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Archive for Driving Techniques/Tips

The Rolling Start.  In karting, the rolling start is more about survival than opportunity.  Your primary goal is to hold station, make it through the first turn unscathed, and then go racing!  If you manage to gain a spot or two, consider it a huge bonus.  If you lost a few spots, patience is now the key as you are not going to get them back in the first turn.  That’s a low percentage play at best and a great way to end your day and possibly someone else’s.  Now, before you all think that I am up on my soapbox preaching, everything I said above comes from years of making too many of the exact mistakes I just mentioned.  So what can you do to insure you survive the start?  Well, there are a couple of things…

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Waiting for the Green!!!

The Launch.  Probably one of the most exciting aspects of racing a shifter kart and one of the most exciting aspects in motor racing period.  Nothing gets my blood pumping more than the starter indicating to put your visor down, mashing the gas, and waiting for the lights to go green.  That being said, as exciting as a standing start is, the launch is a critical component of your racing success.  Master it and you will be presented with great passing opportunities before you even enter a turn.  Get it wrong and you can put yourself in a hole, believe me I know.  So what are the secrets to a good launch…

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As I mentioned in last month’s FKI, a reader requested I do an article on what a good handling kart feels like.  When I read the request I immediately thought, what a great concept!  Everyone talks about the changes you can make to make your kart handle better but WHAT are we trying to achieve.  As far as I know, no one has ever tried to define it.  While the topic is of course a little subjective, there are some things you are looking for.  So, I will do my best to put into words what you are trying to feel on the track.  Hopefully, by the end of the article, you will have a better idea or at least a wider perspective of what you are looking for from your kart…

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In an FKI Survey, a reader asked me to do an article on what a good handling kart feels like.  Good idea.  But in thinking about how to approach this article I realized a better starting point may be to describe what handling characteristics you don’t want to feel.  Bind is one of those characteristics and it is unique to karting.  I would argue that Bind is the biggest handling issue you are always trying to avoid and tune out of the kart.  While most people have a good understanding and feel for understeer and oversteer, Bind is a little more elusive, so let’s talk about it…

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You need to be in the right position to pass. How do you get there? Read on.

You’ll hear it all the time in the Pitlane or the Driver’s Meeting, “I’m a better qualifier than racer.”  Or, “I’m a better racer than qualifier.”   If I had to pick between the two, I’d take the latter every time.  While it’s true that on some tracks qualifying is 90% of the race because the track may be particularly difficult to pass on, most of the time, your race craft is going to get you the results and there is nothing more essential to your race craft than the Art of Passing.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been bumped by the guy behind me at the apex of a corner.  I know that most of the time it is not intentional but if it is continual I always think, “What the hell are you doing?”  Why?  Not because it is annoying but because the guy is ruining any chance of passing me using what we will term as the Classic Pass technique.  While on the subject of labeling passing techniques, let’s break the Art of Passing into four categories:  The Classic Pass, The Dive Bomb, The Cold Tire Pass, and The Two to Tango Pass (which will become self-evident later in the article).  We’ll start with the Classic Pass…

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You’ve been reading your FKIs, kicking ass at the local kart track, and now are wondering what else the karting world holds for you.  It’s time to try something new, either a new track, a regional race, an IKF National or better yet – the SuperNats.  When you get there, you want to hit the ground running (as you should)!  So how do you prepare and analyze a new track when you are going there for the first time?  We’ve touched on a number of these subjects before such as How To Learn a Track in 3 Laps and Using Data Analysis To Pick A Gear, but these articles are most pertinent once you are there.  What do you do before you get there?  Well, since many of you have asked me to provide as much information as possible on the upcoming SuperNats, let’s use the SuperNats as an example to demonstrate how you would approach going to any new circuit for the first time…

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How can my crashing this Indy Lights car possibly help you improve your driving? It’s all about G loading.

It’s 1994, I just set fast time at the Indy Lights Phoenix Open Test and I am looking forward to opening the season with a strong finish in my hometown at Phoenix International Raceway.  We make a change before the first practice of the race weekend to see if we can go even faster and about five laps into the first practice I crash in turn 4 – HARD.  So hard that I cracked the chassis bulkhead without knowing it.  After a long scramble to repair the car for qualifying, I go out with our proven set-up, try to take turns 3 & 4 flat as I had done many times before the crash and almost crash again because the bulkhead is flexing and making the car loose.  Doesn’t matter, now my confidence is shot.  While we fixed the car before the next oval it took a lot longer to fix my driving.

So why do I care, you say.  Well first of all, that’s cold.  But more importantly, you should care because this chain of events placed me on a long road to recover my confidence which actually revealed a bad habit I developed.  Although this habit hurt my speed on ovals, it also applies to road courses.  You should also care because with the help of a great driver coach I learned how to both identify the problem and fix it.  The final reason you should care, I see a lot of guys who have this habit now and you could possibly be one of them.  The good news, all joking aside, is once you read this article, you may likely pick up some speed even if you don’t have the problem…

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The Start – by far and away the best part of karting! Once you take your first start, you’re hooked!

So you are sitting there with your new kart, hopefully you have gone to the track to check out a local race, and want in.  Then you think, wait, these guys are pretty fast and are running really close to each other at speed, am I ready for this?  That’s a great question and one that I have thought about a lot because I have not only had friends get into the sport but recently coached someone who was just starting to race.  This made me examine how I would do it over given a clean slate.  There is a definite plan of attack you can follow. I will outline it below…

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While the goal of the FKI Newsletter is to help you tune your chassis so you don’t have a handling problem, realistically, there are going to be times when you are still fighting an unbalanced kart in race conditions.  In this situation you have to do damage control and drive around the problem until you can make another change before the next heat.  That’s great you say, but how exactly do I drive around a huge understeer or oversteer?  Well, there are a couple of tricks….

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The Start! Are you ready for the race? (Photo courtesy of On Track Promotions)

Let me ask you a question.  What are you doing on the Warmup Lap to prepare for the race?  If your answer is simply warming up the tires, you are leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.  I remember the first time I saw Fernando Alonso bring his Renault up to the line with that signature violent wiggle (as opposed to everyone else’s weave.)  At first I thought, that’s a little over the top.  Yes, it is an impressive display of car control (900hp, cold tires, and full-tank weight being rapidly transferred from side to side).  Now I realize that Alonso has revolutionized the art of the warming up an open wheel race car.  Everyone has copied him and there is more to his method than first meets the eye…

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