Why Does Drifting Your Go-Kart Slow You Down

Drifting, a driving technique that has gained popularity in motorsports, involves intentionally oversteering the vehicle to create an angle between the direction of travel and the orientation of the wheels. This maneuver requires skillful manipulation of the driver’s throttle, steering, and braking inputs.

Although drifting may seem exciting for spectators and drivers alike, it can harm overall speed during a race. Hence, understanding the factors contributing to this reduction in speed becomes critical for racers aiming to optimize their performance.

The following article examines various aspects of physics behind why drifting slows down a go-kart while also providing insights into how these effects might be mitigated or compensated for through different strategies employed by drivers.

We are analyzing key components such as tire traction forces, kinetic energy conservation principles, and aerodynamic drag influences under drift conditions. This discussion offers readers a comprehensive overview of the underlying mechanisms when executing this driving technique.

Key Takeaways
Drifting in go-kart racing causes a decrease in speed due to the loss of traction and increased tire wear, resulting from excessive friction between tires and the track surface.
The physics behind drifting include lateral forces surpassing the limit of tire grip, leading to a loss of traction and controlled skidding around corners. This results in reduced overall speeds and diminished efficiency compared to conventional grip driving techniques.
Factors contributing to the loss of speed during drifting include loss of traction, increased tire wear, and excessive throttle use. All these factors lead to a decrease in efficiency and performance of the go-kart.
While drifting may seem thrilling and visually impressive, its negative impact on speed makes it a less ideal choice for racers seeking a competitive edge. Prioritizing optimal grip levels and minimizing momentum loss through corners is essential for achieving faster lap times.

Related Article: Best Drift Karts for Kids of all Sizes

What Is Drifting

‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ an adage that may not apply to go-kart racing but does hold when discussing drifting.

Drifting is a driving technique in which the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels while maintaining vehicle control.

As thrilling as it might be for spectators and racers alike, drifting can cause a decrease in speed due to several factors.

When a go-kart drifts, its tires lose grip on the surface, resulting in increased friction between the tires and track; this drag slows down the kart.

Is Drifting During Go-Kart Racing Good Or Bad

Drifting, as a technique often employed in various motorsports, has garnered attention amongst go-kart racers.

The effectiveness of this maneuver during go-kart racing remains a topic of debate among enthusiasts and experts alike.

Some argue that drifting can provide an advantage by enabling tighter cornering at high speeds, thus maintaining momentum through challenging track sections.

Others contend that drifting reduces overall speed due to increased tire friction and diminished grip on the racing surface, resulting in slower lap times.

Understanding The Physics Of Drifting

One might argue that drifting, as a technique employed in racing, should theoretically allow for maintaining speed while navigating corners. However, it is essential to delve into the physics of drifting to comprehend why this maneuver causes a reduction in velocity during go-kart races.

Drifting occurs when lateral forces surpass the tire grip limit, resulting in traction loss between the tires and the surface. This loss subsequently leads to sliding or controlled skidding around corners.

Friction is indispensable in determining how much cornering force can be generated before reaching the threshold where drifting sets in. In normal grip driving, optimal friction between tires and track allows racers to maintain control and speed with minimal energy loss through tire slip.

On the contrary, drift driving requires continuous steering input adjustments and throttle modulation, leading to increased energy dissipation due to excessive slippage at higher angles. Consequently, this reduces overall speeds and diminishes efficiency compared to conventional grip driving techniques on go-kart tracks.

Factors Contributing To The Loss Of Speed During Drifting

Loss of traction during drifting can lead to decreased speed due to the decreased friction between the tires and the track surface. Increased tire wear is another factor contributing to the loss of speed during drifting, as the tires are subjected to higher stress levels as they slide sideways.

Excessive throttle use can also lead to a decrease in speed as the engine’s power output can exceed the tires’ available grip, causing them to spin instead of propelling the go-kart forward.

Loss Of Traction

One of the primary factors contributing to the loss of speed during drifting is the significant reduction in traction experienced by go-karts.

When a kart drifts, there is less contact between its tires and the racing surface, resulting in an inability for the tires to generate the same level of grip as they would during non-drifting cornering.

This diminished grip leads to decreased control over the vehicle’s movements and inhibits effective acceleration and deceleration throughout turns.

Consequently, maintaining optimal speed becomes increasingly challenging due to this inherent compromise in tire performance while executing drift maneuvers.

Increased Tire Wear

In addition to the loss of traction, another factor contributing to decreased speed during drifting is increased tire wear.

As a kart drifts, its tires experience rapid deterioration due to the heightened friction against the racing surface.

This accelerated wear affects their performance over time and necessitates more frequent replacements or maintenance than would be required for non-drifting cornering techniques.

Consequently, as tire grip declines and overall performance diminishes, karts struggle to maintain optimal speeds throughout turns while simultaneously trying to compensate for less predictable handling dynamics caused by worn-out tires.

Excessive Throttle Use

Moreover, excessive use of throttle during drifting plays a significant role in reducing speed.

To maintain control and balance while sliding through corners, drivers often apply more throttle than is necessary for non-drifting techniques.

This increased fuel consumption leads to wasted energy in the form of heat and contributes to an overall decrease in efficiency and performance.

Ultimately, this overreliance on throttle results in slower exit speeds from turns, as karts must work harder to regain traction and forward momentum after completing a drift maneuver.

Related Article: How to Drift a Go-Kart – Easy Step-By-Step Guide


Drifting in go-kart racing presents a complex interplay of factors contributing to the overall speed reduction. The phenomenon can be attributed to vehicle motion’s fundamental physics, particularly centripetal force, and friction acting upon the tires during cornering maneuvers.

As drivers attempt to control their karts while navigating turns at high speeds, they inevitably sacrifice valuable time due to decreased traction and increased tire wear.

One interesting statistic is that professional drift racers have been known to reach lateral acceleration forces of up to 0.9g during extreme drifting events (1g is the gravitational force experienced at rest). This highlights the significant impact such driving techniques can have on kart performance and driver safety.

Ultimately, while drifting may appear visually impressive and provide an adrenaline rush for thrill-seeking enthusiasts, its detrimental effects on speed cannot be ignored by those seeking a competitive advantage on the track.

A strategic balance between maintaining optimal grip levels and minimizing loss of momentum through corners should remain a priority for serious racers intent on maximizing lap times – even if it means foregoing some of the excitement associated with this dramatic driving technique.


Goran, an experienced go-kart racer, fuels GoKartLife.com with his passion and expertise. He offers valuable insights and tips for fellow enthusiasts, fostering the growth of the go-kart community. Join Goran at GoKartLife.com and immerse yourself in this exhilarating sport.

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