In racing, going fast is everything. However, stepping on the accelerator is not the only way to go fast. Ironically, learning how to slow yourself down is also a skill needed in order to go faster. This concept is known as braking and is what separates good drivers from great ones. Being able to brake well can shave time off your laps as this can determine how quickly you enter and exit a corner. Furthermore, the speed you carry is also a factor when it comes to quick lap times. There are many ways to go about slowing your go-kart down, but these 2 braking techniques (depending on multiple factors such as circuit and the go-kart being used) are the best ways to do it.
- Mini Lock Braking Technique
The mini lock technique, also known as the on and off technique, involves the driver doing all the braking while he/she is straight. The braking will continue until the driver feels that the tires are about the lock. From there, the driver is then coasting/lifting while turning the corner, and it is expected that no pressure is applied to the brakes. In other words, the momentum of the go-kart is what will carry it through the corner.
This technique has its advantages. It is beginner friendly as the process in which to execute this braking technique is straightforward and simple. Furthermore, this method is not physically demanding compared to the trail braking technique because less power is required to perform this technique. However, this technique limits the driver in how much speed they can carry into the corner. By coasting into the corner, this means that the speed of the go-kart goes down at a drastic rate compared to trail braking, which can affect your exit. Another point of concern is if the driver does not know when to let off the brakes. Not having this crucial skill means that a driver may fully lock the tires and spin out. However, this skill can easily be learnt through constant practice and seat time.
For certain go-karts, such as rental karts, electric go-karts, and any kart that does not have a lot of power, this is the best method to use for these types of karts. Because of the fact that these karts do not have a lot of power, not a lot of brake pressure is needed to be applied in order for the go-kart to slow down.
- Trail Braking Technique
Also known as a more advanced braking technique compared to the mini lock technique, trail braking is the technique that most professional drivers use. The term trail braking is a term you’ve most likely heard in any form of motorsport. From go-karts all the way to Formula 1, drivers praise this braking technique as one that can make you quicker when done correctly. Trail braking involves braking in a straight line, just like the mini lock technique mentioned earlier. However, the big difference is the fact that the driver is still braking when turning the corner. In this part, the driver gradually releases the brakes and eventually steps on the throttle.
Just like the mini lock technique, this technique has its advantages and disadvantages. For starters, trail braking helps the driver carry more speed in the corner, thus exiting the corner much faster. This also means that the driver can brake later because a ton of speed can still be carried into the corner. However, this technique is by no means easy to perform. Failure to do this technique properly can see the driver undershoot (brake too early for the corner) or overshoot (brake too late and completely miss the corner) the corner which he/she is about to face. Furthermore, not applying enough pressure while turning the corner can cause the driver to go wide by carrying too much speed, or not maximizing the track because not enough speed was carried through the corner.
For go-karts with a lot of power such as 2 stroke karts and shifter karts, trail braking is your best bet as the increase of power means that more braking is required. By still applying pressure onto the brakes while turning the corner, you spend less time in the corner and thus making your lap times quicker.
So, these are the two best braking techniques to use the next time you are on track. We dive deeper into these braking techniques in our Champions Program where we show drivers in what conditions to perform both braking styles.
However, how you feel when driving the go-kart and how much impact it has on your speed and pace is ultimately what matters at the end of the day. So, try both techniques and use the one that suits you best.