9 Essential Tips on Go-Kart Overtaking
Go-kart racing is an extremely fun motorsport that has you weaving in and out of chicanes, accelerating through straights, overtaking other go-karts and defending your position against the competition. The only greater feeling of finishing a race is finishing it in first place. As go-karting is a highly competitive motorsport, it’s only natural to strive for first place and being the fastest on the track.
One of the most important skills that you can pick up to help you win races is mastering the art of overtaking. While passing other go-karts often looks easy when done by professionals, trust me when I say that it takes a lot of practice. Even after having raced for more than a decade, I learn more with every race that I participate in.
While there are some general approaches to overtaking go-karts, I’ve been developing some of my own techniques that I would like to share with you in this article. There are a lot of things that may seem counterintuitive, such as breaking late, accelerating faster out of corners, focusing on the gap between your opponents and not the opponent’s kart, overtaking from the outside, and various other strategies. I’m going to share all my strategies with you and to summarize; here is a list of the best 9 tips on overtaking other go-karts:
9 Best Go-Kart Overtaking Tips
1. Know When to Overtake
Things to Remember:
Differentiating between knowing when to overtake and when not to overtake can make a big difference. It can save you a lot of crucial lap time and enable you to finish in a higher position. The first thing you need to train yourself in, is to identify when the right opportunities open for overtaking. When you trail the go-kart ahead of you, don’t automatically try to overtake him immediately.
Although it may sound intuitive to always try and overtake the person ahead of you the moment you close the distance, failed attempts can actually put you further behind and cause him or her to drive more defensively. There are certain areas and conditions on the track where you should generally look for good overtaking opportunities. Let’s take a closer look at them.
During the start of the race is actually the best opportunity to overtake others. This is because everyone is clustered together and with a great race start, you’re able to jump a few positions. You only get one shot at this.
Corners, such as hairpins and chicanes often present a good over-taking opportunity as well, as racers often brake and accelerate inefficiently. Take note if they brake too early and use this opportunity to pass them. Also take note of their braking strength and when they accelerate. If they accelerate with delay, it’s a good time to try and pass them.
Straight sections also present a great overtaking opportunity, immediately after you come out of a chicane or a hairpin. If you decide to go for it, use the slipstream efficiently to ensure that you make a clean pass.
2. Accelerate Faster out of Corners
Things to Remember:
Another important tip that you should consider is trying to accelerate faster out of corners than your opponents. The reason why this trick usually works is because most kart racers tend to accelerate only after the bend, when their kart aligns with the straight section.
This is quite a common habit for novice racers. This means that a window of opportunity opens for you while cornering. You can choose to pass either on the outside or inside, but make sure that you start accelerating when right after you have coasted past the apex. Many racers accelerate too late.
Once your kart passes the apex, focus on increasing your exit velocity while choosing to pass your opponent on the outside or inside. Be mindful to accelerate fast enough to pass, but not too fast so that your go-kart starts drifting.
Not every corner may present you with an overtaking opportunity, but try to spot if the go-kart in front of you accelerates out of a corner inefficiently. Once you see the window opening, go for it!
3. Brake Late Into Corners
Things to Remember:
If you pay close attention to novice kart drivers, you’ll see that they have a particular habit when they start approaching a corner. They tend to break way too early. The problem with breaking early heading into corners is that you lose a lot of the momentum and speed that you have earlier built up.
Instead, what you should do is try to brake late. Of course, it’s never a good idea to brake too late, because that can easily cause you to overshoot the corner. It can also resort to you having to jam the brakes, which will lead to drifting and potentially spinning. Both of these are actually worse than braking early.
When you are already trailing the go-kart ahead of you, pay close attention when you head into the corner. Take note of their braking patterns. If you spot them braking too early, take this opportunity and either brake slower or keep your pace. As this presents an overtaking opportunity, it’s almost always recommended to pass the kart from the inside, as it’s the shortest way of overtaking. Additionally, the opponent kart will be forced to take a longer way around you, as you force a gap.
It’s not entirely uncommon to overtake from the outside, but it presents a much harder challenge as you have a longer way around, and the kart can force a gap on you. Get a good feeling of when to take the inside or the outside approach.
