It doesn’t matter whether you turn up at a karting track every so often with friends, or find yourself at tracks every weekend for races; the following cornering tips and tricks will be applicable for everybody who loves to drive a go-kart.
3 key go-kart cornering tips are:
- Understand your braking and corner entry points
- Have smooth and controlled steering input
- Always look at where you want to go
Provided you remember to steer your kart smoothly as the most important piece of background knowledge I can offer, it’s time to delve into more cornering specifics! Read on for things that I learnt through hard practice, and putting these tips into action will vastly improve your drive!
Go-Kart Cornering – Braking & Entry Point
All puns aside, the proper place to start braking and where best to enter the corner are the most important things to know when you’re approaching it. Now, both of these points will differ depending on the track, but there are a few things to remember as a general rule that you can practice until it becomes second nature.
To ensure that you get a good idea of this before a race or anything of the sort, make the most of some preliminary laps around the circuit so you can experiment and find some visible markers you can use as prompts for when to brake specifically.
The importance of braking at the right point isn’t simply a matter of shedding speed, and it is instead essential to remember that where you brake will set up the rest of the corner; similar to where you pick your line of entry.
If you brake too soon before the corner, you will not have enough speed to carry you through and will have to get back on the gas; something which disrupts the essential smoothness of motion you should be aiming for.
And if you brake too late, you’ll have far too much speed which will likely carry you past the corner’s apex and lead to a spin and otherwise loss of control.
Both of these extremes will also make it difficult for you to remain on the correct racing line, resulting in even more lost speed. Your entry point is essential to ensure that you won’t pick up excess debris from the dirty parts of the track, and it will lessen the drag on your kart by keeping it as smooth and in a straight line as possible.
When entering a corner, you should always be on the far side of where the corner actually is, and you will steer towards that corner to hit the apex. This line will lessen the amount of cornering you actually perform.
Once the corner is completed, you should always gradually release the steering on the kart and allow it to drift back out to the far side of the track. This way, if you were to trace a line on the corner including exit and entry, you should see a slightly curved line as opposed to something which follows the bend all the way around.
If you’re driving a shifter kart then you have an extra piece of the puzzle to worry about when approaching the corner, and that involves which gear you should take to perform the corner.
This will depend on the type of bend you’re dealing with, as track portions like S-bends are often completed with higher speed and hairpins need a great reduction in power. Typically, you always want a low gear; to the point that you can hear the RPM revving a great deal when you start to accelerate in the exit.
This lower gear has better torque and will have you gaining speed far quicker than higher gears. 2nd or 1st gear for hairpin-like corners will be a pretty safe bet.
In The Corner: Looking To Exit
Just like you need to be looking and planning ahead for the best way to enter a corner, you always need to be looking ahead upon taking the corner itself. You shouldn’t ever really look at the corner’s apex after you’ve taken the line of entry and should instead be looking beyond that, to where you’ll be exiting across the track.
This follows a similar rule as whenever you’re driving a road car, in which you always need to be looking ahead for hazards and otherwise to make sure you don’t steer too sharply into other vehicles or pedestrians.
Look at where you want to go, not what you want to avoid! Your eyes are powerful tools that will influence your body into tunnel-vision, so you have to make a conscious effort to keep looking ahead even when taking a tricky corner.
This is not only an essential point to keep a smooth, consistent drive, but it will train you to be aware of other drivers on the track, too. If you fixate on the corner’s apex, you’ll not only start driving towards it, but you’ll likely be unaware of other people in karts around you taking the same corner.
Watching the lines and techniques of other drivers is also a vital part of learning, so looking ahead can be taken into kart racing as a whole. You always need to be thinking of what is coming up next so you can best prepare!
How The Conditions Affect Go-Kart Cornering
When karting outdoors, you always have to be aware of the elements as being something to contend with. Driving a go-kart in the rain can be miserable if you don’t have the proper waterproofed gear, and it changes braking and entry points to boot if the track is appropriately soaked.
The grip you would normally have while the track was dry is lost when water is introduced to the top of it, so you need to start braking for corners earlier than you normally would to properly reduce speed and allow for any aquaplaning that may happen if there is standing water around.
Your entry line and racing lines are still important, but you might have to avoid puddles and the like. Going off this line isn’t something drastic as sometimes, the dirty parts of the track have more traction than the slick, smooth racing lines. This won’t always be the case, but I’ve been in many a water-logged race where the racing line was more treacherous than anywhere else.
Another aspect of cornering which can greatly affect your performance is the kart’s camber. This is simply changed by moving the king pin bolt or stub axle inward or outward, and this small adjustment will create negative or positive camber.
Shifting the bolt inward makes negative camber and this helps with achieving better straight-line speed due to the reduced roll resistance, but it can compromise your ability to corner as reactively as positive camber allows you to.
Moving the bolt outwards creates more tire patch on the track, leading to better grip albeit wearing tires out a little quicker and in some cases reducing your top speeds. Each camber alignment has its benefits and will differ dependent on the chassis type, but it’s recommended to keep a neutral camber for the best all-round performance of your kart.
If you arrive at the track when it’s pouring rain, however, a positive camber will help with keeping the rig grounded when taking corners.
Most of these tips and varied ways to make cornering easier (and at a standard for more competitive edge) simply comes down to practice.
When you consciously think of where you need to be braking and where your entrance point is going to be, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll start do this instinctively even if you go to a track you’ve never seen before.
Combining all of these thoughts together when you jump into a kart is sure to improve your cornering ability, and soon, you’ll be losing less and less time even on those tricky hairpins!