Kart racing is all about finding the smallest of margins in lap times, but sometimes that is hard to achieve as we might be driving over the minimum weight limit. In this blog, we're going to be discussing how to make your go-kart lighter.
So, this might come into effect after the Christmas holidays, or you've had a weekend away and you've sort of let yourself go a bit. But in all seriousness, there's some class weights that are touch and go for a lot of drivers, and some classes have a heavier category, but there might just be too much lead ballast to add to go into that class. I want to try and give you guys some ideas on how you can lighten your go-kart at a relatively low cost, hopefully, that can keep you in a particular class that you might want to stay in for longer.
Now the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to lightening up the go-kart is, we want to investigate lightweight batteries. Most classes these days have a battery, and we can look to use a lithium battery instead. A normal battery might weigh say two kilos, and then you get these lithium batteries that might weigh like 200 grams and that's probably the easiest way that you can save 1.8 kilos on your kart.
When looking at our classes and weights, I would say that if you are 10 kilos over in a category, it's probably worth about 0.4 of a second, maybe 0.5. So if you want to break that down, two kilos might be worth one 10th of a second. Now we think about how much money people are spending to try and find that one 10th of a second. It could just be sitting in the weight of their battery. So that's probably the first thing I'd say when you're looking to try and lighten up your go-kart.
The second way that we want to try and lighten up our go-kart, not all go-karts have a third bearing in their karts. If we think towards our cadet karts, they don't have a third bearing fitted into the chassis, but for our senior karts where the third bearing is present, most classes and most karts don't use the third bearing. They normally try and detach those bolts that lock it in and they just cable tie it, so it flexes, and it floats around. Now if we are not utilizing the third bearing and we are looking to save some weight, this is a really good way to try and remove it from the chassis. So you will have to remove the axle and then you can take out the third bearing and obviously refit your axle through the other two bearings. This is going to save you probably anywhere from 500 grams to maybe 750 grams, maybe a kilo depending on the material and the chassis that the third bearings are made from. But that's another good way to try and save some weight.
Some other instances that I've had to try and stay in a lighter weight category rather than moving up to a heavyweight category have been to change the nuts and bolts. Again, you can start to look to use a titanium nut and bolt and when you sort of add up, there are a lot of nuts and bolts on a kart. You're looking at the crash bar, the floor tray, the side pod bolts. Now when you add those up, you can probably save, again, we're only talking a few hundred grams here, so we're not saving a lot. But again, when I was trying to find that last little bit in our package, because we're trying to win Australian titles or state championships, we don't want to be giving these other competitors around us any advantage because we're racing against top line guys with good equipment. We're trying to look for hundredths of a second and that came down to just literally putting titanium nuts and bolts in to try and save weight.
Another thing that we had to do in some heat races, which again, I probably don't want to recommend, especially not nowadays that we use the data analysis so much, but it's removing our data logger. So back then we were using a slightly heavier Alfano logging system and we'd qualify with the data logger on our steering wheel and then during the heat races, depending on how we're going leading into the final, we literally just remove it. You can save a little bit of weight there as well. Nowadays, we want to probably try and utilize that data, especially in a team environment. When you're comparing your data with other teammates, I'm not sure it's worthwhile removing it to save that kilo, rather than concentrating on your driving, the engine tune, the sprocket and so on. You could probably gain more out of that.
Another way we can try and remove weight is what we are wearing. So do you have to wear a rib protector? If you do, use one. Can you qualify not using one and save some weight there? Can you change the material of your race suit because there's lighter race suits and there's heavier race suits, so try to look at things like that. Your helmet, there's probably half a kilo in certain helmet brands that you can try and save some weight from.
Again, we might be sort of taking comfort out of it and saying, you know what, if I drive 20 laps in a race without a rib protector from what I'm going to gain in that couple hundred grands, it's not worth it because the pain and the physicality is not actually worthwhile me saving that for my driving ability. I'm going to have to be sucking in my airways every single corner to try and breathe in so it's not actually absorbing the impact as much. That's not worth it, but just try and look at what you can try and utilize to lighten up your own race gear, as well.
We can change our side pod bars and some of these to titanium parts. So, I've seen a couple of drivers in the USA who are over the weight limit change their side pod bars, their front crash bar and where the nassa panel upright goes. So, from basically where this steering column goes to the nassa panel, we've changed that material, as well. I had to utilize that in America a couple of years ago, as well, so you can do that.
One thing that I did try that worked a couple of times and then it just turned to badly, was that we changed the material of the brake disc. It got into the hotter conditions, and it must have just overheated so much that when you put the brake pedal down, the brakes weren't really working. So, we're like, "All right, I'm having to slow down a lot earlier because the kart's not really slowing down for me.” So it actually is now costing us time. So the weight that we've gained from a previous race where it worked perfectly, now we're actually having a detriment. It's not actually helping us at all, so we had to change the brake disc back.
The other thing you look to do is you can change your engine mount. There's normally a bit in the material and how much of a solid plate you can use compared to having a more of a hollowed-out engine mount.
You can change the size of the fuel tank. That's probably a pretty good one and it's probably an easy adjustment. Although you can use a nine-liter tank with only three liters of fuel, it's just that plastic material that you're shrinking and the smaller size of the tank that's saving you that little bit of weight.
They're probably the things that come to mind when it looks to trying to lighten up the go-kart and also ourselves when it comes to a race event. Like I said, you've got to weigh up whether it's worthwhile taking some of that comfort out and the drivability. There's no point removing a third bearing, for example, if you always use a third bearing. Just don't do that to save half a kilo or kilo, but then your performance and your kart's gone back two tenths. It doesn't really make sense to do that.
I hope these tips have given you something to work with and let us know if you've found other things that you've lightened up that have worked in your favor, so we can let our audience know.