Weight is extremely important in karting, which can leave heavier drivers wondering how to get the most out of their time on track without losing time to lighter competitors. That’s why we put together our list of some top karting tips for heavy drivers.
Our top 5 karting tips for heavy drivers are:
- Understand the handling
- Mitigate the bind
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Don’t slide
- Be mindful of your inputs
Below, we’ll go into more detail about each of these tips so that you can understand how to go faster out on track as a heavier kart driver.
5 Top Karting Tips For Heavy Drivers
1. Understand The Handling
To kick things off, I want to focus on one of the most prevalent things heavier drivers will encounter on a track where weight can make big differences. And that, as you can probably already tell, is all about how the kart handles.
Compared to smaller, lighter drivers, you will find that having more weight on your side greatly improves traction on the track. There are many reasons for this, but it ultimately boils down to having better contact with the asphalt beneath the wheels, which gives you more traction.
Wet Weather Racing
Having better traction will be a huge boon in rainy, slippery conditions where your kart will be struggling to find any traction at all. Extra weight compared to others racing around you will keep the kart on the track far better, making heavier drivers a force to be reckoned with in wet weather (provided you know how best to tackle those conditions).
On the flip side, having too much traction on hot asphalt in hotter weather can be a big detriment if you don’t manage your tires properly. Not only that, but it can make steering difficult if your kart is all-but stuck to the track!
When It Works Against You
This can lead to phenomena such as kart hopping where the vehicle will jump around corners, which can be dangerous and badly damage your rig.
Traction talk aside, you will also have a much more stable kart compared to lighter drivers. However, having a more stable center of gravity can be a detriment to your overall handling, as your inputs will be registered slower by comparison.
But these are all worst-case scenarios and simply things to keep in mind rather than lose sleep over. There are many ways to tweak a kart chassis to loosen it up and therefore lose some traction if you’re experiencing kart hopping as a heavy driver, along with methods to fine-tune your handling so that it’s just as responsive as a lightweight driver’s.
2. Mitigate The Bind
Another stumbling block that heavier drivers might encounter is a phenomenon called “the bind.” Every driver will experience this to some degree when they race indoor karts, but heavier drivers will suffer the most from it.
To keep things simple, the bind is especially common in indoor karting because these rigs possess a solid rear axle. This is due to indoor karts being generally more accessible and easier to drive than outdoor race karts, and they don’t need to be as flexible.
A Bit Of Flex Is Key
But racing go-karts need a lot of flex in their chassis overall to work efficiently. When cornering, your rear wheel closest to the apex will typically lift off the ground by some margin and this is what helps karts in outdoor races stay consistently fast. This happens due to the rear axle possessing some flex alongside the chassis itself.
When you have a rigid rear axle, most likely for safety reasons, this lifting action is negated. A lot of indoor karts compensate for this by having a more flexible front axle geometry, which allows the flex to a lesser extent, but it simply isn’t efficient for heavier drivers (especially in slower corners). And unfortunately, indoor kart tracks are riddled with slow, creeping corners.
Combatting The Bind
Because of this, you’ll lose more time when cornering on these sorts of tracks with indoor karts. The inside rear wheel not lifting enough or at all is what we call the bind, and it’s hard to counteract, but it can be done.
Under these conditions, you need to perfect what’s called a “snap-in” cornering technique, which employs a quicker, sharper turn on the steering wheel to carry as much of that flex through as you possibly can, turning your extra weight into an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
3. Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses
As a heavier driver, there are certain parts of a kart track that you’ll have an easier time conquering and there will be areas that you’ll struggle with. Make sure to commit these to memory and plan your strategy accordingly!
Gains In The Corners
On outdoor tracks, you’ll truly shine under braking and cornering. Your weight will carry through for extra momentum, which will allow you to undercut lighter drivers with ease! No matter the corner, always allow for proper braking room and then let your kart plus your body do the rest.
As you can probably guess, the other side of this coin is that you’ll struggle under raw acceleration compared to lighter drivers. Straights and fast parts of the track will be hard for you to stay competitive in, but don’t fret over it. Simply perfect your cornering and these portions of slower driving will hardly matter! Many drivers lose most time in the corners anyway, so that’s where you can make big gains.
4. Don’t Slide
This is a general warning as well as a big one for heavier drivers out there. No matter who you speak to, go-kart drivers will always tell you that sliding your kart, while cool, isn’t fast nor competitive. You want to avoid this at all costs, and as a heavier driver, accidental slides can really kill your momentum.
You’ll Slide Further
While your weight will be advantageous in corners and under braking, a slide is a loss of control and therefore traction. Your weight will carry you further than lighter drivers when they slide, and you’ll be helpless during the slide, while your lighter competitors regain control of their karts much sooner.
In order to avoid sliding, never brake too late going into a corner. Because you’re heavier than others around you, more braking will be required in order to properly slow your momentum from the straight that has led up to that corner. And never apply steering lock while braking! This is prime slide-inducing material.
5. Be Mindful Of Your Inputs
This is certainly another general comment about being purposeful in your inputs within go-karting, but it’s extra important for heavier drivers out there.
At its core, a racing go-kart is a pretty simple piece of kit. It’s a metal chassis made of tubing as part of its suspension, four wheels, an engine, some brakes, and a steering wheel. Every part of it is supposed to be lightweight and stripped-back for the ultimate racing feel. This means they’re not that forgiving when you make erroneous inputs.
As a lightweight kart driver, this can severely hurt your race if you steer while braking simultaneously, or press both the gas and brake pedal at the same time carelessly, but it won’t completely ruin your chances. You have long stints of straight track and high-speed corners to make up for it.
Heavier Drivers Are More Vulnerable
But as a heavy kart driver, these kinds of mistakes and mixed inputs can land you in last place without a chance of climbing your way up the pack unless the others are really suffering in the corners.
As a result of being heavier and how this can make it harder to accelerate quickly, falling behind due to poor or sloppy inputs, whether it be steering, braking or even leaning into directions, is far more detrimental and difficult to recover from.
Given how important weight is in karting, it can be daunting for heavier drivers that feel they’re at a disadvantage over their lighter competitors. However, understanding how your kart handles and the various things to avoid as a driver will help you keep up with them!