4. Use the Slipstream Efficiently
Things to Remember:
Do you ever wonder why Formula 1 cars race so closely behind each other and then manage to slingshot past the car ahead of them? This concept is also known as slipstreaming and it also applies to go-kart racing.
When you race on a track, your kart is met with a lot of wind resistance as you are traveling at high speeds. This causes your go-kart to experience drag, which slows you down. As the go-kart ahead of you speeds through the raceway, it creates a trailing vacuum behind them that has much less wind resistance.
Traveling within that drag vacuum enables you to travel faster than them. This strategy revolves around using the slipstream to your advantage. This works best in straight sections of a race track. Position yourself behind the kart in front of you and you’ll notice that you can close the gap fairly quickly. While you accelerate towards them, turn inward or outward and try to pass them with the extra speed you managed to build up in the slipstream.
Be mindful of upcoming hairpins and chicanes, as you do not want to overshoot them. Identify these straights and use the slipstream to your advantage.
5. Try to Dummy Overtake
Things to Remember:
Feigning or pretending to pull off a move can lead to certain actions from your opponents that you can take advantage of, in order to overtake them. You’ll notice this in almost any type of competitive sport. The intention is to throw your opponents off by disguising your next maneuver.
You can make use of this tactic when you are trailing your opponent and he or she drives very defensively. You can try to swiftly move your go-kart in either direction. Look out for their helmet movements. When you catch their head turning, there is a good chance that they spotted you and are going to counter your move by trying to block you off.
You’ll see that they will start moving their kart in the direction that you took, usually erratically. The moment you see them doing this, accelerate quickly and pass them on the opposite side. This will come as a complete surprise to them, and they will most likely not expect this. Make use of this tactic whenever you can. You can practically do this at any section of the race track. Just be mindful of sharp turns and other go-karts.
6. Approach From the Outside
Things to Remember:
It may seem counterintuitive to pass go-karts on the outside but make no mistake, as overtaking from the outside can be extremely advantageous. The general rule in overtaking is to use the shortest way around a go-kart, in order to cover ground faster and ultimately pass the opponent as soon as you can.
A lot of racers overlook the fact that overtaking from the outside can be used strategically to pass other go-karts. There are two scenarios that you should pay attention to that present a window of opportunity.
Consider this scenario. You turn into a corner and the go-kart ahead of you is hogging the inside of the lane. When you notice that they are braking early, you can use this opportunity and try to pass them from the outside.
Alternatively, you can use this strategy when there are turns in sequence of each other in opposite directions (S-shaped turns). For S-shaped turns, racers normally pick the inside on the first turn. If you occupy the outside lane on the first turn, you can easily transition your position to the inside on the second turn. This forces them to take the outside position on the second turn, heading into the next straight. Try to spot these opportunities and use these situations wisely.
7. Focus on the Gap Not the Kart
Things to Remember:
Another tactic that is often overlooked is focusing on the wrong things while trying to overtake. Novice racers tend to look at the go-kart right ahead of them rather than paying attention to the gap instead.
When overtaking, the opponent’s go-kart will rarely shift from the racing line. This means that you can expect the kart to be in close proximity to the racing line, as both of you should be. You should rather actively focus on the gap between you and the kart ahead of you.
The distance of the gap will indicate the actions that you should take. For instance, if the distance of the gap is relatively far, you should fall in line with the kart ahead of you and make use of the slipstream. You should also focus more on driving the ideal racing line until you are narrowing the gap. As the distance between you and the kart ahead narrows, you should start thinking of what type of overtaking move you’ll take.
Once the gap is really narrow, make your move with the techniques mentioned above and pass the go-kart ahead of you. As you’ve just read, the distance between you and the kart ahead guides your overtaking actions. Focus more on the gap but still take regular glances at the position of the go-kart ahead of you!
8. Master the Go-Kart Track
Things to Remember:
At this point you’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks that you can make use of in your next go-kart races. However, there are various initiatives that you can take before the race even starts. One of the most underlooked things that even professional racers don’t do enough is mastering the rack track before the race.
Race track details can easily be found at the venue. You should take this opportunity to learn more about the track details. Use this opportunity to simulate how you would approach each section. While you go through the layout, try to identify good overtaking opportunities. This will help you immensely, especially if your opponents have not done this yet.
