Racing is equal parts guts, engineering, and preparation. For those of us who grew up loving racing, there’s no better feeling in the world than a good battle out on the race track. Position swapping, overtaking, and nailing each and every apex are just some of the makings of a perfect day at the track.
If you’re looking to get out there and want to start winning some races you may be asking yourself, what do you do and where do you start? Well, there are plenty of strategies and tips that you learn to help you improve your performance on the race track.
I’ve come up with a comprehensive list containing the best go-kart racing tips that will win you races. These tips have been compiled through my own knowledge and experience, as well as from other passionate and even professional racers from the karting community. Without further ado, let’s explore the strategies and racing tips to get you to the front of the pack!
1. Get Familiar With the Race Track
Familiarizing yourself with the race track is the first thing on this list because it is the most important part of properly preparing for a race! Understanding the layout is essential to knowing what the proper racing line should be (more on that below) and staying within track limits.
Most tracks have multiple configurations that are used throughout the course of a season and this can be confusing to racers who are in the heat of battle. Properly memorizing each turn of the circuit will allow you to easily anticipate the next corner and ensure you stay on the intended circuit.
You should also use this time when studying the track layout to look for potential overtaking opportunities, where to be more offensive or defensive and how to tackle certain areas of the track. If possible, further acquaint yourself with the track layout by racing on in a couple of times, prior to the actual race. This is often overlooked and can certainly give you an edge over the other racers.
2. Understand the Racing Format
Although there are several standard formats for race days, your league may run things a little bit differently. For example, many leagues adopt the racing format of two 10 lap heats followed by a 20 lap final race. Depending on your starting position, driving ability, and your kart’s individual build – you’ll need to ensure that your strategy is reflective of the number of laps remaining.
You don’t want to be caught flat-footed on your final lap because you think you have another lap to make some moves! Laps go by quickly, so it’s best to stay on your toes.
Apart from understanding the racing format, you should also be checking if you and your go-kart meet the go-kart class requirements. You can check these details with the event organizer or the official sanctioning body – CIK FIA for example.
3. Prepare Yourself Mentally
Another great go-kart racing tip is to practice calmness under pressure. It is what defines the greats of motorsport. Although you may not be going for a championship on the world stage, it’s crucial that you remain calm and focused while racing around the circuit. Knowing the race track well, including the optimum racing line, is like studying for your finals.
The same is also true for mental preparation. Knowing you’re prepared and keeping your wits about you will do wonders while on the track. Get plenty of sleep the night before your race, stay hydrated, and remember to continually breathe if you become stressed. In fact, the only thing stress will do is ensure that your race does not go well. Be confident, you’re prepared!
4. Use Proper Kart Racing Equipment
It’s crucial to use the proper equipment when kart racing. There are no two ways about it, from F1 down to karting, racing remains a dangerous pastime if you’re not well protected. Your racing gear is not only designed to aid in your protection but also enhance your driving abilities.
Gloves, for example, will protect you from road debris and dampen the vibrations on the steering wheel. Moreover, they also help you maintain a firm and comfortable grip on the wheel! Karting helmets on the other hand are perhaps the most important piece of safety equipment, as they protect your head. It’s also good to ensure that all your karting equipment meets required safety standards and homologation.
Here’s a list of safety equipment that you should consider for your next go-kart race:
5. Understand the Optimal Racing Line
The racing line is the path you follow around the circuit to maximize the effective usage of apexes and maximize braking/acceleration zones. The racing line is designed to enhance the natural physics of a kart that is accelerating, braking, and turning throughout the course of a circuit.
It also provides a defendable position where other drivers that are vying for your position can not impede upon your progress around the circuit. They’ll be forced to pass on the outside or inside of turns that are not optimized for these maneuvers. Along with getting familiar with a track, this is one of the most important things you will do and it forms the backbone of your racing strategies.
Every race track has an optimal racing line, depending on its layout. Therefore, study and race it so that you get familiar with the concept and how it applies to the respective track. This will also help you spot areas where you can defend your opposition or overtake other racers.
6. Learn the Art of Cornering
Although it may look amazing in videos or in off-road racing, drifting through a turn on a go-kart is a quick way to lose your race because it disregards the optimal racing line and it causes you to lose momentum. You’ll want to keep your movements steady and focused.
When cornering, you want to ensure that you have the most amount of grip possible to maximize traction. To help you further understand this, here are some tips to keep in mind when heading into corners on your next track day:
- Lean out of turns, not into them
- Brake early and let off the brake completely when you come to the turning point
- Gradually steer into the corner and avoid abrupt maneuvers
- Turn the steering slightly, slowly and smoothly
- Both hands should remain on the steering wheel while cornering
- Keep the wheel steady as you pass through the apex of the turn
Artfully cornering takes years to master but with these basics in mind, you can start building the foundation of your racing strategy and win some races. If you can shave time off your laps for a single corner, imagine the impact it can have on the entire race.
