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How To Drive A Go-Kart For The First Time?

Karting is an amazing sport. You have seen some of your friends getting started in karting, or perhaps you are looking for a future career in motorsport. If you don’t know where to start, this is the perfect place for you.


In this article we are going to explore some of the basics you need
to cover before you even step foot in a go kart. Whether you are aiming to join karting as a hobby or you’re looking for a professional career in karting, these are some of the best basics to cover when you’re driving a go kart for the first time.


These basics can be applied to either a rental kart, or a proper racing kart. However, it is highly recommended that you start off in a rental kart. That’s because the lower speeds make it much easier to learn and get into a groove.

Where To Start.
If it’s your first day experiencing a go-kart you might be feeling a little bit nervous, that’s normal. Its important to remember that above all else, you need to have fun. Karting might be a competitive sport, but just like all other sports, it’s about enjoying yourself and having a good time.


Seating
When you first sit down in the kart, make sure you are comfortable. It’s absolutely crucial that you feel comfortable in the seat. Make sure you can press both the brake and the throttle pedals with both feet, and that your arms can turn the steering wheel easily when your hands are in the 9 to 3 positions.


Sitting correctly in your kart is something that is so often overlooked, even by professional racing drivers. It’s not all about comfort, being in the correct seating position helps to distribute your weight correctly onto the kart. Luckily weight distribution isn’t something you need to worry about on your first day, so just focus on getting comfortable in the kart first.


Engine Start
Once the engines start, don’t try and go flat out on the first lap. Firstly, there won’t be anyone scouting you for a Formula 1 seat, and they won’t be judging you on your first time in a kart anyway. No need to impress anyone just yet.
Secondly, it’s going to be your first time driving a kart, and the engine and tires are going to be cold. Cold tires are especially dangerous, as they will offer very little grip. A driver with little to no experience and cold tires is a recipe for disaster.


In addition, you might not know the track yet, so you might get caught out by a sharp corner or an unexpected bump on the track. Ideally you would have got some form of knowledge of the track before you get in the kart, for example a track map or a track walk, but that’s not always possible.


First things first, when the engines start up, get a feel for the throttle. Know how much power you can handle and how much you need to press the throttle down to comfortably accelerate. Drive out of the pits slowly and get used to how a go-kart handles. If you drive cars, you’ll already know that there’s a huge difference!
When you get to the first corner, press down on the brakes and get a feeling for how the kart slows down. Go-kart brakes are very different to cars, and they are designed to be used very hard and very quickly.

Get a feel for the steering, again it’s likely very different to what you have experienced before. Unlike with cars, go-karts don’t need you to fully turn the steering wheel. Karts tend to slide through corners, so you will find that you hardly need to turn the steering wheel like you would in a car.


Complete your first lap slowly and try to get an understanding of how go-karts handle. They are very nimble and quick, so make sure you don’t go too fast too soon.

 

What To Focus On First.
Now that you have a feel for the kart you can start to push it and go a little bit faster. Many drivers won’t push the kart until they have driven it at least three times. Some even take as long as five or six times.


It’s a tough learning curve, but it’s rewarding and worth the time and effort you put in. Don’t worry if it’s taking you longer than you expect it to. The important part is to not get frustrated, and just focus on making small improvements every time.


Once you can put in some quicker lap times and you feel confident with how the kart handles, it’s time to move onto the basics of driving a go-kart fast. These are principles that are used all throughout the world of motorsport, even all the way up to Formula 1 level.


Racing Line
The first thing to look at is your racing line. The racing line is the fastest way around the circuit. It’s normally easy to pick up, but some circuits have tricky parts where a different line will offer you more grip.


The important thing you need to focus on is getting the basic racing line right. When you approach a corner, you go as wide as possible to the outside of the circuit. The outside of the circuit is the opposite side of the corner. For example, if you’re heading into a right -hand corner, the outside would be the left-hand side.


You then start to turn in and aim for the apex of the corner. The apex is the ‘clipping point’ of the corner. This means it’s the part of the corner that the go-kart will be closest to before exiting the corner again.


On the exit of the corner, again you want to go all the way to the outside of the circuit. This allows you to accelerate as much as possible and gain as much speed as you can down the next bit of the racetrack.


If there’s a more experienced driver, try to follow them and see where they position their kart throughout the track and copy their lines. If you want to get a basic understanding of how a racing line works, try to watch some onboard footage on YouTube or play a racing video game.

Understanding The Fundamentals
It’s important to learn about all of the physics and terminology in karting, even if it may seem boring and complicated to you.


You will need to learn and experience understeer and oversteer, the difference between grip and no grip. How fast a kart should be accelerating and how it should be braking. These are all things that come with experience, but learning that from day one will be a huge benefit to you.


How To Progress.
Progress is something that everyone looks for in karting. Since it’s the junior form of motorsport, everyone is learning and trying to find their feet. Some learn quicker than others, and some learn more than others. The key is to always be learning and improving.


Braking Later
The later you brake the faster you go. That’s true for all forms of motorsport. Braking later can be scary though, because at some point you will brake too late and go of the track. Late braking is all about finding your limits.


You can improve your late braking by finding yourself a braking point on the track. It can be anything, from a bump in the road to a specific tree on the side of the circuit. As long as you have some kind of reference point to compare yourself to.

Every lap, try to brake a little bit later than before. It feels impossible because your brain will automatically tell you that you need to slow down, but you can always brake that little bit later. The harder you brake the faster you will slow the kart down, so if you are braking later, just brake that little bit harder.


If you brake too hard you will lock up the rear wheels, and it could result in a spin. If you don’t brake hard enough you could go wide. All drivers need to find the limit, and it’s okay to make mistakes when you’re doing so.


These are so important, and they are so often overlooked, especially by younger drivers. The reason why they are so important is because these elements are what make up your driving style. Driving styles differ between all drivers and when you find what works for you, it can do wonders for your progress as a racing driver.


Using All Of The Track
It might seem like a counterproductive theory, but if you’re using all of the track you are going faster. Using all of the track means that you are maximizing your grip and in a way making the corners ‘straighter’.


The theory is that if you go as wide as possible before you turn into the corner, you need to turn less with the kart. The same goes for the exit of the corner. If you’re going as wide as possible on the outside of the corner then you are turning less.


In addition, it will allow you to accelerate earlier and get more speed on the next part of the track. ‘Straightening’ the corners as much as possible is an easy way to go faster. Try to get as close as possible to the edge of the track when approaching and exiting corners.


Conclusion
Your first day in a go-kart and be a nervy one. Always remember that everyone had to start somewhere, even Lewis Hamilton. It’s okay to be nervous, but it’s important to have fun and to learn.


Start slow and get comfortable in the kart. There is no rush to become the fastest driver and your local track. As you feel more comfortable in the kart, start to pick up your speed and try new techniques.

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