Cornering in a go-kart takes a lot of practice. 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, as following some basic kart racing cornering tips will help you go faster round the track.
Our 6 go-kart racing cornering tips are:
- Learn to pick braking points
- Take a wide corner entry
- Always look where you want to go
- Keep weight transfer in mind
- Be smooth on the throttle, hard on the brakes
- Practice, practice, practice
Below, I will go into more detail about each of these go-kart cornering tips so that you can become a faster racer on the track. I’ll also explain kart racing lines in detail, and talk about some beginner go-kart cornering mistakes to avoid.
6 Go-Kart Racing Cornering Tips
1. Learn To Pick Braking Points
The proper place to start braking and where best to enter the corner in your kart 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.
It Sets Up The Rest Of The Corner
The importance of braking at the right point isn’t simply a matter of shedding speed, as it is instead essential to remember that where you brake will set up the rest of the corner.
If you brake too soon before the corner, you will not have enough speed to carry you through and you will have to get back on the gas. This can disrupt the smoothness of motion you should be aiming for and it can unbalance the kart.
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.
2. Take A Wide Corner Entry
When entering a corner, you should always be on the far side of where the corner actually is (i.e. away from the apex), and you will steer towards the corner to hit the apex. This line will lessen the amount of steering angle you need and how much you need to slow down, effectively allowing you to corner faster. This is also how F1 drivers take corners, along with those in other branches of motorsport.
Once you hit the apex, 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 entry and exit, you should see a slightly curved line as opposed to something that sharply 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 corner you’re dealing with, as S-bends are often completed with higher speed and hairpins need a great reduction in power.
3. Always Look Where You Want To Go
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.
Look at where you want to go, not at 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.
You Need To Be Aware
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 as well. If you fixate on the corner’s apex, 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 useful in other ways too. You always need to be thinking of what is coming up next so you can best prepare!
4. Keep Weight Transfer In Mind
When cornering, you need to bear in mind some of the physics of driving. Understanding the basics of how cars and karts work is incredibly powerful for a driver.
You need to understand where the weight transfers when you accelerate, brake, and turn. It might not seem important at first, and you might just want to get in the seat and drive the kart as fast as you can. But over time you’ll be able to use the basics of driving physics without consciously thinking about them – and you’ll be faster as a result.
5. Be Smooth On The Throttle, Hard On The Brakes
The key to becoming faster through corners lies in a careful balance of three different things: braking, accelerating, and steering. If you manage to balance all of these elements carefully throughout the lap, you will be faster. The only problem is that it takes a lot of practice and experience to get it right.
For beginners, it’s sometimes best to avoid mixing their throttle, brake, and steering (that means no trail braking). Imagine these three elements as a triangle. You can only use one point of the triangle at a time. For example, if you’re on the throttle, you’re not braking or steering. If you’re braking, don’t try and turn the kart until your foot is off the pedal.
When braking, you want to slow the kart down as quickly as possible. That means hitting the brakes as hard as you can. There are two different braking techniques that drivers use (generally speaking). Both of them work, but the one you use depends on your driving style and the type of corner that you’re going into.
The first is to hit the brakes hard and then slowly bleed off the pedal. This will slow the kart down quickly, but as you bleed off the brakes it allows you to continue to carry speed into the corner. Alternatively, you can hit the brakes incredibly hard (nearly locking them) and get the back end to kick out before instantly releasing the brake. From there you steer and accelerate through the corner.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
Finally, it’s all about practice. Unfortunately, no one is born good at karting or driving in general. There are some people who pick it up much quicker than others, but most people need to spend a lot of time at the track driving hundreds of laps before they get really fast. After all, you can’t practice any of the tips given above without being in the seat and driving the kart.
The main problem with this is that even practice costs money in karting. You need to fuel the kart, keep it maintained, and pay for your time spent on track. If you don’t have the budget, your best bet is to either use rental karts or a racing sim at home. At the end of the day though, you’re going to need practice if you want to improve, there is no way around it.
Practicing your cornering is the only way to get better at it. It’s also the only way that you will become comfortable with your kart, get rid of any underlying fear, and eventually become a champion (or at least go faster than your friends!). Reading about the theory behind improving yourself as a driver is great, but you need to put it into action if you truly want to improve as a driver.
Next, let’s take a closer look at the racing line on a go-kart track and the different types of corners you might face.
Go-Kart Racing Line Basics
The racing line is the most efficient and fastest way to get around a track. It allows you to carry more speed through corners and ultimately achieve faster lap times. The racing line will vary from track to track, but there are some basic principles that you can apply to any circuit to understand where the racing line is. Understanding the basic racing lines of a track is the key to success in any motorsport.
