How to take a Hairpin in Karting

Hairpin Bend Diagram

How to take a Hairpin Bend in Karting

19 May 2024

Whether you’re new to the track or a whiz, go karting is all about the thrills and beating your personal best. Part of the fun is learning how to take corners so that you can overtake in your go kart and take pole position.. 

If you want to put the pedal to the metal and become a champion, you need to know how to ace a hairpin bend. This is where we come in! We’ve put together a guide sharing the definition of a hairpin bend in karting and the techniques to help you nail that bend and take you from a beginner's level to excelling on the track.

What is a hairpin Bend in karting?

A ‘hairpin turn’, also known as a ‘hairpin bend’, is one of the most common types of motorsport corners. It’s a ‘U-shaped bend’ that looks like an arch and is a long, continuous curve without a straight bit of track in the middle.

A hairpin turn can make or break lap time, and as a bend with a very acute inner angle, an oncoming vehicle must turn about 180° to continue on the road. The hairpin turn can slightly alter for outdoor and indoor karting tracks due to thinner tracks and less space indoors.

This bend is typically slow, yet for some circuits, a larger radius means the kart can carry more speed into the corner. Go kart drivers can take different approaches for hairpins using a late apex or middle apex, which can affect the outcome.

Hairpins are also the best track corner to overtake as there’s more opportunity to brake later and complete a pass successfully, leading you to victory.

Hairpin Bend Diagram

How to tackle a hairpin bend

Whether you’re celebrating a stag do or heading out for a day of fierce family fun, don’t let losing drive you round the bend! Use our tried and tested go karting hairpin technique and leave your competitors in the dust.

The techniques to tackle hairpin bends depend on the type and size of the go-karting track. Drivers tend to take a late apex for hairpins with a tight and small radius. A geometric apex is more appropriate for medium-speed hairpins with a larger radius, encouraging as much speech as possible for flowing corners.

The process of tackling a hairpin bend

To nail a hairpin bend, you should use the concept of ‘out, in, out’, which can vary for indoor and outdoor tracks.

For outdoor tracks:

Step one - Use the full width of the track on entry to the corner, making the radius larger.

Step two - Press the brakes forcefully in a straight line, slowing your go-kart as fast as possible.

Step three - It’s recommended to delay your turning to go deep in the corner and initiate a sharp, late turning.

Step four - Target a late apex because your objective is to increase your exit speed, and a late apex allows for that.

Step five - Use the full width of the track to your advantage on the corner exit.

For an indoor track:

As indoor tracks can be smaller and tighter, it’s even more important to use the full width of the track to your advantage.

Step one - Make the track as wide as possible, right up to the barrier on the right-hand side.

Step two - Press the brakes forcefully in a straight line and initiate a sharp, late turn-in.

Step three - Target a late apex, accelerate through the corner, open up the steering wheel and head back out wide to the outside edge again.

Step four - These actions can ensure you’ve maximised your exit speed.

Generally speaking, you’ll have a long straight after a hairpin bend so maximising your exit speed can help you improve your lap time and accelerate on the straight. 

You should use the concept of ‘slow in, fast out’, which requires you to sacrifice time on the corner entry (early braking) to get the best acceleration when you come out of that corner. This process works for maximum efficiency on the track and supports you to increase lap time.

Tips and tricks for nailing your go karting hairpin technique

If you’ve got more experience on the track, you can use other techniques and tricks to nail that hairpin bend. One of those tricks to succeeding with a hairpin is braking late, turning and getting the car around the apex as quickly and tightly as possible, and maintaining enough speed for a fast lap time. 

You can approach the hairpin from the opposite side of the track to the apex, reducing the angle of the corner and allowing for more room for the kart to turn while travelling fast.

You’ll travel slower through the hairpin, and the exit point arrives sooner than expected. 

The braking point is another key to mastering a hairpin turn, and where a reference point can help if this is your first time speeding around one of our go karting or e-karting tracks. When using a reference point, start by braking early and once you build up confidence, start braking slightly later and later.

Slow in, fast out always wins on a hairpin turn! Or, if you’re feeling brave, you can attempt the other karting hairpin technique of braking later.

All that’s left to do is put your newfound hairpin skills to the test by competing in a high-octane race for the podium. If you’re interested in booking a karting session, contact us today for our various karting packages available and take a look at our FAQs to learn more information.