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Things to avoid in karting

Today we're going to be discussing things to avoid in go-karting. Now, it's easy when you're starting out to get flustered by a new sport. You might not know anyone in the sport to ask questions, so it can be a bit daunting. When you struggle with something new, it's easy to give up and get out of the sport. So, we want to try and talk about the common mistakes made by beginners and the areas that can lead to accidents or potential penalties on track, so you get more out of karting.

Let's start with the common mistakes made by beginners. The first area I notice after coaching thousands of kids over the last 15 years is drivers turning in too early. When you're starting out, things might seem fast, and you don't know how wide your kart is in comparison to the racetrack. But a lot of beginners tend to turn into corners too soon. They could slide out of control & naturally have to drive slower when cornering, because the track is tighter. Try to use more of the racetrack on entry, by placing the kart on the outside of the track.

The second part is looking behind. Now, sometimes you don't have time to look behind because, as I said, things are happening quite fast on the racetrack, but when you get into a habit of constantly looking over your shoulder, you're starting to lose concentration on where you're driving. In some instances, I've seen drivers look over their shoulders, and without even knowing they're turning the steering wheel in the same direction. As they're turning their head over their shoulder, the body's turning as well and then tugging the right hand to move the steering wheel.

By doing that, the driver is diverting into the direction or the path that someone could be overtaking you on. I see that when people start to look behind it might be once a lap, and then it's two times a lap, and suddenly, it's four times a lap, and then it's three or four times on the same straight. A couple of times a lap at a maximum is more than enough, especially on a practice day where you just want to be concentrating on what you're doing.

The last mistake that is made by beginners is not using the brakes at all. The tendency when you're learning is that you could potentially press the brakes too hard, and what that does is it locks up the rear tires that then causes you to lose control or possibly have a spin. Now, once you've had the spin, you tend to lose confidence, drive slower into the corner the following laps, and tend to not be as comfortable with using the brakes again. We want to get comfortable with our brakes and our kart. By using the brakes in a controlled environment when there's no one else on the racetrack, in the middle of the straight, not at top speed, but say at three-quarter of your top speed, just slam on the brakes, see how they work. Then you know what is going to happen at top speed approaching a corner.

By not using the brakes at all, what drivers must do is back off earlier than the fastest kids on the track because it takes longer to slow down to make that turn. These are common mistakes that a lot of beginner kids tend to make.

Areas that can lead to accidents that we've seen through countless races are, is when the driver who's trying to make an overtake is not actually committed to that pass. What I mean by that is, is that in their head they think they're going for the overtake but they're not close enough to the kart they're trying to overtake. They could be half a kart to one kart length behind, they pull towards the middle of the track to perform the overtake, but as they're so far back they're having to travel at a much greater speed to pass. And so, what happens is, if they're not in that line of vision for the driver that's being overtaken, then that driver naturally just turns in because they can't see anyone, so they just take their normal racing line. The kart that's attempting to do the overtake is coming through at a barrel of speed and then suddenly wipe both the karts out.

If you're sitting on the bumper of the kart in front of you, as soon as you pull out to make an overtake, if you brake one kart length or half kart length past that driver, they can then see you coming. And so, the under commitment is that you get to their back tire and the overtaking driver can't see you in that instance and, as soon as they turn in, you hit their rear tire. That's how you get involved in a lot more accidents when you aren’t far enough up the inside. If you get to their steering wheel position, then that driver can see where you are, they're less likely to turn in.

But if they do, you're making side-to-side contact which is harder for both karts to spin. Rather than front tire to rear tire contact that tends to spin the kart out and then causes more accidents and more collisions.

One area where I see a lot of penalties taking place that we can try and avoid is just simply from drivers not looking ahead to the flag points. They're so focused on the kart in front and trying to overtake them that they don’t notice a yellow flag. It's just a common mistake that a lot of drivers make, even experienced drivers, but you've got to keep your vision looking ahead. If you’re trying to set up an overtake, look ahead. There are no yellow flags, great, I can try to pass. Yellow flag. Okay, I've got to wait until the next flag point before I can overtake.

Some tips for safe and enjoyable karting, is to learn at your own speed. We all start at a slower speed and build up with confidence. Hold your line on the track. Whether that means that you drive in the middle of the racetrack, you drive on the outside, you drive on the inside, just hold the same line from lap to lap. Where we see a lot of karts getting involved in accidents is, they start to look over their shoulders, because they're nervous, there's faster karts around them, and they're trying to get out of the path of the faster drivers.

They sometimes drive into the path of the other driver trying to overtake them. By just holding your line and just trusting that faster and more experienced drivers will find their own way around you. If we are minimizing mistakes, we're getting quicker, we're getting more confident, that tends to lead to more enjoyable kart racing. If you go to the track, you want to learn, you want to improve, you want to meet new friends, so karting has been, and it always is, a real family orientated sport.

I hope these tips help newcomers, but also some of the experienced drivers who tend to make these basic mistakes. If you guys need some more support with your kart racing, then be sure to check out our Champions Club driving program for your race-craft and driving techniques advice.

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