Should you drift go karts during races?
Drifting your kart can be a good way to get ahead... in Mario Kart. Real life racing is a different story.
Real racing, as our competition racers can attest, often comes down to a few split seconds. Three tenths of a second can in many cases mean the difference between victory and second place.
Drifting is a valid technique in rally driving, where drivers race on dirt, snow, and mud. It's also a genuine sport in its own right, with drift shows hugely popular, particularly in Asia.
However, in real go kart racing when you drift karts you lose traction, speed, and valuable seconds.
How go kart drifting works
Go kart drifting is largely made up of three components.
1. Front slip angle
Drifting is when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle, to such an extent that often the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn.
So, for example, the cart is turning left, but its wheels are pointed right or vice versa. This is also known as opposite lock or counter-steering.
The effect is that your go kart drifts. Or, in other words, they appear to slide around the corner.
Why it slows you down
Drifting vs. the clean racing line comes down to laws of physics.
On the tarmac of a go kart track, the coefficient friction of a rolling tyre is greater than that of a sliding tyre. Therefore, the rolling tyre will always have more traction.
The more traction (grip) you have the faster you can brake, corner, and accelerate. By taking a clean racing line, you can drive into the corner faster, take it quicker, and exit it at a greater speed.
As soon as you start to drift karts, they lose grip, so they naturally also lose speed.
Master the racing line instead
The best way to take the corner, in order minimise your lap time, is not to drift go karts but to master the racing line.
This, again, involves 3 components:
1. Braking point
Each corner has a braking point. Or the point at which you should brake prior to the corner to maximise entry speed while reducing loss of traction and the chance of overshooting.
Learning the braking point takes practice. As this point will differ depending on the corner and your go kart. Essentially, you're learning how late you can brake without starting to drift go karts.
2. Turn-in point
Knowing when and where to turn in is vital for mastering the racing line. If you leave it too late, you miss the apex. But, turn in too soon and you'll be required to tighten your line half way through the corner.
Again, this takes practice, as you must learn the track. As well as how your go kart handles the track. Get it right, however, and you'll set yourself up for a perfect racing line.
3. The apex
The apex, also know as the clipping point, is the spot that you are closest to the inside of the corner. It's here that you can reduce steering lock and increase acceleration.
Getting the apex right is often difficult. But if you can nail it, you can power out of the corner and onto the next stretch. It is here that you will make up your kart's speed.
So, to get the best possible lap time, and to give yourself the best chance of winning the race, remember to practice your braking point, turn-in point, and apex.
What to avoid when cornering
Whether you're attempting to drift go karts or master the racing line, there are things you should avoid when racing and taking corners.
|What to avoid||Why you should avoid it|
Braking during cornering
You should brake into corners not during
Drifting to block other drivers
This is extremely dangerous and will get you disqualified
Contact with other drivers
Will slow you down and can cause you to spin out
While you can drift karts around corners, serious racers enjoy the thrill of mastering the perfect racing line. It's more of a challenge and when done right it can put you ahead of the pack.
Ready to tackle the racing line?
If you're ready to take on the task of mastering the racing line, come down to the Ace Karts track. It's Melbourne's most challenging outdoor go kart track with over 700m of twists and turns.
You can secure your spot by booking online today. Race on a Tight Ace Tuesday and you'll score 20% off your package. And, we're open rail, hail or shine.
Ace Karts on 28 October 2016
It was a fantastic night of racing as our finalists battled it out for the Grand Final win ...Read more