In order to master the race track you have to practice. Practice makes perfect and when it comes to go-kart racing, there is no exception. Go for practice laps and try overtaking every now and then. Get a feel for the track and actively identify where good overtaking spots are. This will prepare you for your race day and make the actual task of overtaking much easier. Watching races during events from the stand also enables you to take notes of how and where others tend to overtake. Keep an open mind and try to absorb as much as you can.
9. Know the Limits of Your Go-Kart
Things to Remember:
How well do you know your go-kart? When you find yourself turning into a chicane and your opponent steps on the brakes early, are you able to assess if you can cut him on the inside and accelerate past him? If you can answer these questions in a split second during a race, you know the limits of your go-kart well. Unfortunately, the fact is that most of us have to go with our gut feeling.
While trusting your gut works at times, it’s always best to understand what you and your go-kart are capable of. That’s why practice makes perfect. Practice, practice and practice. The more races you have under your belt, the more experience you’re able to attain and with that experience comes understanding.
Try to gauge and ask yourself questions such as, can I clear this distance gap? Am I able to overtake them from the outside? How fast can I pass him on this straight? Questions like these get you to think and take action. Over time, you’ll be able to develop a solid racing instinct that is based on your experience. You’ll be able to pull off overtaking maneuvers with more confidence, which is extremely important. Missing overtaking opportunities and trying to overtake at the wrong times can lead to lap time loss or even collisions.
Mistakes to Avoid When Overtaking
These 9 tips and tricks of go-kart overtaking should prepare you well for your next race. Remember that practice makes perfect and that it’s totally fine to learn as you go. Some of these strategies may only apply in certain situations. However, it’s important that you acquaint yourself with the best knowledge and manage to identify opportunities over time.
While it’s great to focus on learning what’s right, it’s equally important to understand what to avoid. Go-kart racing is a game of split seconds and sometimes a simple mistake can cost you the entire race. Let’s take a look at the 4 most common mistakes to avoid when it comes to overtaking other go-karts.
1. Don't Forget About Go-Karts at Your Rear
Notice how you’ve been taught to focus on the kart in front of you? While you do want to spend most of your time focusing on the go-kart that you are overtaking, it’s important that you also keep a lookout of the go-kart at your rear. Failing to do so can lead to point deduction or even a race disqualification.
The more aggressive your moves are, the more you put yourself and others at risk. Try to always take a look at your rear before you are trying to overtake. On some occasions, other go-karts will try to pass you too, especially if you’re struggling to overtake the racer in front of you. Always be mindful of your surroundings.
2. Don't Drive Too Aggressively
It’s always good to push limits and to test how far you and your kart can go. Driving aggressively has its place in go-kart racing and you need to master both aggressive and defensive driving. However, you should also ensure not to drive overly aggressive. Not every time you close the distance between you and the go-kart in front of you translates into an overtaking opportunity. There are many factors in play and over time you will be able to identify the right windows of opportunity.
Driving too aggressively can put you and other go-kart racers at risk. Also, pay attention and respect the race marshals at the race track. At the end of the day, winning a race feels great, but you shouldn’t forget to enjoy yourself at the race track.
3. Don't Lose Your Focus
Overtaking is an essential part of your go-kart race. As there are many factors that come into play, you’ll be forced to focus on several things at a time. Try to practice by learning to prioritize your focus. Learn when to look at gaps, other go-karts, upcoming corners, race marshals, lap and position indicators and overtaking opportunities. Over time, you will get used to it and all these things will come naturally. Just keep practicing and never give up!
4. Don't Break the Rules
Play by the rule book and make no exceptions. There is no point in risking the entire race by taking shortcuts or driving in a manner that will lose you points, get you disqualified or potentially cause an accident. Rules are there for a reason and all rules are published before a race. Go through the league, track and race rules, in order to understand them. If you’re unsure, ask a race marshal. Drive aggressively, but also respectfully.
During a race, make sure that you respect the race marshals and their go-kart racing flags. These flags have different meanings and you should learn them before racing. Even if you disagree with their calls, respect the marshal and contest the decision after the race. Lastly, the most important point of all, always try to have fun. Good luck and enjoy your race!