Let’s take a moment to review two basic concepts, sliding and over-grip, and outline what those two conditions feel like when you drive.
Most fast karts have a little bit of slide baked in. When you hear fast drivers go by on the racetrack, you're going to hear a bit of tire squeal, and that's normal to be fast. The kart needs to be right on the edge of not enough grip and just enough.
One of the easiest ways to detect sliding is counter-steering, which is when you're turning in the direction opposite the corner you’re negotiating.
So any corner in which you're counter-steering, you're sliding. When you have to counter-steer, that's an exaggerated slide. Most of the time, when a slide occurs, it's really not that dramatic or exaggerated on the racetrack. So let's talk about how the kart feels when it's sliding, even when you're not counter-steering.
I like to describe it as floating. The kart just kind of floats on the racetrack, and you can't carry much speed into the corner. You go to turn in and the tires don't really dig into the pavement, and so you just kind of glide across the racetrack. You can't point it where you want to go on the apex without feeling uncomfortable or like the back end is going to step out. If the kart feels like it's floating on top of the surface of the racetrack, that's because it's sliding.
If you have to tip-toe around the racetrack to get to where you want to go, you really don't feel like you can push that hard, or you're going to lose the back end of the kart, the kart is too free.
You know your kart is too free when you use too much track on the exit of the corner. If you're going through the corner and the kart tracks out too early, and you start using a lot of track on the exit of the corner, your kart does not have enough grip.
Another easy way to find out if the car is sliding is when you're behind other drivers. If you go into the corner behind another driver and she gaps you in the braking zone, in the center of the corner or on the exit of the corner, you don't have enough grip. You might feel that you're in control of the kart, and it doesn't feel like it's sliding at all, but if you see a driver beat you the whole way through the corner, you don't have enough grip and the kart is too loose.
If you're struggling with sliding you should also ensure you are getting under the rubber on track, learn more about that here!
The opposite of sliding is being over-gripped, and it can be more difficult to understand when you're driving, because it can be hard to feel. The biggest indicator that a kart is over gripped is when it starts to buck, which is the easiest symptom to detect.
Bucking happens when you go into a corner and turn the steering wheel, and then the kart begins to hop across the racetrack. There's so much grip in the kart that the tire on the inside is lifting up and setting down over and over. However, like counter-steering to correct sliding, you can have too much grip without the kart bucking, and that’s a little harder to detect.
You know you're over-stuck when you come out of a corner and the engine kind of decelerates before it accelerates again. When you get back on the gas, you’ll hear the engine kind of bog down a little before it gets going again. That's too much grip in the kart.
You also can tell if a kart is over-stuck if you're not tracking out all the way on exit. If you're coming out of the corner and the kart feels super snug and doesn't want to use all the track-out like it normally would, you've got too much grip in the kart. You want to have the kart on that limit of tracking all the way out, every single corner. If you don't use all the racetrack, you're just losing time by slowing the engine down on the exit of the corner.
When a kart is over gripped, the front end is going to feel pretty heavy. Normally the kart's going to point really quickly. If it feels heavy in the front end, you might have a little too much grip in the front. Another indication is that you're just kind of slow overall. As mentioned, a lot of the engine performance relies on a kart being free off the corner — but not too free, of course.
Now that you know how to feel the kart, let's find out how to communicate what we feel to our mechanics so we can improve our setup!
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