Recently, our club has seen a few pretty serious accidents with some finger pointing to go with them. Karting like any form of motorsports has an element of risk but one that I think can be managed with a combination of further development of race craft and more respect for our fellow competitors.
When I started karting back in 1981, the karts did not have any kind of bodywork and only had small steel bumpers for your protection. Even at the age of 14, self preservation when racing was always on my mind. Learning to pass competitors while doing it cleanly and safely was the only way that my Dad wanted me to race. This skill did not come overnight and is a difficult skill to put into words but I will try.
My Dad's advice towards racing was pretty straightforward with only a couple rules:
1. Do not try to pass a competitor around the outside on a corner or basically, do not put yourself in a disadvantaged position.
2. Know your competitors whether they are new, aggressive, inconsistent or trustworthy.
3. The race is not won in the first corner.
4. In order to finish first, first you must finish.
These rules have kept me out of trouble for my whole racing career and I have usually finished in the top 3 of CKRC class championships almost every year since. As well, I have not been involved in any incidents that involved any physical injuries.
I have made a few errors in judgement over the years that resulted in a competitor being pushed off track but my motto has always been that a clean pass is always more impressive than a pass accomplished by deliberate contact.
Racing room for your competitors - No one has eyes in the back of their head but after doing a number of laps on the same track a driver should develop a knowledge of where the pinch points are and where other competitors might try to execute a pass. If a pass is attempted by you but results in an equal side by side exit, then room needs to be left so that rotating wheels do not touch and cause an incident. By the same token if you are slightly behind or in a disadvantaged position during this drag race to the next corner or getting squeezed out of track space, backing off is probably the better strategy.
Late braking and threshold braking - when done with finesse and skill, this type of pass, a driver can continue forward without losing momentum or track position heading to the next corner. The timing and execution of this skill is difficult to teach but comes from practicing and finding the limit of traction under braking while maintaining control of the kart.
Reading your competitors kart and body language - Drivers will typically drive the same line around the track lap after lap. This comes from trying to improve their lap times during practice days where improving consistency is their main goal. Whether it is consistent predictability or predictably inconsistent, reading what the driver or their kart is doing is paramount to figuring out where their weakness is. A driver that is consistently predictable will run the same line all the time and not vary from this. All they know is the line that they have developed to go as fast as they think they can. When you are faster and have determined where your best passing opportunity is, it will likely not be defended too vigorously. A driver that is predictably inconsistent will do a different line every lap. Following this type of driver can either cause you to be slowed down by their inconsistency from being too close at the wrong time or cause you to have tunnel vision making you drive the same as them. Knowing who these drivers are and knowing their weak spots from following them in the practice session will allow you to have a strategy to overtake beforehand. Otherwise, you might need a lap or two to figure out where to line up your overtaking maneuver.
Loose or tight - Being able to identify these characteristics in the kart you are following will help you figure out where you can have an advantage to make a pass. A loose kart is pretty easy to identify as the rear end of the kart will be sliding on the exit of the corner or might be unstable under braking. A tight kart will be harder to identify with the kart being slower through medium and fast corners. The driver will also have to turn the wheel harder and earlier to make the corner. Both of these characteristics will have the driver moving their arms and possibly body in a more exaggerated way to get their kart around the track.
Using your other senses:
Peripheral vision - Knowing where the edge of the track is or where your competitors are is essential to getting through traffic unscathed or being able to defend from a pass or strike back after being passed. Working on your peripheral vision skills for racing is a worthwhile exercise that will definitely improve a driver's ability to navigate the first race lap and potential incoming passes. Peripheral vision is also used to keep track of a closing or following competitor. A bad habit for a driver to have, is to turn their head and look behind them which leads to slower and less consistent lap times.
Listening - Being able to sense when another competitor's motor is close-by in combination with track position can prepare you for a potential overtake by that driver.
Through all of my years of racing,I have added a few of my own racing rules to live by:
5. "Live to fight another day" For every pass, I instantaneously weigh the risk of a passing maneuver and if it will end in contact or a crash. If the risk is too high I will back off to try later in the race. A last lap or last corner crash pass is just not in my bag of tricks. You can't win them all.
6. Survive the first lap even if you lose positions. This refers to the first 4 rules but also to not go more than 2 wide through a corner, expect the worst from other competitors as they are trying just as hard as you to get to the front and most likely not paying attention to what is next to them.
by John Kwong - KartOPractor
To do list:
Days before the race:
- Remember to charge your Rotax battery and your transponder battery.
- Register for the race on MotorSportReg.com
- Make sure your correct transponder number is in your vehicles profile in your MSR garage
Day of the Race:
- Load all your stuff the night before or the morning of the raceday.
- Make sure you have: helmet, gloves, driving suit, high top shoes, jerry fuel can, mixing fuel can, Motul oil, chain lube, kart stand, FM Radio for announcements, tent(optional), appropriate tools (10mm, 13mm spanner and the same in sockets and extensions),(4,5,6,8mm allen wrenches) & a (spark plug wrench) usually any specialty tools can be borrowed at the track.
- Make sure you bring enough water to drink during the day
- Get gas at the Club Spec’d gas station at the appropriate pump which is usually the highest even numbered pump
- Find an unreserved parking spot for your pit space if you do not have a reserved pit spot.
- Remember to secure your tent from wind gusts.
- If you need help unloading your kart, ask someone to help, we are a friendly bunch and are always willing to help new people.
- If you race Rotax, mix your fuel. Again if this is a new thing for you, ask for help as this can be an expensive mistake.
- If you race Briggs, make sure you have put the appropriate amount of oil in the crankcase.
- If you still have time before the driver's meeting, go through the kart and check that everything is tight. Wheels, hubs, steering components, brake components bumpers and floorpan.
- If you still have some spare time, have a walk around the pits and introduce yourself and/or help others unload or set-up their tents.
- Driver's meeting will cover the days activities, any club news and any safety issues.
- Figure out who is in your class and keep an ear out for when you are called to the grid and/or watch for that other person in your class leaving for the grid.
- Take it easy for the first one or two laps. If you are not going racing speed, drive with your hand in the air to indicate that you are not going racing speed and maintain your line. The faster karts will see your hand signal and take evasive action. It is their job to get around you and they can see you better than you can see them.
- Practice is not racing so don’t be a moving chicane. If someone is faster, let them by and learn their line.
- If you are in a large grid(Briggs classes) it might be divided into odd race numbers and even race numbers. Be prepared to go in the right grouping. When all the karts in your group are let out, bring the tires up to temperature and then if you are following another kart, try and leave a gap so that you can do a flying lap without them slowing you down. If after your flying lap you have caught up to another kart, back off again and leave a gap so that you can take another flying lap. If you practice this, there is no reason to feel like you were stuck in traffic and couldn't get a clear lap.
Pre-Final or Heats
- You will be gridded according to your qualifying time. This is the time when you want to use all of your peripheral vision skills to avoid any contact in the first lap.
- You will be gridded according to your finishing position in the Pre-Final. I believe we are using the same scoring system as last year where Qualifying, Pre-Final/Heats and Final all count for points, so consistency is important.
Rule to live by: If you happen to spin out or get knocked backwards, KEEP YOUR FOOT ON THE BRAKE and do not roll backwards. The most unpredictable kart is the one rolling backwards and turning unexpectedly into oncoming traffic. A backwards sliding kart’s direction with the brakes on can be anticipated by the racers coming after the altercation. Save yourself and your fellow racers the collision damage by keeping your brakes on in this situation.
Trophy presentation - support your fellow racers like you would like to be supported with your future success.