at top speed and how to adjust your marks so if the karts get warmer or conditions change you can get quicker.
Get access to this video and all my videos in the members pages.
Welcome Members …
Here’s the Fast Lap Breakdown of a 29.6 second lap in a 6.5HP kart @ 210lbs, in the drivers seat with karting Champ Tony “Heavy”
Want to know how to get faster at Sykart?
Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll find in the members section.
A Breakdown and analysis of the 6hp fast lap running 29.0s through turn 1
Turn 1 is a decreasing radius turn, which can be deceiving and complex. It is hard to establish an arrow straight line for a straight line brake, so trail braking is the norm.
As a coach at Sykart I find the most common problem for turn 1 is that people just come in too Hot and Too fast. Newcomers to training are usually shocked to find out just how early I actually brake and to discover just how soft I actually brake. My thinking is that you want to gently transition the weight to the front of the kart, and you can’t afford to unsettle the kart, this gives you greater traction and control in the middle of the turn. Getting on earlier, softer and gradually is key.
The biggest mistake on turn 1 is to try and come charging in like a boss, as hot and deep as you can and try to pull off a super late brake. You might seem fast and catch people on the entry, but you will surely lose them by turn 2. Drivers that do this, also overshoot turn 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8. If you are a new driver, just slow down more on the entry, get stability in the middle, and you can power out on the next straight.
Most drivers tend to enter turn 1 way too wide, thinking they need a wide entry for a corner, but the close proximity of turn 2 and the low horsepower and high traction of the corner means that the fast line is actually to come in mid track or tighter, because there is no benefit to sacrificing the entry for a fast exit into turn 2. What are you going to do with all that extra exit speed? Just make a hot entry into a tight right hander?
The driver on the tighter line actually travels a shorter circumference about 5 meters shorter distance at a speed of about 5 meters per second, meanwhile because turn 1 is off camber and bumpy any driver who tries to take it wide finds themselves unable to hold the back end down, so any potential gain of speed is lost anyway, and they end up losing as much as 0.500 to a full second to the driver on the tighter line.
You can over do this idea, so you don’t want to come in too tight or come in too flat so there is a sweet spot for sure, in the the video below I run over turn 1, and give commentary in slow motion and stop frame, from my Go Pro practice sessions during a fast lap, using the same technique and thinking that gets me into the low 29’s @ 210lb during races in the 6.5hp karts.
Also rather than use brake pressures to adjust speed for the turn, I try to brake at a consistent pressure and use distance to control the speed of entry. In this way if you want to travel faster through the turn, THEN you brake later, or if you think you need to slow down more, then you brake earlier.
After training sessions I like to leave cones on all the corners to mark brake and turn in points, so look for those when you go to the track. The idea is to brake when your front wheels line up with the cones.
In a low powered indoor kart, when racing against the pros, tighter lines are usually faster, but how do you get a kart that might be sliding already, even with no gas at all, to stick and hold steady through an even tighter line? it can be done.
My goal is to teach you how this works, and how you can develop your own sensitivity to it, so you can apply it.
It is one thing to be reasonably fast and above average, but my goal is to help you become ridiculously fast, anywhere, on any track, under any conditions.
So why the blip on the gas just before the apex you may wonder?
This is an advanced concept, but it has to do with weight transfer.
Because we have come in on the brakes with some steering input, we are actually in a trail brake. This has put a lot of weight onto the front wheels, which is great for getting front bite, and for lifting the inside rear, which are all things we want to do to rotate a go kart, but now we are in a situation where we cant immediately accelerate because we have too much weight to the front and not enough on the back.
If we just blast the gas here, then with no weight yet in the rear end, the back will just fly out and we will slide. Which creates a new set of problems, now the back end is planted flat and we will be in a ‘bind’ situation which causes the kart to behave in the exit of the turn like it has the brake stuck on. It’s very slow.
Most advanced drivers solve this problem by …
Live Professional Track Side Training
- Your coach holds dozens of indoor karting championship titles in every class including the Oregon State and Washington Titles and has won multiple national events.
Work personally with a skilled trainer to improve your driving times.
Learn the driving line with your coach who will drive the line at your pace and bring you up to speed in a few sessions.
Walk the track and learn special marks and locations and tricks to get you on the fast line quickly.
Learn the pros of good posture, hand work, footwork, and the mechanics of the machine that allow you to reach top speeds.
Have a coach work with you personally explaining ‘Heavy’s Racing Workbook’, how to understand and apply it.
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