Something that happens to all kart racers early in their career, and when they struggle with plateaus, is overdriving. See if this sounds familiar:
Have you ever come in from a session on the racetrack complaining about the kart only to have your crew chief tell you that you were overdriving, and it doesn't matter what changes you want made to the kart. The changes will not improve its performance. This is something that happened quite a bit early in my career, it still happens to this day, and it can happen to you.
To understand how we avoid overdriving, we need to understand what it is. Simply put, overdriving is asking the kart to do something it physically cannot do. The biggest problem is that a lot of drivers don’t recognize overdriving until their session is over.
It’s easy to see when you look at the data. That’s when you really see that you were too late to the brakes or trying to carry too much speed into the corner. At that point, it’s too late. You’ve already lost the race or wasted a session. So, the key question is, how do we recognize overdriving while we’re still out on track?
How do you know if you are too late or too early on the brakes? You can learn more about the fundamentals of good braking technique by clicking HERE
There are five telltale signs that you are overdriving, and you need to be able to train yourself to recognize those signs, so that you can correct the mistakes while you’re still out on track.
Telltale Signs of Overdriving
1. Sliding – Sliding occurs when you exceed the limits of the tire. They physically cannot grip the racetrack anymore, and now they’re giving way and sliding across the track. Now, we all know that sliding is not the fastest way around the racetrack, but to be fast, you must always be on the limit of sliding. There’s always a little bit of room where sliding is OK with the kart. You do want it to be freed up, but how do you know when you’re sliding it too much and overdriving? What typically happens when you’re overdriving is you lose the back end of the kart on corner entry. If you feel like you’re losing the back end of the kart as soon as you turn in, you’re most likely overdriving. You might be able to catch the kart in the middle of the corner and stop the slide by corner exit, but normally you’ll be running out of racetrack. If this is happening, you’ll need back the corner up a bit. You need to recognize that you’re overdriving and begin slowing the kart down a bit sooner to keep it under control in the middle of a corner.
2. Missing Your Apex – Missing an apex seems like an obvious problem and an easy fix, but I know drivers that are OK missing their apexes by more than 6 or 7 inches. That might not sound like much, but that can put you off the rubber just enough that you lose that little bit of speed, that little bit of grip that you need for those precious tenths of a second. The kart might not have slid going into the corner, but because you missed the apex by a little bit, you’re not able to carry as much speed into the corner as you want. You must hit your apexes. The most grip in the corner is normally right next to the kerb and right next to the apex. So, if you see yourself missing apexes pretty consistently by more than 6 or 7 inches, you’re probably overdriving the corner. This is a way you can recognize you’re overdriving before it’s too late.
3. Fighting the Kart – Fighting the kart occurs when it feels like it just doesn’t want to be on that particular spot on the racetrack. I was told early in my career that if it feels fast to be driving a kart, you’re driving wrong and you’re probably overdriving. I didn’t understand that at first because karting is fast. It’s a fast sport, but if the corners are coming up quickly and you feel out of control and everything’s just coming at you super quickly, you’re overdriving it. You should not be second-guessing yourself. You should be well in control of the kart. Fast drivers are smooth drivers. They’re in control of the kart. They’re not surprised at what’s being thrown at them on the racetrack. If you feel like you’re going into the corner and you’re really struggling to get back to the other side to set up correctly for the next corner, you’re over driving. If you come off track and you’re exhausted, you’re probably overdriving. Karting isn’t that physically demanding. You should be allowing the kart to do the majority of the work. You’re just guiding it along the racetrack. Don’t fight it. Be in tune with it. If you feel like you’re fighting with the kart, like you can’t get to the correct spot on the racetrack at the correct time, you’re probably overdriving.
4. Turning in too Early – The fourth and most obvious way to tell if you’re overdriving is if you’re turning too early into corners. I see this a lot. When you’re overdriving, the natural instinct is to pinch the kart and turn in early. You’re afraid you’re going to miss the corner so you begin to turn in just a bit early to make sure you get down to the kerb, but the problem with that is now you’re missing your true apex. You’re pinching off the corner and creating a tighter radius around this corner. If you catch yourself turning in earlier and not hitting your apexes, most likely you’re going into the corner too fast and you need to back up.
5. Accordion Effect – When you’re racing, one of the most obvious ways to tell if you’re overdriving compared with your competition is when you get the accordion effect. You catch the driver ahead of you in the braking zone, and then she just pulls away at corner exit. In the next braking zone, you catch her again and she just pulls away again.
If you see this happening, that you’re not making up any ground on the driver ahead, you are probably overdriving. There is likely a happy medium here. For example, you could probably brake a little bit later than the other driver, but you don’t need to brake as late as you are now.
As we switch from one tire compound to the next, it's easy to get caught out and under or over driver. Learn more about driving on different tire compounds here!
We all know overdriving is bad. Recognizing it in our own driving while we’re still on track is critical to making improvements throughout a race weekend. Ideally, you'll recognize your weaknesses while you're on the racetrack, fix them and then improve your race as a result.
To be fast on track we have to have the ability to communicate about our setup. Improve your ability to do just that by reading this article!
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