If you want to get anywhere in go-karting, you’ll need to start considering how best you can move through the pack and snag those pole positions! As somebody who’s been racing go-karts for well over a decade, you can say that I’ve picked up on quite a few tips on how best to beat your competition.
So, what are the top tips on go-kart overtaking? Our 7 great tips on go-kart overtaking are:
- Keep It Smooth
- Know Your Overtaking Spots
- Use The Slipstream
- Always Look Ahead
- Take The Long Way Around
- Fake Them Out
- Brake Late (With Care)
You’ll probably find that other drivers have different golden rules or tips to follow, and that’s totally fine! The more you can learn from different sources, the better your driving will be overall. Without any further ado, let’s jump right in!
7 Great Tips On Go-Kart Overtaking
1. Keep It Smooth
This tip actually relates to overall driver ability and you can use it for fast lap times; not just for overtaking your rivals on the track! When you’re approaching corners on the circuit, a lot of people try to keep their foot flat on the gas and this can result in them having to brake more than required or even spinning if there isn’t the needed grip.
Rather than rushing into every corner at break-neck speeds, try to consider your exit and the golden rule of go-karts preferring straight lines. If you keep things smooth and controlled, you’ll have a far easier time to get past people in corners who are otherwise struggling with going too deep or too slowly after over-braking.
The biggest part of this tip specifically is powering your kart through the corner in a smooth, controlled way and gradually reducing your steering wheel lock. A lot of people will panic when driving through corners and barely put any power into it, or they’ll be too zealous and apply too much. That’ll be your chance to catch them unaware and cruise past!
2. Know Your Overtaking Spots
The biggest thing that I can never stress enough is this: overtaking should only be done when it’s safe. Think of it in the same way as overtaking on freeways in your road cars or motorcycles.
Don’t ever try to make an overtake if there isn’t enough space (remember that the backs of go-karts are wider than the fronts), and definitely don’t try it if you’ll put another driver in danger!
Generally speaking, the best places to overtake your competitors are on the corners/bends of go-kart tracks. This is primarily because these areas are considered to be some of the most difficult sectors to drive without losing time, so if you can balance your braking and throttling just right, you can get past people who’ve gotten a bad entry or exit.
You need to remember that every kart racing series is separated by engine types and driver weight, so the karts will all be as equal as possible without being exact replicas. The corners of a track are the only real place where driver skill can shine through and therefore, where overtaking can truly happen!
Some of the best places to overtake when karting are:
- Hairpin Corners: These tricky bends can often intimidate drivers into braking early and therefore losing too much speed to get a good exit. This mistake makes it easier for other drivers to react accordingly by braking later, making a pass on the inside or outside (wherever there’s room).
- Chicanes: If drivers aren’t familiar with how chicanes work and the fact that speed needs to be carried through these quick, light bends, they’ll likely brake far more than they need to. Carry some more speed into chicanes and brake later to get past drivers here with ease!
- Straights: Okay, okay!! I might have just said that the best places for overtaking is almost always on corners, but there’s an exception to that rule! It’s more difficult to overtake on straight portions of the track because it will rely on your driving ability to get a good exit from corners before you reach the long stretch. With a good exit, you can perform what’s called a slingshot overtake on a driver ahead of you; coupling that corner’s exit with the other driver’s slipstream for a speedy, clean pass.
3. Use The Slipstream
Now, if you’re a fan of motorsport or you’ve seen cyclists at the Olympics in teams, you’ll probably know about the concept of slipstreaming and aerodynamics. If not, let me give you a quick primer!
When a vehicle moves along, whether it be on a kart track or a road or even in a cycling arena, it’ll encounter wind resistance (also known as drag). This drag will slow the vehicle down, even if it’s travelling indoors or somewhere that wind wouldn’t normally be a factor.
While the vehicle is moving through the air, it creates a small vacuum behind it, known as a slipstream. Within this small area, vehicles behind the front-most driver will experience less drag, which basically means they’ll start travelling faster than the person breaking up the air in front.
With this phenomenon, it doesn’t matter if you hit outdoor or indoor kart tracks; the slipstream method of overtaking will work like a charm!
After catching up to the driver in front of you, ease off the gas and tuck in behind them. The lack of drag you’ll experience as the other driver punches through the air first will mean you’ll be keeping pace even without full power.
Then, when you’re coming up to a corner or essentially are about to lose benefits for the slipstream, punch the gas and pop out from behind the other driver. This will give you that extra burst of speed you need to get past them!