7. Learn How to Overtake Efficiently
Another important go-kart racing tip is mastering overtaking. Much like cornering, overtaking your opponents should be efficient, smooth and calculated. Aggressive maneuvers are not only dangerous to drivers but also rarely perform the intended goal of getting around your opponents.
I’ve created an entire article on overtaking which I will link to below. For now, here’s a quick list of the basics of efficiently overtaking your opponents:
- Know when to make your move
- Accelerate out of corners faster
- Break late
- Use the slipstream
- Choose a side
- Focus on the gap
- Know your limits
Take note that there are plenty of overtaking opportunities on each track. You should try to identify them early on and prepare as much as you can. For a more in-depth guide on overtaking visit the link below.
More Information: Go-Kart Overtaking Guide
8. Stay Properly Hydrated
This is perhaps one of the most underrated tips in all of racing! When on the race track, your body is under a lot of stress and therefore you’ll need to hydrate more.
If you’re not properly hydrated rolling into the race, this can make you feel anything from a sour stomach to getting a bad headache. Part of being healthy is ensuring that you’re properly hydrated for both your mental and physical well-being.
9. Position Your Seat Correctly
If you are not properly seated inside your kart, you will not be able to properly take corners and you may actually injure yourself as you’re sliding around. Prior to even getting near the race track, ensure that your seat in your go-kart is properly fitted for your height and your body type.
There should be a slight bend in your knees and a slight bend in your arms. With your back leaned and against the backrest of the seat you should be able to reach forward to grab the steering wheel without having to lean forward. If any of these things are off, you could be in for a world of hurt and a bad race.
Therefore, take the time to adjust your seat. If you’re an adult, chances are that you’ll only need to set your seat position once. However, youth racers who are still growing often forget to adjust their seating position as they grow taller over time.
10. Remain Calm and Collected
Another great go-kart racing tip is being calm in stressful situations. It’s what separates the greats from the rest of the pack. Even if the race is getting intense and even if there’s a lot on the line, it’s essential that you remain calm so that you can apply your preparation to the race.
Each race is a stressful environment that is often extremely competitive and tempers can easily flair. You’ll want to keep a cool head to avoid getting into altercations with your fellow competitors. At the end of the day, racers who can implement their strategies most effectively win races – you can only do this effectively if you’re focused and calm.
11. Avoid Collisions
This may seem like a no-brainer, but colliding with other drivers will undoubtedly add valuable seconds to your lap time, which can ultimately cost you the race. It’s also important to not crash into other drivers for your safety as well as theirs. Open-wheel racing vehicles like go-karts can also flip in certain scenarios, so be cautious.
Remember those tempers? Crashing into your competitors is a sure-fire way to boil tensions. You’ll most likely get flagged for it by a race marshal and could disqualify you from the race. Your best bet is to remain calm, keep in mind your preparation, and utilize your passing skills to get around other drivers. Race safely and spot for good overtaking opportunities.
12. Understand Where to Focus
While racing, you want to make sure that you keep your focus on the task at hand. You should always be anticipating the next corner, especially since you memorized the track, and you should be paying attention to your posture, braking, and accelerating out of the corners.
Retain your racing line, remain smooth, and focus on the task at hand. Do not get distracted by other drivers! When overtaking, don’t focus on the go-kart in front of you, instead focus on the gap so that you can time your overtaking maneuver.
13. Ensure Your Go-Kart is Well-Maintained
If you neglect a piece of equipment or a part, you can expect that your go-kart will not perform optimally during a race. In some cases it could even completely fail in the middle of the race. This is an extremely important task and it’s part of the overall preparation for a race. A properly maintained go-kart will always go the distance versus something that is neglected or improperly maintained.
Make yourself a list prior to heading out to the track to ensure that every maintenance item is properly covered and make sure that you have spares on hand in case things break between heats. There are certain parts you should check after every race, apart from your regular maintenance schedule. Here is a list of must-check parts before racing:
- Fuel and oil levels
- Air filter
14. Equip Appropriate Racing Tires
One of the most important things to consider when racing is the type of tire versus the type of condition that you’re facing. If you live in a climate where rain is a possibility on a regular basis, then you’ll want to make sure you have appropriate rain tires for your go-kart on hand for every single race.
You’re not going to get very far around a race track if the track is wet and you’re equipped with slicks – and also vice versa! Racing on slicks in wet conditions will not give you the amount of grip you need. Tires should also be in good condition and of good quality as well. They can truly make or break you in any race. It’s also good practice to take a full spare set of tires along with you when racing. This ensures that you always have a backup and can swap whenever required.
