Win at Go Karts, With Three Tips from an Indy 500 Racer
For most people, go karts are a way to indulge their inner speed demon without having to spend next Saturday in a remedial driving class. But for Pippa Mann, it's just another day at the office. The IndyCar Series veteran and three-time Indianapolis 500 qualifier recently shared with us some tips on how to drive a go kart faster than the competition.
1. Play the angles.
Don't stick to the inside of any straightaway and turn.
When you approach a corner, start wide near the outside wall, then head all the way toward the inside wall for the turn's "apex" (or midpoint) before exiting back toward the outside wall. The shortest distance around a track is always the fastest, right? Mastering this maneuver will take some practice, Mann warns. "As you get used to using all of the track, this will help you carry more speed [into] the corners and be smoother with the steering." And if you start to the outside and move toward the inside as you get to the turn, you won't need to brake as much.
Bonus pro tip: Lift out of the seat a little when you're exiting the turn. It gives the motor a break and keeps your speed up, even if it only helps your time by a hundredth of a second.
2. Plan your attack.
Don't push others out of the way.
Bumping and aggressive driving aren't signs of a winning strategy. "If you're faster, there's normally a clean way past." So instead of bumping, anticipate the other racers' moves, wait for the right moment (usually just after a turn), and set yourself up to capitalize on the momentum. One of the top go karts racing tips is to not swerve all over the course like the Tasmanian Devil—this will decrease your speed. Staying in control also won't draw the ire of the on-track officials, who can penalize you for spinning out other cars. "Remember that you're there to have fun," Mann says. "If you start bumping each other, you'll not only annoy the officials working, you can actually risk hurting each other."
Bonus pro tip: Sit up straight. Karts are designed with this posture in mind, and leaning forward not only slows you down, but it plays havoc with your steering and overall control.
3. Know when to brake.
Don't fly down the straightaway or ride the brakes around the turn.
Start out braking in a straight line before entering a turn. More seasoned racers can finish braking as they turn into the apex. Slamming on the gas is easy, but stopping takes a bit more finesse. Overall, mastering the brakes is one of the best ways to learn how to win at go kart racing. Mann notes that "the engines on karts are pretty small, and need all the help they can get," meaning the quicker you learn how to finesse the brakes, the better. Braking before you enter a turn will make the kart easier to handle, but it will affect top speeds. As you get better, you'll be able to minimize brake usage in the corners.