Most sports have drills you practice so you can improve your performance. Kart racing is not one of those sports — until now. I am going to give you five drills you can use at the racetrack to help you become a better driver.
Before we get into the drills, I want to stress that you need to set goals. There’s no point in practicing if you’re not setting goals. If you have no measurable way of knowing that you’ve improved, there’s no real way to know you did anything productive. Whether it’s braking, accelerating or being smoother with your hands, set a measurable goal and try to accomplish it.
Goals will not wildly improve your technique overnight. It is something that helps paint a clear picture in your head so you can focus on what you need to do at the racetrack.
The first drill is to drive around the racetrack one-handed. This helps you a lot with conditioning because it’s difficult to drive one-handed. I’m sure a lot of you guys don’t realize how much your arms keep you in the seat when you’re driving, so driving one-handed helps you become a stronger driver. It definitely works out your forearms, shoulders, and especially your abs. It’s something you can do at the beginning of the day to get your blood flowing and get your muscles ready.
Not only does this make you a stronger driver, but it also makes you a smoother driver. To be fast driving one-handed, you have to be smooth. It’s really uncomfortable to drive one-handed when you’re jerky on the steering wheel. It shows you exactly what it takes to turn the steering wheel with the least amount of input. It also helps teach pushing with your outside hand. When you go through a corner, when your hand is on the outside, you realize how much smoother it is when you push rather than pull.
My suggestion is that you go out and do five laps, left-handed, then five laps right-handed. It’s difficult thing to do for the whole day, so probably just do a few sessions like this.
Drive Long Stints
Driving long endurance sessions helps with conditioning because you’ll work out muscles that you only use when you’re driving. So, do a 20- to 30-lap session. If your track is long, maybe cut that down by five or 10 laps, but go longer than you would at any final. You want to condition for more than you would experience at a regular race.
Focus on pushing the kart every lap and be consistent. Here’s why. Most drivers, when they get to the lead, panic and start to tighten up and don’t know how to lead. They start making mistakes and slowing down. This drill of just driving alone helps you get more comfortable leading the pack. You also want to be consistent. The best way to be consistent is just to drive and do laps over and over and over again. If you practice it, you’ll do it in the race. Hit your marks and get into a rhythm so you can keep doing it over and over and over again.
During practice, go into every corner and brake as late as you can. By braking late, you’re not going to be that fast. You’re going to blow past the apex over and over again, but you’re going to get more comfortable on the brakes.
There’s a feeling everybody gets when they know they’ve gone too deep, with the back end sliding and dancing around, and you just kind of lose control of the kart and blow past the apex. If you can get more comfortable in that area and understand what it takes to slow the kart down to make the apex, you’re going to be more dangerous when you have to make that last-lap, late lunge into the corner to get the pass done for the win. Get comfortable on the brakes, get comfortable with the back end dancing, and know that if you go into the corner super deep and the back end steps out on you, you can control it.
This is also going to teach you where the threshold is on the brake pedal. If you can get on the brakes late and understand that little bit of travel on the brake pedal between locking up and a effective late braking, you’re definitely going to become a much more efficient braker going into the corner.
Wait to Reapply Throttle
One thing many drivers fall victim to is applying the gas too early. A drill you can do to improve in this area is to go into the corner normally, and then just get off the brakes and off the throttle until you pass the apex. Go into the corner and let the kart roll, make the corner. Then, as you get off of the corner, apply the gas. Get used to waiting to hit the throttle. Not only is this going to allow you to understand how much speed you can roll through the center of the corner, it’s going to allow you to be a much more adaptive driver because tracks always change.
We’ve all heard the saying that slow is fast and sometimes not getting on the throttle is faster than getting on the throttle. Again, this is a drill. That’s not going to be good for the lap time, but you’re going to understand how it is getting on the throttle late and rolling a lot of speed through the middle of the corner.
Change The Setup
Try setup changes throughout the day and understand what each change does. Go to the racetrack with the goal of understanding a few predetermined setup changes.
Keep it simple, because you need to understand the main setup, changes that people make to a kart like caster, camber, torsion bars, axle stiffness, and moving the front and rear hubs in and out. You don’t have to make complicated changes or pile changes on top of one another. Go out and do 10 laps with the kart in baseline trim. Then come in, change one thing on the kart and go back out.
If you can’t feel the change, come back in, set it back to baseline. Do 10 laps, come back in again, change it and go again. Do this over and over until you understand what that change did to the kart. Another thing I really like to do is go out with the pressures set normally, and then come in and immediately drop them 3 or 4 pounds, and then go out again.
This will help you understand what it’s like driving on low tire pressures and make you a better driver in those early laps. You need to understand what a kart does when you’re on low tire pressures. Again, keep it simple. You don’t have to change your seat position or toe settings. That will help give you a better understanding of which settings do what.
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