Before getting to our go kart cornering tips, there is some technical stuff we need to get clear first in order to understand the mechanics of cornering. So, you’re turning into a corner and the inside rear wheel begins to lift slightly. That is the jacking effect from the castor. After the initial turn, the cornering process begins causing increased weight on the outside of the kart (its left-side tyres, front and rear). The rear inside wheel lift occurs because the front of the kart is more flexible than the back, resulting in the chassis deforming slightly, thus lifting the tyre a little off the road surface.
As promised, that’s the physics lesson out of the way. But it was an important lesson because understanding that quirk of karts is key to mastering cornering with very little steering effort. With the initial turn completed and the kart cornering smoothly, the load transfers to the outside wheels and lifts the rear inside wheel, meaning less friction with the road surface. The result is a smooth cornering, with very little steering angle required.
So, as promised, we get to the ‘top tips’ section because let’s face it, no ‘how to…’ is complete without a list, right? Here’s our step-by-step top five tips for better cornering:
Start braking a little earlier than you might think you need to, or are used to. Brake early then let off the brake just as you come to the turn point.
Be patient and wait until just as you are about to begin the turn proper. At this point, begin a small and gradual steer, doing so as smoothly and as incrementally as you can. It may feel like you are taking up the slack in the steering components.
As you start to turn the corner, you need to start turning the wheel ever so slightly, by gradual degrees. Keep it smooth and slow. Feel the kart begin to increase its cornering load. Picture the chassis bending flexibly in front, as described earlier.
At this point you will have turned the kart sufficiently for it to make the turn. You want to hold the wheel where it is until you pass the apex of the bend. At this point, the kart is loaded just like a spring. Hold on to what you’ve got or all will be lost – don’t bin it.
Once beyond the apex you can begin to smoothly uncoil the spring-like kart. Slowly and smoothly straighten the wheel. As you do this, you will begin to feel the grip increase. With the inside rear wheel completely meeting the road surface this is the point at which you can accelerate quickly.
The key is to visualise the kart as a spring, which is either coiled tight or unwound according to the action you are putting it through. As you become more practiced, you’ll feel the kart intuitively, realising that, with cornering, less steering is more speed.