A Beginner’s Guide to Go-Kart Racing

A Beginner’s Guide to Go-Kart Racing

Do you have a competitive spirit and a natural need for speed? If yes, then go-kart racing is just the sport for you! As a beginner at go-kart racing, learning the rules and standards for racing is extremely important. Knowing the important basics of go-kart racing will not only make you a better racer but keep you safe as well.

As a beginner go-kart racer, some important tips and tricks to consider are:

  • Always wear safety gear such as a helmet and neck brace.
  • Stay in line with other racers to avoid causing a crash.
  • Avoid leaning in when turning; this will slow you down.

Whether you plan to ride competitively or recreationally, go-kart racing can seem intimidating at first. As a beginner, the trick is to drive confidently. Driving in fear may slow you down and cause distraction.

With the help of this beginner guide, you’ll be on your way to becoming a top go-kart racer in no time!

What Is Go-Kart Racing?

If you’re familiar with go-kart racing, you’ll know that the sport involves participants racing around a track in go-karts. Contrary to popular belief, go-kart racing is actually a variant of the original motorsport, kart-racing. While kart racing is on a much larger scale, go-kart racing is performed on smaller circuits.

Kart racing originated around the 1950s, while go-kart racing came later as the recreational variant. Both variants are very much alike; however, kart racing or karting involves driving a high-power motorized kart specifically for professional racing purposes. 

While recreational go-kart racing does not entail as much structure, competitive racing does and may separate racers by:

  • Age class
  • Kart type
  • Engine displacement (CC’s) 

Having a need for speed can begin at an age as early as 5, and luckily, that’s the age at which kids can go-kart. The great aspect of go-kart racing is that all ages and experience levels can enjoy it!

The Basics of Go-Kart Racing

From the obvious, there are many basics to go-kart racing, wearing a seatbelt, to the less obvious, like don’t lean into the turn. The latter is something you could easily do mistakenly as a beginner driver. 

Other simple basics include:

  • Wearing a seatbelt at all times
  • Always wear the proper safety gear
  • Using one foot for the gas and brake

Using one foot for the gas and brake may sound like an amateur basic for many, but it can come as a complete shock for those who aren’t familiar with driving.

These basics of go-karting can range from simple to more advanced. Overall, they are important for understanding go-kart racing.

Sitting Correctly

At first glance, getting into a go-kart may not look all that difficult. You hop in, you place your feet on the pedals, and you drive. However, there is an art to getting into a go-kart. While hopping in and immediately finding comfort may sound easy, the art entails doing all of the above gracefully.

Think about it, your first time getting into a go-kart may feel awkward at first, and perhaps, you might even look as awkward as you feel. Hopefully, this hasn’t been the case, but if so, you will want to work on that. 

Typically, if you’re riding in a competition or go-kart facility, the staff will help you get into your go-kart. Because go-karts do not have doors, you will have to either step or hop in and lower yourself. Although some go-karts differ in model and size, getting into a go-kart will generally look like this:

  • Grab ahold of the side of the go-kart – Typically, most go-karts have a short handlebar on each, which you can grab ahold of. Grab onto whichever one is closest to you with one hand. It’s recommended that you enter on the driver’s side of the go-kart.
  • Place the other free hand onto the steering wheel – While holding onto the side of the driver’s seat, place your free hand on the steering wheel. Doing so will help you remain stable as you step into the go-kart.
  • Step into the go-kart – Place your body’s weight onto both hands and slowly step into the go-kart with your right foot. Firmly place it to the right of the steering wheel. After doing so, pull your left leg into the go-kart and place it on the left of the steering wheel.
  • Sit comfortably – Once both feet are placed properly, you can sit down. If you are sitting correctly, your right foot should be able to reach the pedals comfortably. Both legs should be slightly bent as well. 

It’s important to maintain a proper posture when operating a go-kart. You should be able to hold the steering wheel without having to lean forward. Likewise, it would be best if you also refrained from being too close to the steering wheel. While holding the steering wheel, both arms should be slightly bent and in a natural driving position.

Accelerating and Braking Properly

Pedal power is a big component of being a good go-kart driver. Given that the pedals give the kart its speed, it’s important to operate them properly. One important thing to know is never at any moment should both feet be placed on either pedal. Pressing down both pedals can cause the go-kart to cut-out.

The only foot that should ever be used is the right foot. Your right foot will be responsible for controlling both the accelerator and the brake. Regardless of the go-kart, the accelerator is always on the right side of the steering wheel. Likewise, the brake is always the pedal to the left of the steering wheel. 

Something else you never want to do is press both pedals at the same time. One pedal at a time should be pressed down. For example, if your foot is on the accelerator and you need to brake, lift your foot off the gas before breaking. The same goes for when your foot is on the brake, and you want to accelerate.

