Racing has a formula and that is, “fast”. It’s about finding the fastest way around a given racetrack, and to do that you need to figure out just how fast you can go around a corner, which involves sacrificing as little grip as possible, ideally none at all. Ultimately it’s an intuitive activity, as you must feel the car’s behavior when it comes to suspension, tires, brakes, and power delivery, and you must put it all together through a complex balancing act. If you get it wrong, you could lose massive amounts of time, or worse, go off track into a barrier.
This racing formula is broad, which makes it malleable. In car racing, for instance, Formula 1, the formula can be broken down into a fast approach to a corner, light braking, accelerate through the corner, straighten out and hard accelerate as you exit. Through the corner a number of things can happen if you do something wrong, like giving too much throttle through a corner will cause the car to spin out. You must feel for where the grip is on the track.
Go-karting takes the formula to a different level. Cars have gears, so you can pretty much slow down as much as you want and simply downshift to get all that lost power back. However traditional karts don’t have gears, they have a tiny motor that takes a long time to reach its top speed, and when it does you don’t want to give it up or else you’ll never get it back. So what’s the solution? Stay to the formula, which again, is “fast”, and fundamentally in karting, that means don’t use the brakes.
In karting, you need to keep your speed up as much as possible, and to do that you need to take a different racing line. F1 cars turn on a dime, so the tightest line you can take is going to be the fastest. Since in karting you can’t afford to brake, taking a wider line is best. This is transferable to cars as well, as you’ll see some professional single-seater racing drivers will use their karting experience during wet races.
Similarly to karting, in a wet-weather race using the brakes as little as possible will get you faster lap times. You’ll see drivers taking a slightly wider racing line through a corner in the wet simply because it’s faster, not to mention karts have a similar layout and weight distribution to single seat racing cars.
Go-karting is aimed at kids traditionally, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t learn from it as well. Go-karting teaches not only race craft, but in high-speed situations, it teaches how to brake properly while managing acceleration and steering. Through some osmosis, this improves reflexes as well.
Time spent in go-karts is time spent on becoming a better driver overall. Kart racing lends itself to high-pressure situations where split-second decisions are needed and learning how to manage a car while under that stress is paramount to becoming a safer and more skilled driver on public roads. The benefit of learning better driving habits via karting is it doesn’t involve the dangers of the road.
Karting is also a good way to get a feel for a car. Becoming a zombie on the road and not instinctively paying attention to how your car feels and behaves can be dangerous. Through Karting you can gain a better understanding of how it all comes together, and you can feel how your road car is behaving with more precision. Eventually pointing things out like brake fade, blown suspension, or bad tires will become second nature.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.