As a regular at indoor karting tracks with more then 6000 races under my belt, I would love to say that Indoor Karting is not dangerous at all, but I can’t really in good conscience. Let me back up a bit though, it’s about as dangerous as crossing a busy street, with a helmet on your head.
By this I mean, ‘if you decide to walk in traffic without paying attention you’re going to get run over and killed’. Likewise, if you’re driving on a busy road you’d better look where you are going or you’ll either crash into someone or have someone crash into you. This is a real possibility, but are you going to blindly wander around a race track? Probably not, and I think this is why for most the risk is minimal.
However, it really depends on who you are on the track with. Over thousands of races I have totally seen people who are not paying any attention to where they are, or where they are going. I’ve seen all types.
While 9 out of 10 people are conscious of the fact that they could hurt someone, there’s always that 1 in 10 who has no clue at all. Facility workers can get pretty nasty with these types and can come on pretty strong. Now when someone honestly has no clue at all that they’re a menace, an angry track worker in your face can be a very confusing thing. Just look at the reviews of indoor tracks anywhere and you will see a common theme about the track worker who was mean to someone. Confrontations can even get physical as drivers react (especially drunk drivers). But try not to worry about the workers too much, in almost every case there is something dangerous going on and people who are not aware of it. Its the track workers job to make sure people don’t hurt each other.
There are idiots who show up every now and then (and who are not regulars themselves) who get a bit carried away by the fun and excitement of being able to race as fast as the pedal will allow them to. It is not uncommon for these types to use the kart as a ramming device. The facility will try to manage the situation but its not always possible until someone shows their colors. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes that they have a 1000lb weapon under their seat, or what a 1000lb weapon can do. And what they do is bruise and dislocate ribs and give you neck injuries.
Another common situation that can happen at peak hours is the pros and semi-pros will show up. When you get a situation where average drivers are on track with pros, its as if someone came along and grid locked a freeway and there’s a police chase going on in the middle of it all. As a faster driver, I must say, this is a blast.
Now a true pro is a graceful picture of elegance. They can weave through chaos like you would not believe. Flying through dozens of average drivers as if they are sitting still, without touching anyone. It’s really something quite amazing. But it takes a long time to get to that level.
The trouble usually comes with developing drivers who have developed their skill to be fast, but they have not yet the experience to deal with newer drivers in traffic. A lesser experienced driver can be very unpredictable, whereas a veteran will be totally predictable. For example a common problem is for a lesser experienced driver to spin out and lose control, coming to a dead stop in the middle of a turn. A pro who is at top speed can find themselves with less than 0.200 of a second to deal with a sudden stop right in front of them. Collisions happen right there. Now a top pro is going to predict the accident, and compensate, you’ll see it coming from a mile away if you’re paying attention to the other drivers on track with you. But it takes some time to develop that sensitivity.
So you’re at some risk when you’re on track with pros, but only if you can’t drive yourself and you have a habit of losing control, spinning out and parking yourself in front of others who are much faster than you.
So here’s how you can keep things safe for yourself.
#1 Teach your kids (and yourself) how to LET BY safely. That means how to let faster drivers pass you without being a danger to yourself and others.
The trick is fairly easy, you use corners, and just go as wide as possible through a turn, and just point your finger to the inside to let the driver know you are letting them pass.
DO NOT try to let the driver pass you on the OUTSIDE! I should repeat that.
DO TRY to let the driver pass you on the INSIDE of the corner. YOU take the outside.
If you do this properly you will lose very little speed, and you’ll have very little chance of having an accident.
By properly you should leave a gap of about a kart width between you and the apex. You just basically travel a kart length further before you turn into the turn and take the whole turn later.
#2. If you are new, as a general rule, get off the gas as you come into a turn, coast to the middle and WAIT until you get to the middle of the turn to get back on the gas.
I REPEAT.. coast and WAIT to get on the gas until you are clearly PAST the middle point of the turn. This will stop you from sliding and losing control in front of other drivers. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you get this right. It is a very common problem with newer drivers who want to race and who rush to speed out of turns and get on the gas too much too early. They slide out of control.
Believe it or not, this one trick is usually the only thing you need to be the fastest person on the track. Wait until you are PAST the middle of a turn before you get back on the gas.
#3 If you are not going to let someone pass you, be prepared to get nailed in the next turn. There is really no way to stop someone who is determined to smash into you, from catching you in the next turn. And when they do, they can give you quite the neck injury. You should keep that in mind and err on the side of courtesy. Let faster drivers by, politely.
On the other hand, if you MUST block, then you should probably also know that a pro is going to take advantage of you, no matter what you do. That’s because any deviation from the best line will cause a cascading side effect that will make you a slow target down the track. But even the optimal line has holes in it, and a pro will target this. Let me say, there IS a way to block skillfully, but trying to explain all the 100’s of different situations is a bit beyond this article. Let me tell you, it’s really funny when you have a driver in front of you who is more interested in looking behind himself (to block you) than where he is going and you still pass them like they’re sitting still. I’ve even seen pros who wait for the really aggressive drivers to catch up, and then deliberately pinched them off into the wall. Stuck.
Conclusion: Is indoor karting dangerous?
For experienced drivers or newer drivers with a little humility (and don’t mind letting faster drivers pass them) there’s very little risk. But what is dangerous are people and their intentions. The chance of being killed is pretty much zero, but if you have others on the track who are going to be maniacs, yeah you can get hurt. Really bad drivers (and there are LOTS of those) go out and hurt themselves because they basically race themselves into accidents. These are not your weekend warriors and pros but drivers who are intent to push the limits, but have not yet earned the skill to do so. Those guys are scary.