For as useful as this tip is and vital in races, make sure to be aware of what the other driver is doing. They might try to shake you out of the slipstream by weaving across the track, or if things get nasty, they could brake and potentially cause an accident if you’re right on their back bumper.
4. Always Looks Ahead
In go-karting overall, one of the biggest and best tips you can ever be given is to keep looking ahead on the track. Not only will you avoid drivers spinning out or otherwise going a bit crazy if they’re showing off, but you’ll always be ready for the next corner. And therefore, you’ll always be ready for the next overtaking opportunity…!
The racing line of go-kart tracks will always change wherever you go and whatever the weather may be, but it’ll always follow a slightly looping pattern.
If you’ve just taken a tight right-hander and there’s another of the same coming up, you don’t want to stay on the side closest to the apex. You’ll lose too much speed to your fellow racers by being on the dirty side of the track, and you’ll lose premium overtaking position on the inside line of the next corner!
When you get to the circuit, study a map with the racing line printed overtop of it and try to follow that to the letter. It’s a lot to think about on top of racing and trying to overtake people, sure, but remembering this info will definitely give you an edge where other drivers haven’t paid attention.
5. Take The Long Way Around
When you’re racing, you might think that taking an outside line to pass another driver is pretty counter-intuitive. After all, you’ve got to cover more ground than diving down the inside, right? In a lot of ways, that’s correct.
But, most go-kart tracks don’t feature corners that always go in the same direction (how boring would that be?), so sometimes, going around the outside of another driver will put you in a great position for the next corner. That, and it’s just an overall essential overtaking tip for when races are too close or messy for you to waste time being slowed too much.
To perform the perfect outside overtaking maneuver, stay close to the side of the kart you want to get past as it moves around the apex of a corner. If the gap is too big between you, you’ll risk colliding with them at the next corner!
Then, as both karts start to move towards the next corner, dab the gas pedal and try to out-brake your opponent. Don’t go too fast, else you’ll risk a collision or the other kart will be able to power out of the corner faster than you!
6. Fake Them Out
Dummy plays and moves are visible throughout the world of sport and motorsport, and go-karting is no exception to that rule. If you’re looking to overtake somebody, you’ll find that making a fake move can be used to your absolute advantage; especially if the other driver is savvy about driving.
They’ll move to cover the place you’re trying to make an overtake on, and that’ll leave space wide open on the other side. In short, a perfect fake-out!
To perform a successful dummy move on your opponent, make the person in front of you think that you’re making a move down either side by steering your kart accordingly. Then, quickly and confidently, snap the steering in the opposite direction and power past them!
Of course, you’ll have to watch to see if the other driver takes the bait, and this is easier to pull off if you have a slipstream on them for an extra jump ahead. If the other driver doesn’t move to block, don’t carry on with your overtake attempt; just wait for another opportunity. There’ll be plenty, so don’t worry about that!
7. Brake Late (With Care)
For all of the risks that come with braking late into a corner, such as locking your wheels or going into the back of a slower driver, it also comes with a whole host of benefits. Late braking is essentially a game of confidence between drivers, where the person who brakes last can potentially win out and gain places.
The most competent, experienced driver can often take the podium with this skill of finding the latest point of braking, but even amateurs can pick it up if they’re dedicated to late braking. It can also have you spin out of the race altogether, so let’s go over some pretty essential stuff to consider and remember:
- Too Late? If you’re basically on top of the corner you’re trying to take, congrats; you’ve definitely left it too late! You’ll run the risk of having to stamp hard on the brakes and turn simultaneously, which can put you into the safety barriers or all the way back in last place.
- Danger of Shunting: It’s basically pointless to try and out-brake a kart that’s travelling directly in front of you, because you’ll easily win the competition of chicken and promptly plow into the back of the driver in front. This can result in a racing penalty or even get you removed from the race.
The best place to perform a late-braking move is when you’re on the inside of a driver when taking a corner. Not only will this give you a better line of exit, but it’ll also allow you to perform a block pass maneuver on your opponent. By being on their inside, they won’t be able to steer any further and you’ll be cutting them off in an acceptable, racing fashion.
If you keep this list of tips, rules and general thoughts on overtaking bookmarked, I’m sure you’ll have them down pat after a few practices on the track! The skills and maneuvers required for overtaking are simply too important to pass up, even if you aren’t a serious kart driver.
Who can deny the instinct to out-race your friends? With all of that being said, make sure to get plenty of practice and you’ll be an overtaking pro in no time flat!