Understanding The Racing Line
Looking to beat the track record? Perhaps you're simply wanting to smash your personal best. Whatever your reasons for wanting to go that little bit quicker, nailing the proper racing line is fundamental to a faster lap.
From Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1 to Andrew Jordan in the British Touring Car Championship, unlocking lap time is about looking at the track and working out what lines you have to take.
Remember: a fast lap is not just about going as fast as you can through every corner, it's about the best combination of corners you can put together as a whole. You might be able to go through one corner flat out, but if that puts you off-line for the next one, your overall time through those two corners will be slower.
So read this guide and look at your track - how are you going to nail your lap?
The racing line
For fans of Top Gear's 'star in a reasonably priced car', you'll already know that most drivers like to argue about which is the best line to take, and sometimes, it really does boil down to personal preference. However, regardless of whether you prefer a wide line or an aggressive narrow move, the basics always remain the same.
The four main points to remember are:
The braking point: the point at which you take your foot off the accelerator and apply the brakes. This point will differ from corner to corner, and it pays to set yourself little reminders to start braking - such as marks on the circuit or a certain mark on the wall.
The turn-in point: the point at which you turn your steering wheel into the bend. Again, try to set a marker to remind you when exactly this point is or ask a member of your local TeamSport team to offer their expertise.
The apex: the point at which your kart is at its closest to the inside of the corner. When aiming to nail the racing line, understanding the apex is crucial.
The exit point: the point at which you have completed the corner, start thinking about the next one, and in certain circumstances, can accelerate away.
While each of the four aspects are hugely important in their own right, all four have to be strung together in order to truly nail the correct racing line.
Karting techniques cornering
There are three main types of corner on every track: complexes, sharp corners and long, fast corners. When it comes to the latter, the whole point of the racing line is to try and reduce the angle of a corner by as much as possible, a move that will then keep the kart moving in a faster, straighter line. As for sharper corners, the trick is to rotate the kart around the apex as quickly as possible before hitting the accelerator and speeding off.
Lastly, consider complexes. These are a group of corners that sit close together, and require a compromise to be made on the racing line and an approach that is unique to the track. Examples of this are the esses in Cardiff and Bristol, and the section under the mez in Warrington.
Find out our driving tips for turning corners in the section below.
How to find the racing line
To start with, let's take the example of a simple right-hand-turn. As the approach the corner, place your kart towards the left-hand-side of the circuit, as shown in the video below. This will help to reduce the severity of the bend you're about to tackle.
Next, keep an eye out for your marker. This will be your signal to brake or take your foot off the accelerator – a move that can be used to get the kart to step out, or simply reduce the speed it’s travelling at. In the video below, this particular section of the line is shown in red.
Concentrate as you approach the turn in point before turning the kart's steering wheel to the right. At this point, try to avoid using your brake altogether and limit the amount of throttle – doing this will help to reduce your chances of skidding and spinning out. In the video below, this section is shown in white.
Once you've hit the apex, apply some throttle to thrust the kart towards the exit point. This part of the process is shown using the green line in the video.
Mastering a chicane
Unlike standard bends, a chicane is where one turn follows another in quick succession. A few famous examples of this type of bend exist throughout the racing world, including Nouvelle at Monaco and the Corkscrew at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The trick to understanding the racing line through a chicane is simple. In essence, the driver must try to reduce the severity of each corner by hitting the apex of the first bend – this will then allow him/her to manoeuvre themselves across the track in time for the second part of the bend before hitting the gas and powering towards the exit point.
In the example below, we show the right way to approach the chicane at the TeamSport circuit in Leeds.
As you can see the kart approaches the chicane by moving over to the right-hand-side of the track before applying the brakes at the designated braking point.
When the driver reaches the turn in point, the kart moves towards the apex of the first bend. Shortly after this, the driver applies a small amount of throttle, straightens the steering wheel and then turns into the second part of the chicane.
Following this, the driver applies a small amount of throttle before speeding through the exit point.
The racing line through a hairpin
Throughout the world of motorsport, the hairpin is one of the most common types of corner. Simply defined as a 'U-shaped bend', they are the parts of the track that can make or break a lap time.
The trick to nailing a hairpin is to brake late, turn in and try to get the kart around the apex as quickly and as tightly as possible – all while maintaining enough speed to remain competitive. It may sound tricky and doing it right does take a certain level of skill and bravery, but nobody ever said karting was easy, right?
Think you've got what it takes to take on a hairpin at your local TeamSport track? Take a look at the video below and find out everything you'll need to smash your PB.
Just as we saw in the original example, the driver once again approaches the hairpin from the opposite side of the track to the apex. Doing this not only reduces the angle of the corner, it also allows more room for the kart to turn while travelling at speed.
As you'll be going at a slower speed through a hairpin, the exit point arrives a lot sooner than normal – and although you might be tempted to hit the throttle as you hit the apex, you’d be much better applying the throttle slowly to avoid wheel spin.
In this instance, applying the throttle part way round the bend slingshots the kart out of the corner, meaning less time is spent getting back up to speed.
How to go around bends fast in a go kart
- Identify the Racing Line – The racing line minimises the angle of a corner meaning that you can keep up your speed and accelerate out of the other side. Do your research on the track before the race to find the quickest lines.
- Brake Straight – Braking while turning can cause you to lose traction and spin out. The key is to brake whilst the car is pointing straight and turn into the corner at a reduced speed.
- Keep it Smooth – Any sharp braking or swerving will cause you to lose momentum
- Accelerate Past the Apex – Once you are past the apex you have a much straighter line to accelerate out of the corner and hit those top speeds.
- Build Up Your Speed – Once you’ve mastered the line and technique build up your speed each time.
Remember, although it's great to brush up on the basic skills of karting while you're at home, nothing beats the rush of stepping into a kart and having a go for real. Book a session for you and your pals at TeamSport, put your new cornering karting techniques to the test and show 'em how it's done. We look forward to seeing you!