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Defending in a go kart race

Let’s look at how to defend your position in a Go-kart race. We want to look at the strategies for maintaining your position, the techniques that you can use to your advantage, but also how to handle other aggressive opponents.

Now, the first topic we're going to be discussing is the strategies around maintaining your position. It's trying not to defend too early on in a race. Now we can get sucked into, we've just made up two or three spots, we're in a great position. We might be fourth or fifth, but the problem is if we start to over-defend, then suddenly, we're bringing in more drivers into our pack.

You might have a five or six kart length buffer over the karts around you, but as soon as you start to over-defend, that now brings in 2, 3, 4, 5 more drivers into your battle pack. So instead of having a head-to-head race with fourth and fifth, now you've brought in fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth into the play. What happens then is, there's a lot more opportunities for things to go wrong. When you're having to race one person. You only have to beat one person home, that's easy. But if you're having to beat six people home, it just brings in more opportunities for crashing, for you falling back to the back of that train of karts.

It's knowing who you're racing against. If you've raced against these drivers before, what are their tendencies? Do they want to actually help you out on the track? So, they work together, they push you so that you can catch the front pack. Are they a driver that just tends to want to overtake on every single corner? Do they have more straight-line speed or more out of the corners?

Then you can start to weigh up, well, look, I don't have to defend this part of the track because I'm always stronger than them on the straights. Or they've got so much speed through a particular corner, all right, maybe I'm going to protect that corner on this lap, and once I get through that one corner, I can then drive the rest of the racetrack my normal way to not lose much momentum.

Now, some of the problems we've got with our techniques are that when we defend, you want to go towards the inside of the racetrack. You want to try and minimize the opportunity for the person behind you to overtake. That doesn't mean going on the extreme white line. You want to protect the inside, so that a kart can't get up the inside of you. What we see is, the kart literally goes down to the inside white line, so they've protected the entry to the corner. But then with the limited grip that you have on that part of the racetrack, you tend to skid out wide and you get switched back and passed on the way out.

It's very, very hard to defend the entry and the exit to a corner. You're going to lose so much momentum, and although it can be done, it can't be done for multiple corners in a row. You're literally going to have no speed on that part of the racetrack. So, with our technique, we can only make one move. We don’t want to show our cards too early. If we drive straight to the inside, well then, we can't go back out into the braking zone or at an early part of the straight. We want to try and hold our position. If we need to look over our shoulder, to see the kart behind looking to make the inside pass, that's when you can start to close the door down to the inside.

Now, if they're already up alongside you, that's too late to defend. You've got to judge it so that you are blocking their path before they've got up alongside you. It's a key area where we see a lot of drivers just defending too soon, and they've made their attempt to get to the inside way too early so that the kart behind can either stay on your line and pressure you into braking too late and slipping out wide. Or they can then open up the corner and switch you back on the way out of the corners.

What’s the best way to approach an aggressive driver? If you're constantly being driven into, or you're crashed out by certain drivers, you need to try and hold your ground more than backing down. Now, when I say holding your ground, it's that you might notice that some drivers are always tapping you in the bumper into the braking zone, or they're always trying to bump you off the track. If you just let them do it, then they're going to get into your head and they're going to keep doing it.

So, when I say hold your ground, it's that, okay, now, if the roles were reversed, I might give you a couple of taps into the corner. Or I might squeeze you towards the edge of the track so that you're holding your ground, that if you're going to do this and you're going to play this way, I'll tend to play the same way. the same games.

We don't just smash into the side of other drivers. That's not what I'm saying. It's more that you've got to hold your ground and that we see that the fastest, the most accomplished race winners in Motorsport, whether it's Max Verstappen, he isn’t going to give in. He's going to put you into positions where he's going to win out 99% of the time. You see Shane van Gisbergen in Supercars, people might not necessarily love him, and some people absolutely do idolize him, but he's a hard racer. You don't see champions just giving in. You see them at least holding their ground or giving it back to their opponents so they know that they're held in high regard. They're well respected that if you're going to give it to me, I'm going to give it back to you.

Try to race respectfully, but just know that if you are getting hammered by drivers or one-off drivers, that you've got to try and hold your ground. It might mean that there's one or two races where you must give it back a little bit just so there's that common ground on, okay, let's neither of us play this way because no one's benefiting out of it at all.

There are some areas that can help you with defending in a Go-kart race. I hope these tips will help you with your kart racing at future race events. If you guys need to know more information about your kart racing, then be sure to check out our driving programs here. Whether you're just starting out in your go kart career or a seasoned go karter, we've got you covered.

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