Why Braking is the Secret to Fast Times
Ever wondered why going ‘flat out’ all the time doesn’t get you faster times?
The answer is: it’s not that simple! If it were, there wouldn’t be much skill in winning. All you’d have to do is keep your right foot down with a bit of steering thrown in. But from indoor kart racing all the way to F1, braking is absolutely necessary to a fast laptime.
To give yourself the best chance of pipping your mates to the podium it is essential you optimize your braking. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
Slow in, fast out
Why brake? Because if you go into a corner faster than your kart is capable of cornering, you’ll lose time and momentum.
Karts, like all racing machines, only have a finite amount of grip. So asking the tyres to corner at a speed that exceeds the grip that they are designed for will cause the tyres to slide and lose traction – resulting in understeer (the front loosing grip, lack of steering) or oversteer (rear losing grip, back of kart sliding).
This prevents your kart from keeping to the optimum line around that corner. Every correction needed to get the kart positioned back where you want it costs you valuable seconds.
So, if you’re struggling to control the kart, brake earlier. Do it before the corner, until you’re getting around smoothly. You can then slowly moving your braking point later and later until you’ve found your limit.
Smoothness is key
Smooth braking is crucial. Kart brakes are linked to the rear axle only, which means if you stamp on the brake too hard and keep it there, your rear wheels will lock up and lose traction.
The result? Sliding, losing momentum, spinning out and sometimes even stalling your kart. All things that definitely won’t speed up your laptimes.
Optimum braking will be the maximum pressure applied just before the wheels lock. This will help you to slow the kart down to the required speed in the shortest possible distance.
Experiment by braking hard enough to lock the wheels (be ready to catch the slide!) and then back off until you’re braking firmly without locking up. Smooth, firm braking before the corner will benefit you hugely.
Keep it on the straight
This one is more flexible the more experience you gain, but a great piece of starter advice is to keep it simple, and brake in a straight line.
Not only does this simplify the cornering process, but it prevents one of the biggest problems for novice drivers – oversteer.
Oversteer is where the rear of your kart loses traction, causing the kart to feel very ‘tail happy’, which can often catch beginners by surprise and result in the kart fully spinning out.
The simplest way to fix this problem is to ensure the kart is steering straight under braking. This means if the rear wheels lock, the direction of the kart won’t cause immediate ‘oversteer’ to the left or right, helping the kart to remain stable as you slow for the corner.
However, more experienced drivers will often use unstable braking characteristics to their advantage, so this is open to interpretation the more confident you get!
One or the other please
It might seem like a good idea to keep both feet pressed on the pedals to some degree, so that once you have finished braking, your foot is already on the accelerator and ready to pull away.
However, it isn’t. Firstly, indoor karts have a built in, centrifugal clutch that you do not have to control, but pressing both pedals at the same time will keep it engaged, causing rapid wear and potential damage.
Secondly, your brakes will have to work doubly hard under braking – not only are they slowing your momentum as kinetic energy, but your engine will also be pushing you forwards as the brakes are engaged.
As well as additional wear and overheating (reducing brake effectiveness), this can also have the unwelcome side effect of unpredictable handling and corner-exit oversteer, costing you time.
Again, keep it simple. As a general rule, using one pedal at a time for the purpose they are designed for works just fine – you’ll find it easier under braking, and the kart will release nicely from the corner.
Want to try these tips out for yourself? Get a timed session booked in now for as little as £15.00 for 20 Minutes.
We also offer Grand Prix formats for groups of 6+ (giving you exclusive use of the track) from just £35.00 each – a great opportunity to surprise your mates with some stellar technique, killer laptimes and (hopefully) the race win.