There’s a lot of psychological stuff here on starts, and I guess that it’s true, a lot of it is more psychology than anything.
Like passing, learning how to do starts is something you can practice if you’re struggling. I recently did this with a student. I tried everything I could think of to trip him up, and a lot of times succeeded. By the end his reactions were much better, and he had better starts from then on overall.
Being overly aggressive is a sure-fire way to be the guy that mysteriously seems to end up in all the crashes in races. Sure, you may be a hero a time or two, but it’s smarter in the long run to look far enough ahead to spot the crash before it happens, and position yourself where you can pass others as they all freak out around it.
What I said above isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be aggressive. Just don’t think you can drive past 15 karts into the first corner. As with any traffic situation, a chain of karts entering a corner causes some back up. So, it’s super easy for drivers to get too excited and end up plowing into a driver in front or that is already turning into a corner in a chain of 5 karts because they didn’t anticipate that the guy 5th in line has to brake slightly earlier. Never be that guy.
If you’re on the front row, understand your role. If you’re off-pole, it’s your job to match the pole sitter. If you can jump it and not get caught, awesome. But, as you’ve probably figured out, this is pretty hard to do. If you’re the pole sitter, you have a lot more control. You can play all sorts of games if you want, but usually other drivers are smart enough to catch on.
Off-pole is in many ways harder. You’ve gotta watch the flag guy and the pole sitter. Depending on the track and the drivers you can watch for little clues to get yourself a good start. Usually after a while you can sense when a driver tenses up. Or, if you’re lucky, they’ll accelerate, then back off and hesitate for a split second if you haven’t gone. In that moment you can get a jump.
Another great thing I liked to do (may not work with all engines) is if I wasn’t starting on the front row, I would place my front bumper squarely into the guy in front of me. I would apply at least half throttle, and just wait. Once they accelerate, it acts like a small spring to pull you along as the rows in front pick up speed. This helped to prevent large gaps opening up, which would allow our column of karts to quickly link together and draft into the first corner.
Biggest thing: Make it through turn 1. At most competitive events, there will be 1-2 guys that go off or get shuffled back. If you can avoid doing that, you’re already past several drivers.