You may also want to check with the organizer if you’re allowed to use tire prep for the race. This could give you some much needed grip on the race track, but in turn requires you to prep your tires in advance.
More Information: How to Tire Prep for Go-Kart Racing
15. Upgrade and Tune Your Go-Kart
Here’s another important tip; give yourself an edge on the track by upgrading parts of your go-kart. There are plenty of things that you can consider upgrading on your go-kart. Whether it’s installing a higher performance engine or removing excess weight to make it lighter, make sure that you don’t break any rules and regulations.
Here’s a quick list of things you can do to boost the speed and handling of your kart:
- Upgrade your engine
- Tune your carburetor
- Consider forced induction
- Modify your gear ratios
- Lighten your go-kart
- Remove the speed governor
- Increase your rear tire size
- Add rubbing alcohol to the fuel
More Information: How to Make Your Go-Kart Faster
16. Practice Proper Steering Wheel Grip
The most common way to grip the steering wheel on a go-kart is at the ‘quarter to three position’. This means that your left hand assumes the 9 o’clock position on the steering wheel, whereas your right hand assumes the 3 o’clock position. While this is the most common practice it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for you and your style.
So long as the hand placement is natural, ergonomic and symmetrical, you’re good to go. Some people even prefer the 10 and 2 position, instead. However, you’ll want to make sure to follow-through with a comfortable grip during your race because it will assist your smooth driving through corners because you’ll be able to transfer power evenly with your hands in this position.
One common mistake that I see people do is let go of the steering wheel with one hand to readjust the grip during corners. Keep your hands firmly gripped and don’t let go. Your grip will also be tested during a race and you’ll want to make sure that your hands are up to the task by regularly doing grip strength exercises. This is a physical sport and you need to make sure you’re ready!
17. Respect the Track Marshals
You’ll want to make sure that you properly mind the track marshals while racing. If you continuously exceed track limits or are especially aggressive while driving, the track marshals can flag you and can actually end your race if they think you’re driving dangerously.
The marshals are there to keep order over a potentially chaotic situation and it’s best to keep this in mind while racing. It’s also important to understand what the varios go-kart racing flags mean and what you do once they are waved. Always respect the decision of the marshal and if you disagree, you can always contest their decision after the race.
18. Improve Your Reaction Time
One of the most crucial elements of racing is an extremely heightened sense of reaction time. Things on a track happen within fractions of a second and your ability to react during these situations can help you avoid an accident or potentially overtake somebody. It will also help you accelerate off the line when the green drops.
Reaction time, as with other cognitive skills can be improved through regular exercises. Take a look online to find tips and tricks for improving your reaction time on a daily basis. Trust me, you’ll need it out there on the track.
19. Master All Weather Conditions
We all wish that every racing day could be sunny and beautiful but the reality is that they are often cold, damp, or sometimes even a bit icy or snowy. This of course depends on where you live and what the racing conditions are like. If you can master racing in these weather situations and become an expert at racing in the rain, this will give you a major edge over your competitors who are not used to it.
For example, racing in wet weather conditions requires different kinds of preparations. You’ll need different types of tires, understand the optimal wet racing line and you’ll also need to get used to the lack of visibility. Your reaction times and technique will also be heightened in poor weather and can help you win go-kart races.
One way to master kart racing in wet weather conditions is to understand how racing under these circumstances is different. After you understand the fundamentals, it’s all about practice, practice and more practice.
20. Set Improvement Goals
In order to ensure that you get consistently better after each race, you’re going to need to set some reasonable and achievable goals for yourself. A key focus should be on making the goals achievable. Mentally, if you set goals that are not able to be attained, you could lose motivation. This could be as simple as moving up one place or shaving a few tenths of a second off your lap time.
The beauty is that over time, these seemingly small things really add up to make a difference in your skill levels. No one kart racer becomes great overnight – it’s all about the baby steps and ensuring that you can reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. Here are some example of goals that you can set for yourself for your next go-kart race:
- Achieve a new lap record
- Attempt to overtake at a particular corner
- Defend your position by braking late
- Win your next race
- Get first place in qualifiers
- Use the slipstream in a race
21. Have Fun
Having fun is probably the best go-kart racing tip there is! You’re out on a race track going wheel-to-wheel with your competitors because you love it. You should always remember that when you’re in the heat of battle. At the end of the day, this is all about having fun and living out your passion.
We all feel passionate and sometimes intensity can get the better of us but at the end of the day we’re just a bunch of people who are looking to have a good time. There’s no better way to have a great time than sharing experience, knowledge and memories with the karting community – whether it’s your local community or the karting community online.
You’ll make lifelong friends, build memories, and have a heck of a lot of fun along the way. Never forget to give back! Whatever your friends or even professionals teach you, pass that onto the next and build the best community you can!