I started racing sprint karts about a year ago and now have 10-15 races under my belt. My performance is definitely improving, but one thing I struggle with is how much a car changes through the course of a long race.
I’m starting to get the hang of cold tires at the start of a run because I practice in those conditions every time I go on track. Once the tires warm up a bit around lap 5-10 I get in a groove and start making up some ground. However, at the end of a race is really when I struggle.
It seems like no matter what I set my tire pressures at, or how well I try to underdrive to save them for the end, the car becomes a handful in the later laps. I can’t seem to maintain the pace that the rest of the field has and I start falling like a rock.
I’ve changed setups, pressures, ride heights, etc, but I think it’s all coming down to the driver. My mechanic tells me that I seem to be over driving towards the end, but as you all know, it can be pretty difficult to slow down your hands and stay smooth with the throttle on hot tires with 3-4 laps to go.
What are some tips and tricks you guys use to adapt your driving to the changing tire conditions throughout a long race?
It tends to slide more. A small movement I’d make midway through the run seems to make a much bigger impact on the car if I do the same movement late in the run. General pace, all around, just isn’t there late in the race. I know it’s not the car because it happens on multiple chassis, multiple engines, and all different set ups. There’s something I’m missing, as a driver, that I need to figure out.
Do your inputs remain consistent throughout the run? Are you fighting fatigue at the end of the run?
You also mentioned getting used to driving on cold tires. I would make sure that when practicing/testing, you are doing runs similar in length to some of your race sessions. Those laps mid/late into the run should be where the kart setup feels best, and what you should establish your “baseline” driving technique around. Then you would adapt your technique for the early laps, rather than the other way around, if that makes sense.
Also 5-10 laps is a tremendously long time for tires to come in. Unless you’re on some funky compound and/or the track surface is cold and slick AF, then the kart should feel pretty manageable by lap 2-3.
Sounds like you know what you need to do, just have to practice and execute it.
One thing I noted in my last Karting 101 video on braking was how trail-braking can over-work the front tires over the course of a run, because you’re allowing the fronts to scrub a little bit to slow the kart down on turn-in. Might be worth looking at your driving toward the end of a run and check to see if you’re trail-braking and cooking the front tires at all.
Otherwise, it just comes down to staying smooth. Remember that overheating your tires isn’t an end-of-the-race problem, it is a race-long problem. So the problem isn’t holding on at the end of a race, it’s trying to manage the tire better in the beginning and middle of the run so that they don’t overheat.
In general, the kart WILL react differently no matter what at the end of the run, as the tires get hotter. Part of it is adapting to that and managing your grip levels better as the tire heats up, or changing your driving style to suit the changing grip. Driving the kart like you did at the beginning of the run may not work at the end when the grip in the tires has changed.
You only have 15 races under your belt, I wouldn’t expect any driver to fully be able to utilize and adapt to the very limits of the tire’s changing grip levels with that few races to their credit, so don’t feel too down about it.
What tire and what kind of drop-off are you seeing after how many laps?
I run Komet K2H, I read an article online about prepping the tyre from new, it seems to get the most stability and predictability you need to ‘cure’ the tyre by running it slowly up to temperature - 2/3 laps only - then come in and let it fully cool naturally. Gives you a longer more manageable sweet spot, harder for the tyre to overheat and lose grip. It will eventually but later.
Didn’t get chance to try it yet, but it’s on my to do list.
Be careful of sliding the kart around a lot under braking as this will overheat the tyres and you will lose grip as the session goes on.
Also where you can, (as not all races allow it with close competition) try to drive at about 90-95% of your ability which allows you to keep something in the tank for a final push at the end of a race.
Nothing likes to be driven 100% for 15 or so laps. That includes driver, tyres, engine.
Very old video but compare me vs spencer through T1
at the time I said it was about being defensive, but this was really about saving tyres. Mike’s style is all about tyre preservation. This shows the difference between saving tyres and over-working them through a complex (you can see me with the ass of the kart out). We both matched each other pace wise before the first hairpin, but over a race distance the it’d probably stretch out.