How to Properly use the Pedals of a Go-Kart

  • To accelerate – Take your foot off of the brake. Slowly press down on the pedal while gently applying pressure. Gradually increase your speed by applying slight pressure as needed. Be sure not to slam down on the accelerator in a hurry. If you need to decrease your speed, lift your foot off the gas.
  • To brake – Take your foot off the accelerator. Slowly press down on the brake while gently applying pressure. Gradually slow down the go-kart by applying pressure as needed. You should also never slam down on the brake, as this can cause an accident between other drivers. 

As with driving a car, driving a go-kart is quite simple when you first think about it, if you have driving experience with a car, the basics are pretty much common knowledge.

However, for those with little to no experience driving a car (such as young children), it might feel instinctive to press down both pedals at the same time or use both feet.

How To Hold The Steering Wheel

To properly maintain control of the go-kart at all times, you will need to hold the steering wheel correctly. Holding the steering wheel incorrectly can cause you to lose control of the go-kart, causing crashes or injury. Remember, when driving a go-kart, it’s important to consider yourself and other drivers’ safety.

Tips for Properly Holding the Steering Wheel

  • Both hands should be on the steering wheel – this does not mean one hand at the top of the steering wheel and the other at the bottom. The best way to hold the steering wheel is to place each hand on the sides. This is typically referred to as “10 and 2” or “3 and 9.” Each number refers to the number placement on a standard clock. 
  • With both hands in the proper placement, firmly grip the steering -maintain the same amount of grip in each hand; this will allow you to keep control of the go-kart.

Tips for turning the steering wheel

  • Never turn the wheel abruptly in any direction – doing so can cause the go-kart to spin out of control. In the worst-case scenario, an aggressive turn of the wheel could flip the go-kart over. 
  • When making a sharp turn – keep both hands in either a “10 and 2” or “3 and 9” position. Gently turn the wheel until you are heading in the desired direction. Because go-karts have sensitive steering wheels, you will want to keep your hands in their position when making a sharp turn. 
  • To make shorter turns – you can keep both hands at the steering wheel’s sides and turn it.

Maintaining Your Speed

Maintaining your speed is one of the biggest tips you will learn as a beginner. This vital technique is what all successful go-kart drivers use. It’s important to maintain your speed throughout the race to keep your momentum going. Also, it allows for a smoother drive.

The key to go-kart racing is to always keep moving. Moving at a consistent speed ensures that your driving path remains straight. It also gives you an advantage over other drivers. 

Accelerating too quickly and braking suddenly is two mistakes that will prevent you from maintaining your speed. To prevent having to do either, get to know the track before racing. By having an idea of the number of turns on the track, you won’t have to slow down as much. Being familiar with it will help you maintain your speed. 

Knowing the track ahead of time is not always an option. Keeping an eye on the track ahead of you will also do the trick. This can come in handy when a crash might occur ahead of you, and you need to slow down quickly. 

Entering and Exiting Turns Properly

In addition to your speed, successfully entering and exiting turns will also give you an advantage. One of the biggest mistakes that novice go-kart drivers make is turning corners too early.

Doing so often causes drivers to either drift or lose speed. Naturally, many novice drivers turn corners early in a bid to get through them faster.

Entering and exiting turns is something that can be easily practiced and improved upon. Even as a more experienced driver, you will struggle from time to time. The trick to a perfect turn is to enter at just the right time.

As you approach a turn:

  • Be sure to slow down the kart by letting up on the accelerator. 
  • Once you’ve approached the corner, begin executing the later portion of the turn. 
  • At the apex of the turn, you can begin to accelerate without exiting wide. 
  • When you exit a turn, you want to remain closer to the inside of the corner.

When you’re making turns, you want to keep from leaning in. Another instinct when turning is to lean into the turn. The general idea behind leaning in is that it prevents you from losing momentum.

This actually works the opposite way in go-kart driving. Leaning into the turn will apply more weight to the inside wheels of the go-kart.

Another factor in making the perfect turn is even weight distribution. Instead of leaning into the turn, keep your weight centered. This will evenly distribute your weight between both sides of the go-kart. 

For more cornering tips, visit the Go-Kart Cornering Technique article I’ve written in the past.

Stay on A Straight Path

During your first few runs in a go-kart, you may find it difficult to stay on a straight path. This could be due to your unfamiliarity with the track or that you’re still getting used to steering. Keeping your go-kart on a straight path will help you maintain your speed and prevent you from crashing. 

When go-karting with other drivers on the track, you always want to avoid weaving in and out of traffic. Weaving in and out of other cars decreases your speed and increases your chances of an accident. To prevent weaving, stick to an empty lane or one that’s mostly empty. 

