If you want to lift a trophy in a go karts tournament, any good racer will tell you that strategy is just as important as speed. A cool nerve and sharp reflexes can take you a long way, but the best drivers are the ones who take the time to get to know the track before they hit the accelerator.
One tactic that is virtually guaranteed to improve your race – and push you ahead of the competition – is finding the racing line. This is essentially the fastest possible route around the track, the one that allows you to negotiate corners at maximum speed without losing control of your car. Identifying the racing line is an essential skill for professional drivers, and if you can find and track it before your opponents, you’re already going into the race at a major advantage.
An ideal racing line makes use of all the space you have available on the track, meaning your vehicle can move in a straighter line for longer. When taking a corner, you should be aiming for a wider circumference so that you can keep that speed going without skidding or losing control. Getting this right is harder and more technical than it looks. Here are four key considerations to take into account when figuring out a racing line strategy.
Knowing your breaking point
To take a corner effectively, you should usually have got most of your braking out of the way before you turn in, with just a little light pressure on entry to reduce understeer. This is where a good feel for your vehicle can be a huge advantage in go karting. If you’re unsure of the quality of your brakes, it’s going to be harder – not to mention more dangerous – to reduce your speed in time to take a corner correctly. If you’re new to the car or the track, be conservative at first and brake earlier. As your confidence grows, you can experiment with shortening your braking area. In addition, watch out for wheel locking. If and when this happens, ease off quickly and reapply the brake with less pressure. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it right first time.
Everyone knows that tight corners make for faster lap times – as long as you approach them correctly. The apex is the closest point to the inside of the corner, where you’re free to go back to full throttle. Know your apex and you’ll have no trouble leaving your competition in the dust.
Finding the turn-in point
The turn-in point is probably the most important part of the racing line. If you can identify the optimum point to turn in, you have a much better chance of hitting your apex. Once again, the secret here is to know your track inside out.
The hairpin turn is one the the toughest corners you’ll face, requiring a full 180 degree turn. Finding the apex on a hairpin isn’t easy, but it’s generally around three-quarters of the way around the bend. Keep a cool head and don’t accelerate too soon, and with a bit of practice you should be able to master the hairpin.
If you take the time to learn your track before racing, you should never come across a turn that catches you by surprise. You should be planning for your next corner even as you’re exiting the last one. If you’re coming up on a left-hand corner, start moving over to the right hand side of the track as soon as you can for a tight, slow line. For right-handers, do the opposite.