How would explain to a new comer to karting how to drive a kart?

The other day I was thinking about this after a fellow karter told me something:
A lot of us from car backgrounds have struggled with karts. No one ever told me simply and straight forward how to drive a kart. It gets very convoluted really quickly.

How would explain to a new comer to karting how to drive a kart?
( I have to do this soon)


Unlike a car, karts have no rear differential, so to get it to corner without scrubbing, you need to get the inside rear wheel off the ground while turning. This means you need to be supremely smooth, and keep a constant load going through the chassis so it can flex and lift that wheel. So firm and confident inputs on both pedals and on the wheel.

That would be a good start. Of course there are a million little lessons to learn around those points, but I try to start with teaching new drivers to be smooth.

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Do not trail brake and get everything done in a straight line before turn in - lift, brake, brake release all done in sequence in a straight line culminating with the turn in just after the release. Then back on the throttle by apex.

Basically take everything you do in a car, just back it up and do it earlier. While driving a car quickly often means increasing entry and roll speed, driving a kart quickly is all about increasing exit speed.


We talked some about with on our podcast episode with Ross Bentley:

I find that car drivers will struggle with braking the most. Their habit often is to increase braking pressure the deeper into the turn they go. So usually I will get them used to hitting the brake hard and then releasing as they approach the turn.


Thanks guys,
The more simple and distilled the better. I am trying to get non racers to come to rental league races and therefore I feel the need to help them as much as I can.
The biggest concept I can present that a person can process and use immediately are don’t overlap the inputs in a kart. Cars can do 2 things but not 3 things at once. Karts are better at 1 thing at once than 2.

Of course there are some things like lifting inside wheel (no diff), leaning and use of hands, looking ahead, etc.

I can copy and paste this and use it directly.

I did enjoy the podcast and have found many of the same observations to be true.

I and some other “Car Guys” have had some discussions on how to think like a “Kart Guy” in terms of driving and setup. Probably my biggest thing besides some things being counter-intuitive was how condensed everything is in terms of corner time. It all happens so fast. IE the kart is so reactive, that it is hard to get a grasp on what just happened, much less break the corner down into 1/3rds. Definitely braking is the trickiest part. Coming from autocross you have to be good at braking in the stock classes. In a FF you could feel the car scrubbing if you overdid the slip angle. In a FF you want to turn with a bit of brake still on. I am definitely not used to “jumping off the pedal”. But it is not jumping off the pedal as much as being much quicker in the controlled release.

Imho you guys are very correct about being smooth and doing everything in a straight line, obviously. But the reason a lot of advice fails is because it assumes the newcomer knows fundamentals about driving that they just don’t. Your advice needs to be even more simplistic. I would highly suggest having a simple conversation or presentation about the differences between a car and kart, mainly abs brakes (and power steering) vs everything being manual. Chances are many don’t even know the difference nor do they know the positive/negative consequences of said differences. Again, just explaining the differences about the brakes is a large part of the problem for newcomers that I see. (Cough Yes I know I’m new to this sport but my background in road racing motorcycles had very similar conversations.)

Couple that conversation (i.e. don’t lock up brakes because they aren’t ABS) with what others have said above (such as braking in a straight line and accelerating no later than the apex) and you have given a newcomer more than enough knowledge to succeed. I find in both motorcycles and karts that people don’t have a firm grasp on things that should be mandatory before getting onto the track. Only in America do we have safety briefings that don’t include having knowledge about the machine you are getting into.

Even though I am new to this particular form of racing I have helped plenty of rental people with a quick 2 min discussion like this and they have been both extremely grateful and immediately improved the next time they got into their rental kart.

I’ll see myself out…

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You can do this in a kart too for sure. Its just the initial hit on the brake in a kart that should be much harder than in a car.

Your point about timing is spot on, it’s all so much more condensed in a kart.

So with braking, the braking zone is so short that if you don’t reach maximum brake force very quickly, then the time it takes to feel for maximum braking uses up all your braking zone - then you can find yourself running into the turn too hot, or with too much brake pressure for a turning kart.

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This is an interesting and timely topic. Does the advice on corner entry stuff ever change or is it just not possible to attack corner entry in a kart because you’ll never be able to do that and get the kart to still drive off with any speed?

This is my first year of karting but I come from a pretty extensive background in cars and bikes. No real competition other than Time Trials but plenty of track time and experience. I actually instruct high performance driving as well. In a car the above technique of get everything done in a straight line, turn late, apex late and get back to the gas early is a classic beginner to intermediate set of skills we teach drivers to make the learning progression as safe as possible. As we get into more advanced drivers we start to teach earlier turn and apex points and the last skill set we work on is really using trail braking, the weight shift of the car and advanced contact patch management to work on drivers who can charge corner entry WITHOUT giving up anything on exit. Generally our drivers get slower on this last stage until they can really experiment with technique to really get it right but in the end you get someone that has the complete package and is really quite quick.

Without sounding like I’m inflating my skills, I’ve always been pretty quick in a car. I’ve had a couple of Time Trial lap records come and go over the recent couple of years. I also drive a 911 which has very little front end weight and REALLY rewards the ability to trail brake and use weight transfer to really get front grip and be quick on corner entry. I pride myself on being better than most on the brakes and down to apex while still being on the gas super early for the drive off of the corner.