In general, the racing line involves taking a wide entry to a corner, hitting the apex (part of the corner where you are closest to the inside edge of the track), and then drifting out to the outside of the track on exit. This allows you to carry more speed through the corner and minimize the distance you need to travel. Applying this approach to every corner is the fastest way around the track.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should always be looking ahead on the track. This will help you to plan your racing line through each corner and it helps you to anticipate any changes in the track surface or any other karts around you. For example, there might be some debris or a spun kart on the racing line, and looking ahead gives you enough time to react to this.
As you gain more experience with the racing line, you can start to experiment with different approaches to corners and adjust your line to suit your driving style. But for starters, try to focus on mastering the basics and trying to hit your braking, turning, and acceleration marks consistently. With practice, you’ll start to see improvements in your lap times and overall performance on the track.
These are tight, 180-degree corners that require you to brake hard and turn sharply (and use trail braking). Hairpins are all about slow speed and precision, and they can be a real challenge to get right. The key is to brake early and hard, and then release the brakes gradually as you turn in.
You want to carry as much speed as possible through the corner while ‘straightening’ the turn. By this I mean you want to essentially minimize the amount of steering you need to apply by entering wide and exiting wide. This allows you to carry more speed through the turn.
Sweepers are long, flowing corners that require you to carry a lot of speed through the turn. The key to getting these corners right is to enter the corner wide and then gradually cut back towards the apex. These corners often have a late apex as well. You want to be smooth with the steering and the throttle through the corner, and avoid any sudden movements that might upset the kart.
Chicanes are a series of quick left-right (or vice-versa) turns that require you to be agile and precise. They’re often used to break up long straights and provide a technical challenge for drivers. The key to a good chicane is to approach it with a lot of speed, and then use quick but smooth steering inputs to get through the turns.
These can be tricky, because sometimes it’s faster to attack the kerbs, while other times it’s best to avoid them.
Esses (named after the ‘S’ shape of the corner) are a series of fast and flowing turns that require you to be smooth and fast. They’re often used to create a flow on a track, and they can be a lot of fun to get through. The key here is to avoid any jerky movements (on the throttle, brakes, and steering) that might upset the kart. You want to be confident in your steering inputs and maintain a consistent line through the turns.
A 90-degree corner is a sharp corner with a right angle turn. These are usually the most frustrating corners for drivers because they break your flow and generally feel quite slow. You need to brake hard to slow the kart down, straighten the corner, and drift wide to get a good exit. To improve your pace, you either need to sacrifice your corner entry or corner exit by braking earlier or later.
These are corners where the track is banked throughout the turn (think of Zandvoort or NASCAR ovals). These corners can be a lot of fun because you can keep your speed up through these turns more so than on flat turns. This allows your kart to ‘slingshot’ out of the corner and down the straight. The key here is to enter the corner high and exit low.
Finally, you might also come across elevated corners in karting. These corners can come in the form of hairpins, 90-degree corners, and in some cases even chicanes. However, the twist is that they are either going uphill or downhill, which makes them challenging to navigate quickly. Going into an uphill corner you’ll carry less momentum, and going downhill you’ll carry more momentum.
Should You Lean Into Corners When Karting?
You should not lean into corners when karting. If you head down to your local race track to watch some of the rental karts, you’ll notice a lot of drivers leaning when they go around corners. This is something that beginner karting drivers often do, but there are several downsides to leaning in corners when karting.
First of all, there’s the risk of injury. Most people don’t lean on purpose during cornering, and it’s mostly because they aren’t used to the physical aspect of karting or have weak neck muscles. The G-force naturally pushes them to the side and they don’t have the core strength to keep their body upright through the corner.
Leaning through corners is not faster either. Ideally, you want your weight to remain centered on the kart (right in the middle of the seat) or if anything to the outside of the turn. Go-karts don’t have differentials, which means you need the inside tires to ‘lift’ for maximum rotation through the corner.
If you lean into the corner, such as leaning to the right in a right-hand turn, you’re putting more weight on the inside tires, not allowing for maximum rotation of the kart. This can lead to understeering through the corner. See the video below for an illustration of this in action.
Note that you ideally wouldn’t lean much either way in most corners, as keeping a fairly central position is often the most stable. As with everything in karting though, doing some testing with your specific kart and setup is the best way to find out what works for you!
4 Things To Avoid When Cornering In Go-Karting
We all know that you need to push hard if you want to improve your lap times, get pole position, or win a race. But there is such a thing as pushing too hard. When that happens, you start making mistakes, which gets you more frustrated, and before you know it you have the worst race weekend of your career. Sometimes slower is faster.
