Colin McRae once said, “Straight roads are for fast cars, turns are for fast drivers”. The same holds true in the world of go-karting. Having the best equipment doesn’t mean you win all your races, but rather it is a driver’s technique, race craft, and speed that brings home the silverware. This can all be seen in a driver’s ability to take corners in the fastest way possible. As history proves, brake-roll-accelerate is the best way to take a corner. In this article, we will teach every step of this technique and further understand what makes it effective. To help visualize where to brake, roll, and accelerate, we will use one corner from the Ipswich kart track in Queensland as reference.
The first step is braking. Braking is the slowing down phase of a corner. To brake well, make sure to always have a braking marker before the corner to signal when you should hit your brakes. Braking markers help maintain good and consistent pace by always braking in the same spot. Be sure to also be familiar with the equipment as this can affect braking performance. Aside from checking the brakes themselves, be familiar with the specs of the kart such as the engine used, and the age of the tires used. More power and/or more tire wear means the kart needs more time to slow down. On the other hand, less power and/or less tire wear means the kart needs less time to slow down.
There are many ways to brake as you approach a corner. One way is to hit the brakes hard and apply full pressure, and then letting off once the rear tires begin to lock. This method is best for slower karts that don’t need a lot of time under braking to slow down. These include cadet karts and karts that use 4-stroke engines. Another braking method is trail braking. Trail braking is a method wherein the driver hits the brakes hard initially, before turning into the corner. Then, once you begin turn-in phase, slowly lift off the brake pedal to remove pressure on the brakes. For faster karts in the junior and senior categories, as well as shifter karts, this is the best braking method to use as this can help the driver carry a ton of speed through the corner. As much as possible, never press both the throttle and brake pedal at the same time on approaching a hairpin turn. Drivers tend to do this when they are unfamiliar with where to brake and the track in general. This can give technical and mechanical problems with the go-kart down the line. Therefore, avoid doing this to take care of your equipment and slow down more efficiently.
Rolling into a corner can be described as a short period of time wherein the driver is neither stepping on the throttle, nor hitting the brakes to slow down. Instead, the driver is patiently waiting for the kart to rotate before ultimately applying throttle once again. Between the time that you are braking and accelerating, there is a rolling point wherein you have just let off the brakes complete and now waiting to apply the throttle once again. Patience is everything in this part, so make sure to focus on keeping the balance of the kart for it to turn better and faster. Be sure to only apply throttle once you have reached the apex point, which we will discuss next. Otherwise, this will compromise your exit.
Lastly, let us talk about acceleration. This is the application of throttle to move the kart forward. It is easy to overstep boundaries and exceed the limit of what the kart can do. This can be seen when drivers go wide on exit, which is caused by understeer, or lose it out of the corner, also known as oversteer. On the other hand, it is also easy to underestimate what the kart can do, which can be seen when the driver does not use all the track on exit.
Therefore, to avoid this issue, the driver must have a marker which signals when throttle can be applied again. This is also known as the apex. The apex is the point where the driver is closest to the inside of the track and serves as a marker as to when the driver can step on the throttle again.
In a previous article, we have discussed that there are many types of apexes and when to use them. For a quick summary, there are three types of apexes, that being the early, middle, and late apex. The early apex is best for high-speed corners with quick direction changes. An example of this would be esses. The middle or geometric apex is the most common apex which is found in the middle of the corner. It is used for basic corners such as medium speed corners or 90-degree corners. Lastly, the late apex, which can be found near the exit of the corner, is the best apex to use for tight hairpin corners, or corners that come before a long straightaway as this can help the driver carry more speed into the straightaway that comes after the corner.
Once you have “hit” your apex, also known as reaching the apex point, then you can begin to apply full or gradual throttle. For 4-stroke karts or cadet karts that have a low top speed, applying full throttle immediately is the best option. Meanwhile, for 2-stroke karts as well as karts from junior classes and higher, gradual throttle is better because the kart has more performance. By using this technique, this reduces the chance of understeer and/or oversteer on the exit of the corner.
That concludes our topic on the brake-roll-accelerate technique. Remember that for every step discussed today, from braking to acceleration, there are many ways to go about each step. It is important that you find what works for you not just in terms of comfort, but what gets you around the racetrack the fastest. If figuring out what works for you is something you is something you struggle with, then our Kart Class Beginner Program can help you out! Here you will learn the basics of karting.