Communicating the feeling of the go-kart is something many drivers struggle with. After driving so many different chassis and working with so many different teams, I’ve learned a few tips that helped me paint a clear picture for my team.
Break Down the Corners
By breaking down the corner into three parts, entry, middle and exit, you get a better understanding of what’s happening in the corner. For example, some drivers will tell their mechanic they’re getting understeer in the center of a corner. When the mechanic adds more front grip to the kart, somehow the understeer does not go away in the center of the corner. Sometimes it gets worse. That driver is completely ignoring the fact that he is sliding into the corner. And then understeering to try and slow the kart down in the center of the corner. When communicating about the kart, you have to take each part of the corner individually and understand what’s going on at each part.
What’s going on in the braking zone? What’s going on at turn-in? Are you unstable on the brakes? Can you not slow the kart down? Do you have enough grip when you go to turn into the corner? Are you oversteering? Are you understeering? These things will help you get a better understanding of what the kart is actually doing through the center of the corner. As I get to the center of the corner, you need to understand what’s happening before you even get to the throttle.
If you can point out these things, your mechanic is going to have a better idea of what to change on the kart to help you through each corner. And obviously on the exit of the corner, you really want to pay attention to what’s happening on acceleration. How is the kart coming out of the corner? Does it want to use all the racetrack on the exit? Can you keep the kart tight off the corner without slowing down? Break the corner down into three parts, entry, middle, and exit. Focus on those three parts and you’ll have a much better idea of what’s happening to the go-kart through the corner.
Visualizing myself driving after a session is over really helped me as I progressed through karting. I would always get off the racetrack and immediately complain about what’s going on with the kart.
Instead, take time to sit down and really think about what is going on with the kart through each corner. Was it just one time that I had this understeer and that’s what’s sticking in my head, or was it a constant problem throughout the whole session? Sit down after the session and visualize yourself, driving. Close your eyes and go through the corners and pretend that you’re driving and understand what was happening.
When I turned the steering wheel into this corner, did the back end feel loose? Could I have rolled more speed? Was there time left on the table? You want to get a better idea for yourself so that when you go to your mechanic, or when you go to whoever’s helping you set up the kart, you can paint a clear picture for them, give them a better understanding of the problem you’re having.
Another essential for better communication is being specific. Don’t use generic words like good, bad, all right. Be specific. When I turn the steering wheel, I don’t have much dig out of the front tires. When I accelerate, the tire doesn’t feel like it plants into the ground. When I come off the corner, when I go through the center of the corner, the kart kind of floats and it never feels like it grips up in the center. These are things that help your tuner understand how the kart feels to you.
Painting a clear picture allows your mechanic to have a better understanding of how your kart is actually performing. Also be specific about what’s happening at different places on the racetrack, whether something only happens in slow corners or the high-speed stuff. Wherever it is, you need to explain to them so that they can understand. Any information you have is beneficial, as long as it’s clear and specific.
If you don’t know, don’t pretend to know. A lot of times I’ve said things I didn’t really believe or didn’t really understand. And then we ended up spending another session or two trying to correct my mistake. If you understand that through this corner, the go-kart slides and that’s all you know, that’s all you should say.
Fix One Problem at a Time
I like to come in and complain about every single corner. I’ll complain about a bunch of different things. When I’m talking to my tuner, he’ll look at me and say, “OK well, what one thing do you want to change?”
In my head, I want to fix as many things as possible, as quickly as possible. But when you try to do too many things on the setup at one time, you’re not going to know what actually worked. So, fix one problem at a time, even though you have a list of things that are going through your head about why the kart doesn’t handle correctly. Figure out the main problem that’s causing a lot of these things, and focus on that. Normally a lot of the other setup problems stem from one issue.
Not only will this increase your speed, but you also will learn what happens when you change a front bar. When you take the third bearing out of the kart, you’ll know what that did. If you change the axle, you know what that change does. When you make too many different setup changes at one time, you’re not going to know what the chassis actually did at that moment. Focus on fixing one thing on the chassis each session.
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