Oftentimes, drivers are simply trying too hard in pursuit of that ‘perfect’ lap or to nail a specific corner. That leads to making mistakes like braking too late, turning in too aggressively, or accelerating too hard.
If you find yourself struggling with a specific corner and you can’t understand why, try to slow things down. Go back to the basics, even if it means going slower through the corner to get your racing line right. You can also try following another driver to see what they’re doing differently to what you’re doing. Zooming out on the problem is often the best answer in this scenario.
Because you’re so close to the ground and you’re traveling really fast, you feel really close to the kerbs. Sometimes you even naturally gravitate to the kerbs and find yourself hitting each one at the entry, apex and exit of each corner.
Kerbs can be incredibly useful in karting, especially because karts are so small and riding the kerbs on the exit of the corner can be the fastest way around the track. But there are some instances where you don’t want to be hitting the kerbs. You might also want to consider toning down your aggression on the kerbs, especially on chicanes where drivers like to really attack the kerbs.
If you hit a kerb too hard you could lose control of the kart and spin out. Worse yet, you could also stress your kart’s chassis over time. I used to be very aggressive on kerbs, especially in chicanes where you could bounce right over them to make the chicane as straight as possible. But shortly after that my kart’s axle snapped in half! Lesson learned.
If the track is wet or slippery, you want to avoid kerbs at all costs. The paint on the kerbs becomes extra slippery and your wheels will just spin if you put a tire on the kerb in the rain. There are some drivers who can control their karts over wet kerbs, but if you’re a beginner, you definitely want to avoid them! I’ll talk more about how rain can affect cornering in a go-kart in the next section.
Cornering should be as smooth as possible in karting. The smoother the better, even if it feels slower than driving aggressively. Jerky steering inputs will make you slower and it could also upset the kart going into the corner. You need to make sure that your steering movements are relatively small and as smooth as possible.
Many new drivers put far too much steering angle in when driving a kart. If you watch Formula 1, or any other form of professional motorsport, you can see the driver turning the steering wheel smoothly and guiding the car to the apex of the corner. When they hit the apex, they unwind the steering smoothly again and accelerate out.
Karting is much the same, except the steering angle that you need is much smaller. In most corners you can hardly see the steering wheel turn in karting. That’s because the kart is gliding or ‘drifting’ through the corner rather than turning through it as a normal car would. Unless it’s a hairpin corner, the steering should be fairly straight while you’re cornering.
That doesn’t mean you’re not turning the kart, but the combination of hard braking and slight steering movement will allow the kart to smoothly sail through the corner without the need for too much steering input. Remember, karts don’t have power steering, so you shouldn’t be fighting the steering wheel!
Earlier we mentioned the basics of a racing line and why you need to use a wide line when entering corners. But it’s not always that simple. You need to make sure that you’re not making your line too wide when entering the corner. There are a couple of reasons for this, but ultimately, the entry line will be unique for each corner, so make sure to practice different lines.
First of all, if you’re moving too far to the outside of the track, you might put a wheel off the track. Whether there’s a kerb on the outside or a piece of grass, it’s going to unsettle the kart and launch you into an unexpected spin. Most drivers are already thinking about the apex, so when the back end suddenly kicks out, it comes as a big surprise.
In some corners, being on the furthest outside line of the circuit might not be the fastest possible line. There are some rare scenarios where you can get away with being more towards the center of the race track. If you can move more to the inside but still maximize your speed and stability through the corner, that is the fastest line you can take.
There are also some scenarios where moving to the outside of the circuit takes too much energy and flow out of the kart. If you’re just exiting a corner and there’s another sequence of corners right away, moving to the outside edge might make you slower, take life out of the tires, or upset the balance of the kart.
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, but it also changes braking and entry points if the track is appropriately soaked.
The grip you would normally have while the track is dry is lost when it rains, so you need to start braking for corners earlier than you normally would to properly reduce your speed and minimize the risk of 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 change them to avoid puddles. Often the rubber that’s been laid down on the racing line in the dry can become exceptionally slippery in the wet, meaning you might actually want to avoid the normal racing line. 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.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll also usually want to avoid the kerbs in the rain, as they can become incredibly slippery.
Changing Your Camber
Another aspect of cornering that can greatly affect your performance is the kart’s camber. This is simply changed by moving the kingpin 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.
Cornering in a racing go-kart is all about making smooth steering inputs and picking your entry and braking points effectively. When you consciously think of where you need to be braking and where your entry 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 raced on before!
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