If you find you need to pass another go-kart, change lanes and go around them. The best way to do this is to pass from the outside. Though the outside lanes of a track seem longer, there’s the advantage of less traffic. Afterward, choose a path where you can maintain your highest speed. 

How to Dress for The Part

Dressing for the part is always necessary when participating in a sport like a go-kart racing. While wearing your seatbelt at all times is part of this, there’s much more to it. 

Wearing safety gear is the first step to being a great go-kart racer. Protecting your head from a serious injury is done so by wearing a helmet. 

In addition to a helmet, there is additional safety gear you will need. 

This gear should consist of the following:

  • Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Comfortable close-toed shoes
  • A balaclava or similar face covering, if in cold weather
  • A full-face helmet
  • Protective overalls and gloves (optional)
  • Seatbelts

When go-kart racing recreationally, it is generally not required to wear protective clothing or shoes specifically made for competitive racing. Comfort is emphasized when it comes to the right gear.

It’s important to wear loose-fitting clothing when go-karting. This will allow you to drive safely and comfortably. 

How to Become A Better Go-Kart Driver

As a beginner at go-karting, there are many things you will need to improve at first. For this reason, you will need to practice often. Practice will help you improve your go-karting skills and technique. As with any new skill or hobby, practice is necessary to become better over time. 

Don’t worry if you find driving a go-kart difficult at first. Make it a habit to remind yourself that every great driver has been in your seat at some point. If you remain dedicated to becoming a better driver, you’ll be a go-karting expert in no time!

Practice Makes Perfect

Like mentioned before, practice plays an important role in being a great go-kart racer. To be sure of your improvements, it’s important that you practice effectively. This means practicing to your advantage. For example, consider practicing on the areas that need the most improvement. By doing so, you can get the most out of your practice sessions.

To improve your driving, consider focusing the most on these areas:

  • Maintaining your speed
  • Accelerating and braking effectively
  • Driving in a straight path
  • Entering and exiting turns
  • Improving the time of each lap

As you practice in each of these areas, you should begin to notice a decrease in each lap duration. On your first few practice laps, time yourself each time. Using a timer, track how long it takes you to complete a lap around the track. To keep track of your progress, log the time of each lap.

Study the Track

If it’s possible, make it a habit to learn the track before a race. Familiarizing yourself with a new track can help you prepare for certain turns. In doing so, you can have a faster lap speed and a better chance of winning a race. 

If you’re racing recreationally, have a look at the track before racing. In some competitive environments, you may be allowed to study the track ahead of time. You can do so by scanning a map of the track or having a look in person. 

Master the Basics of Go-Kart Racing

Once you have learned the basics of go-kart racing, you will then want to master them. While grasping this fun motorsport’s basics is just the first step, mastering them is the second most important step. Successfully driving a go-kart is something that has to be developed over time through refining techniques and practicing.

Go-kart racing can be a blast, even when competitive; however, mastering the basics will help you become a better driver overall. 

The most basics of go-kart racing include:

  • Wearing the proper equipment 
  • Knowing how to operate a go-kart 
  • Learning how to execute a tight lap around the track successfully

Mastering these karting basics will help you become a better go-kart driver overall. By tackling them early on, your increase your chances of improving faster.

For more tips, visit The Ultimate Guide to Driving a Go-Kart article.

Go-Kart Races and Age Groups

Within the motorsport of go-kart racing, there are different types of races. These races consist of different racetracks, drivers of certain age and experience levels, and go-karts of different speeds. 

In addition to the variety of races in go-karting, drivers are classified based on their age. This aspect of go-karting creates a more even playing field. Likewise, drives are given certain advantages as they level up. For example, certain classes can drive higher-powered go-karts.

Types of Go-Kart Racing

Go-kart races are typically held on a racetrack or circuit either indoors or outdoors. Indoor go-karting is considered the most convenient form of racing, as it allows racers to participate regardless of the weather. Typically, the type of race will determine the type of track it is held on.

For example, dirt or speedway go-kart races are generally held on rally tracks or roadway surfaces, respectively.

Three common types of go-kart races are:

  • Sprint Racing – This type of race is typically held on a circuit track made of asphalt. The track will usually feature tight corners made for sharp turning. Given the name, this style of racing occurs on a track measuring a mile or less.
  • Road/Speedway Racing – Hence the name, this style of race is held on an auto racing track made of asphalt. Most circuits measure from small ovals to larger ¼ mile ovals. While asphalt tracks are unchanging, dirt tracks have an ever-changing design. There are no turns in this type of race. 
  • Enduro Racing – Enduro races are typically held on large asphalt tracks traditionally used for big-time professional races. This type of race is traditionally done fast, with most races lasting 45 minutes or less. Enduro races are considered the fastest of go-kart races. For this reason, they are recommended for more experienced drivers. 

