7 mistakes that all novice karters make
© Red Bull Content Pool
Learning the ropes in karting? Let us guide you through the most common pitfalls so that you can nail those lap times.
There are few sports as thrilling as karting. It’s fun whether you’ve been once, or hundreds of times, and part of the thrill is being allowed and encouraged to go as fast as you can – something that's very rare these days!
Driving a kart, however, is very different to driving your everyday car, and there are some common mistakes which will hinder your speed. Avoid these traps and you’ll be sure to beat your friends – or even create a solid base on which to build your motor racing career.
1. Moving your hands on the wheel
Unlike in a car, karts have very sensitive steering, so keep your hands at the ‘quarter to three’ position at all times and don’t let go. Not only will this give you more precise control over the kart, but you‘ll be able to react to slides much faster.
2. Braking too softly
Kart brakes act on the rear wheels only, meaning braking like you do in a road car simply won’t work. The best way to brake in a kart is the opposite to on the road: you should hit the brakes hard initially so they almost lock, then as you get closer to the apex of corner, gradually and smoothly release them. For more advanced drivers, try researching ‘trail braking’ to help you find those last few tenths.
3. Turning in too early
One common thing you often see from both novices and more experienced drivers is turning into corners too early. If you find yourself sliding wide on a corner exit, or you think you are losing speed out of the corners, try slowing the kart down a bit more before you turn and aim for a later apex. If you get the entry right, you should be able to accelerate at the apex of the corner without running wide at the exit.
4. Not using all the track
The track is defined by the white lines and kerbs. You are allowed to use as much of the road as you like, so utilise every centimetre to go faster. The wider you can make each corner by being at the circuit’s edge on entry and exit, and getting right on the apex, the easier it will be to carry more speed.
5. Steering too aggressively
In a kart, precision is the key to being fast, and being smooth makes this much easier. A lot of inexperienced drivers will turn the steering wheel sharply, causing the front to slide – this is known as understeer, and the kart will feel as if it wants to go in a straight line. When turning a kart, apply the steering smoothly and gradually so you don’t surprise it. Imagine there is a cup of water in the kart that you don’t want to spill. See how smoothly Jenson Button turns into the corners in the GIF below? That’s what you’re aiming for!
6. Not looking far enough ahead
Getting in a kart for the first time can be a sensory overload. Karts are extremely low to the ground, making everything feel twice as fast, but often people compound this by looking only a few metres in front of the kart. Looking further ahead will make everything feel like it’s happening slower, because your brain has more time to process what’s about to happen. As a rule, you should always look one stage ahead of where you are. So when braking, you should be looking at the apex, at the apex you should be looking at the exit, and at the exit you should be spotting the next corner. It seems small but it makes a massive difference.
7. Trying to get out the way
A kart circuit is an intimidating place for new drivers, and this is made worse by experienced drivers flying past you at what seem like impossibly high speeds. Firstly, remember that they’ve been doing it a lot longer than you, and there’s no reason why one day you can’t be just as good, if not better than them with practice. Until then, just ignore faster karts passing you. It’s far safer to concentrate on your own driving and let them find their own way past. You will be much more predictable and easier to pass if you are doing your own thing. Moreover, you will then be able to work out where you are losing time to the faster drivers and improve your own driving quicker.
So remember these tips if you want to be quick on the kart track…
- Keep your hands in the 'quarter-to-three' position, and don't let go of the wheel
- Brake hard, to the point where the wheels are almost on the point of locking, then smoothly release them
- Don't turn in too early
- Use every centimetre of the track available to you
- Steer smoothly
- Look one stage ahead of you at all times – so if you're at the apex of the corner, you should be looking at the exit
- Don't worry about faster drivers coming up behind you – stick to your line, and try and see where and why they're faster than you
In our opinion, karting is one of the best and most exhilarating things you can do, and that excitement and anticipation is what makes people come back for more. Just remember, being a quick driver comes from driving better, not driving harder, so try to contain your excitement when you get on circuit and build your speed up gradually. Most of all, enjoy it. Not everyone will be an F1 champion, so having fun is far more important than being the best.