Breakdown of a 6hp fastlap through Sykarts Turn 1

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 …

not accelerating until very late, instead they use the ‘roll speed’ to allow the kart to free up and roll to the apex, and only then do they get on the gas. This has the benefit of allowing the weight to gently shift to the rear of the kart. it works but it is not as fast as the balancing blip of the gas, which also achieves the weight transfer while maintaining our inside rear lift and outside rear traction. Only it does it quicker than the no gas – coasting and roll to apex. As much as 1 to 3 kart lengths. Which at 5m/s could mean you are on the gas at up to 1 second earlier AND you are more stable!

So instead we blip shortly, this causes the back to get some weight, aka ‘weight transfer’. With some practice you can feel the weight transition shift to the back, and just as it comes down you then give the kart your power application. With an awareness and expectation of a weight transfer and after feeling for it – with practice – It becomes a timing thing that you naturally feel. You can develop this feel by just driving about a bit and doing a 2 phase gas application drill, 1 .burst, 2. Apply acceleration, 3. then slow down 4 .do it again at different speeds and in different corners and in straights. Get the feel of it.

In the case of this corner if you blip at about a kart length before the apex, then the rear down force transition happens about a half kart length after your blip, just a little before the time you reach the apex,  now when we reach the apex our weight is balanced more evenly between the front and rear, so we can get on the gas with more drive and power. In most turns, in effect we are getting on the gas as much as 1 to 3 kart lengths earlier, which in effect makes our straights much longer than the safe driver who coasts to the apex and uses the speed of ‘roll speed’ to wait and get on the gas.

That actual balancing blip is not usually a very powerful and long travel of the gas. If the gas pedal travels 5 inches from all the way out to all the way in,  then the initial balancing jab at the gas, is only like a 1 inch travel from being all the way out. So you are just twitching the gas with a sharp little poke and release to get a soft little push of power from front to rear. The important thing here is that the blip is fast, you want to be off that gas quick and coasting again within a split second.

As you then feel the weight of your body press down into the back of the seat and become more firm in the back of the seat, you know at this point you have the rear down force and you can start your power application with a squeeze, or with as much force as you think you can get away with.

It works especially well here because turn 1 has a load of rubber that has been put down on the track on the inside at the apex, so we use that extra rubber with a faster entry under trail brake and blip to get a premature rear down force.

NOTE: We are not talking here about a blip that will cause the kart to slide out or slip at all. If you slide because of the blip then you are doing it wrong. We are just talking about creating the rear down force effect of coasting to the apex, only we are going to speed it up a little and force it to happen sooner.

Now normally you can not get on the gas until the apex, in a typical ‘straight line brake and coast to the apex technique’. Which I will add is a very consistent and safe and controlled way to have championship winning speed. You brake straight, turn then coast through the entry to the apex, then don’t get on the gas again until you get to the apex (center of turn) and you will power out with total control and consistency.

At the top most levels, the very fastest drivers in the world may have spent many years driving the straight line and coasting style, and can definitely fall back on it at any time, but they are mostly using some form of trail brake and mid balance method, and making it work on a tighter radius than others. This is how you win in a field of nationally ranked drivers.

Blipping the gas is not the only way to move the weight to the rear though, so this concept can be refashioned and tweaked for other types of corners. The concept is this, if we are loaded in the entry of the turn, then by the time we hit the middle of a turn, if we release steering pressure then we will release some of the forward pressure and so the weight bias must shift towards the rear, giving us extra rear down force. This is why on a standard coasting technique, we can release the steering and add more gas. But now knowing that releasing steering causes a slight and less drastic shift of weight to the rear, we can make use of this by deliberately releasing the steering a little just before we decide we want to apply the gas. This is actually a big part of the coasting technique, you straight line brake, and then you turn in on a coast, you hold the turn in very steady to the apex, and then just as you decide to reapply the gas, you don’t blip, but instead you release the steering pressure slightly, not so much that your hands move, but just enough so that you release the pressure of the turn in, then while the pressure is off, you start to apply the gas, now you start to reapply the steering pressure to put it back where you were (before the pressure release) to complete the arc of the turn and go through the long slow unwinding process of the steering throughout the exit of the turn. This little pressure release is in effect the same thing as our blip, but it just happens more gently and more slowly than the weight transfer blip. Note that the steering technique to manage weight, puts down blistering fast laps, and is easier to repeat, so until you develop throttle sensitivity it will be more consistent, and sometimes I do resort to this technique on some tracks, or I will at least try it in a race if I think it might offer some benefit.

In very extreme conditions, where the grip levels might get very high, or with a poor handling kart, I have found it necessary to do BOTH of these techniques together at once. In this case you release the steering to do the balance blip, and then as you reapply the gas you reapply the steering pressure. This can be the case when you have a lot of grip to work with, like in the 12hr enduros or the 24hr enduros as the track grips up through the midnight hours. In this case I found myself braking late and deep and turning in really hard and on very tight entries, then at the apex releasing steering pressure AND blipping to get as much rear weight throw as possible so the back wheels would stamp down into the rubber pre- apex and I could drive out with maximum inside rear lift and outside down force. Under these conditions you are either running track record times, or sitting within .100 of them.

These type of weight transfer tricks are the secret to stopping you from sliding on tighter lines. They might take some time before the ‘aha!’ moment happens, but at some point you will catch the feel, and from that moment on, almost everyone will be in trouble, including me. 🙂 good luck, and see you out on the track.

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