Back to the kart…In my mind I still expect that I should be able to make up ground on people on corner entry without sacrificing drive off. as a result I’m super late on the brakes and upsetting the kart on corner entry. Everywhere else I’m extremely happy with how the kart works but recently I’ve been trying to decrease caster and take tow out of the kart to allow me to be able to better charge the corner but I’m still struggling with corner entry ONLY when I really try to charge and make up ground there. When I back off to what feels like 9/10ths pace I can roll corner entry perfectly fine and the kart points quite nicely.

what I’m reading here is there’s nothing wrong with the kart, it’s the driver trying too hard to gain ground on entry and I need to give up and get away from that. I should be content with not closing ground on others at entry and focus on just working on drive off correct as the kart is just never going to really respond to how hard I want to push on entry?

I’m also fighting weight which is why I’ve resorted to trying other methods of being fast…I’m 35 lbs over class minimum so I’m not exactly catching anyone during acceleration no matter how much earlier I am to the gas compared to them. That’s a personal issue I’m dealing with trying to correct separate from driving technique.

So…forget trying to gain ground on entry on people? …just let the thing smoothly roll on entry and try my hardest to get back to the gas sooner than everyone else?

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That is certainly a common trait that I have to work on with drivers, but the exact opposite is common too :grin:

It is perfectly possible that you are asking too much from the kart on entry that it just cannot give you… But it may also be true that you do have some extra skills that can be exploited on entry to the corner, such that you can catch other drivers who are using the regular slow in fast out approach… Sometimes fast in, fast out works!

I’d recommend you give it a shot try to make the kart work your way and maximise the fast entry approach… and if it doesn’t work you can revert. In the process you’ll either crack it or learn a lot about kart dynamics. Its a no lose situation.

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The original premise of my post was really condensing How to drive a kart down to it’s most basic elemental form. Kartwerks Dan nailed it: “Do not trail brake and get everything done in a straight line before turn in”.
The context is in regards to the starting point. Past that plateau the approach can change.
I think Stirling Moss had some of the best advice I ever read on braking. It made me realize you have to be the best at late braking and then be smart enough not to over do it.

One of the guys that was down here was Jay Howard. One of the ‘Car Guys’ told me Jay jump in a race and smoke every body. The real difference was in braking.

Thanks for the clarification and again, great discussion here.

That’s a pretty good summation isn’t it. Simple enough to say and understand, yet like a fine wine the more you savour it the more depth it has to it. I’d consider adding “looking ahead” too, but if they have racing experience this would carry over and be assumed prior knowledge?

My comment being based on my being a kart noob myself and with an enduro (mainly) dirt bike racing background where seemingly nothing transfers minus forward vision and mental approach???

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Since at the tracks I drove an older FWD VW with lots of power but no ABS (or anything else in the way of driver aids), the whole lifting the rear inside wheel and threshold breaking aspect is pretty much the same.

What’s so much different, maybe difficult to really get used to, is the almost total lack of weight transfer due to the lack of suspension. In braking, initial corner, and in how to attack the corners, this has been my hardest thing to adjust to due to that. With this shifter kart I have noticed that unlike the car, it’s more important to roll smoothly as possible through a set of corners, than being as concerned about hitting the apex spot on, again due to the lack of suspension and the huge amount of Ackerman. Also of course, running over any curbs is an absolute no no, unless you want to go flying.

I rode in some enduros, but it has been a while . . . . I think looking ahead is the biggest takeaway from it. It is funny that I never really thought about it when doing it. But then again it is important even in something like a Time Trial on a bicycle. Not exactly kart specific but it was on my short list of bullet points. Irony is most of what works in a kart is the same as in a car. Smooth inputs, etc. still are needed in the end. I think it is somewhat how we are used to think and how suspension dampens some of out feedback.
My progression is

  • how to drive a kart tips
  • How to drive tips
  • How to Race tips
  • Observe and address specifics

I think that the comment on curbs is good advice for beginners. Later you can use them to your advantage, but I’d say stay off of them at first. I know I am just beginning to gain a little bit of confidence with some of them. Even still it is a risk/reward thing, Somewhat due to my lack of mastery of it.
Not hitting the theoretical line is a good point as well. I think I first noticed it with bumps on a track. The best line would be great if the bumps weren’t there. Varying up some things was at worst just as fast with less stress on my body & the kart.

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Yeah, i think looking ahead is often overlooked for beginners because riders are forced into naturally having to learn it or crash. Particularly in enduro’s where you aren’t lapping the same track repeatedly. Focus on a tree/rock that you must avoid for too long and you’ll hit it 100% of the time.

Terrence Dove covers it in his book and i enjoyed seeing what i suspected in writing. Looking ahead, identifying braking/entry/apex/exit points etc and forcing yourself to move on further up the track mentally helps transfer the required tasks to the subconcious leading to improved execution and less conscious effort, freeing it up to take in fresh information.

Sorry, off topic sideline. Everyone can probably tell i’ve been enjoying his book repeatedly. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Well since motorcycles came up. One book I read, even though I don’t ride was Twist of the Wrist. Lots of good info for any racers on any number of wheels.

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James, 100% agree on the Keith Code book. Read it at the beginning of every track season.


Thanks Greg,!!

BTW, another big benefit of the looking ahead stuff is that it forces you to identify things to look at and makes learning a track in detail much more systematic. That could be a big part of the benefit, and like you say can help transfer mental tasks to sub-conscious…

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When I raced bicycle I would ride on the white line as it was less friction than the road. Some guys had trouble and would be a bit wobbly trying. Every time the cure was to look farther up the road. It was a bit counter intuitive I guess. Going in to bikes after M/C I had good bike handling skills and was already programmed to look ahead. A couple of time guys would put their head down too long and hit something. I am not a fan of and have never done the helmet tuck in a kart. Probably never will.

No such thing as off topic here. Bring up anything as far as I’m concerned.