Go-Kart Racing Classes

There are divisions or age groups in many types of sports, whether football, motocross, and even go-karting. Division and age groups are created to keep the playing field level. While divisions are generally classified according to experience, age classes are classified according to the obvious age. 

The great thing about go-karting is that it is a fun family sport for every family member to enjoy! Go-kart racing classes are grouped according to age. These groups are generally classified as:

  • Kids Karts – This group is open to drivers ages 5 to 7. Also commonly referred to as “Baby Karts,” this age group is limited to driving small, low-powered go-karts. These typically drive 30 mph or less.
  • Cadet karting – Drivers ages 7 to 12 years old are classified as “Cadets.” Cadets generally drive faster go-karts, ones that go over 50 mph.
  • Junior karting – Drivers ages 12 to 15 years old are considered “Juniors.” Go-kart races tend to get more competitive around this age class. Drivers are also allowed to drive full-size go-karts that go around 50 to 65 mph. Junior go-karts typically have a restricted exhaust.
  • Senior karting – Those ages 15 and older are considered “Seniors.” Seniors drivers can drive go-karts that go 70 mph and over. Also, they are allowed go-karts without a restricted exhaust.
  • Masters karting – Master drivers are 32 years and older. This age group typically consists of a light and heavy division. Drivers must meet a higher weight minimum, as this age group is considered more competitive. 
  • Super Masters karting – This group is open to drivers 45 years and older. The Super Masters group is one that was recently started and is actively expanding. It is not considered an age group by all go-kart leagues.

Kid Karting Class (50CC Engine)

In the US, kids between the ages of 5 and 7 fall in the racing class. There are also subclasses based on the engine brand. Here, the IAME Comer C51 series or Honda GX35 series fall under this category. In this class, beginners use restricted 50cc engines and are limited to speeds not more than 30 mph.

Cadet Karting Class (60CC Engine)

Children between the ages of 7 – 12 fall within this category. There is little distinction between kid karting and cadet carting. Like kid karting, this category also has smaller class divisions Micro (7 – 9) and Mini (9 -12).  This class features the IAME Micro and Mini swift and the RoK Micro and Mini Vortex

100 CC Tag (Touch and go) Karting Class

This class represents the transition between lower engine displacements and the more popular engines (125cc).  This racing class is for drivers between the ages of 12 and 15. The most common engines for the 100cc class are Yamaha KT100 and IAME KA100

125CC Tag Karting Class

The 125cc engines are the most employed kart engines for racing, especially in the TaG category. This class contains the junior category (ages 12 and 15) and the senior category (15 years and above). The standard engines in this category are the IAME X30, ROK TT, and Rotax Max EVO.

125CC Shifter Karting Class

Unlike the 125cc TaG, which takes drivers with varying experience levels, the 125cc shifter kart racing is for pro drivers. Similar to its TaG equivalent, speed is one of the considered features for this class. Engines that separate this class into divisions are the RoK Vortex Shifter, Rotax Max DD2 EVO, Honda CR12, and IAME Shifter

250CC Superkart Racing Class

A powerful engine is required for this class because a super kart – unlike the regular go-karts –have more significant bodywork. Although this class is not split by engine brand, the most used engines in this category are the Honda RS250, BRC250, Yamaha TZ250. Unless you are a highly experienced go-kart driver, you should not consider driving in this class because they run as high as 140mph.

Is Go-Kart Racing Safe?

For many, go-kart racing is a way to experience thrill and excitement. With some go-karts reaching speeds as fast as 100 mph, it’s no wonder that many find a natural interest in it. Along with offering fun and excitement, go-kart racing can also offer a much different type of rush.

Although go-kart racing is not a high contact sport like football or soccer, you can still get hurt. Much like competitive race car driving, driving a go-kart can expose you to the risk of getting injured in a crash. Generally speaking, go-kart racing is as safe as you make it. 

Wearing the proper gear and driving responsibly are just a few ways of keeping safe. Likewise, following the protocols set by the experts is also a way to avoid danger. Regardless of the setting, competitive or recreational, you should always follow the safety regulators’ rules and procedures.

Because of the nature of go-kart racing, there will always be the risk of injury. By following the suggestions mentioned above, you can lessen the risk. Most facilities also have in place certain safety features on tracks and go-karts to keep drivers safe

Familiarize yourself with the go-kart safety standards before you start racing.

Go-Kart Racing as a Beginner

Go-kart racing is the perfect sport for thrill-seekers of all ages and walks of life. From young drivers to older drivers, there are so many ways to participate in go-kart racing.

If you’re new to the world of go-kart racing, you may not realize there are so many variables that go into it. Understanding these variables is all part of becoming a better go-kart racer. Whether you’re looking to become a competitive go-kart driver or brush up on your skills, remember that go-kart racing is supposed to be fun!

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