Rolling starts

@phastafrican made a good question. What are good things to do in a rolling start? Not getting into the race pace fast enough, but getting a run when the green flag drops and going into turn 1. I’ve thought I was okay at starts, but I could never explain how to do one well right now

I always suggest timing your acceleration to the rate of the pole sitter. If that means leaving a tiny bit of space to the guy in front, it’ll give you a little room to move around.

Probably the single biggest thing Is the ability to look ahead and ‘down the line’ of karts on front of you. Ideally watching the 2 or 3 lines, if present. Not focusing on the bumper of the 1 kart directly in front of you or any single kart, but the whole field of view & being able to pick up on a situation developing earlier than later. Depends a bit on where you are as a driver and your mentality. If someone I know that is for sure faster than me I let them have an easy pass on me rather than getting hung up in an accident with them. I am a bit conservative and usually don’t make or lose positions on starts. No need to run up on some guy that is faster than me, can probably out brake me and punt him off. Also depends a bit on how tight the first turn is.

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Building a bit on what Mike Clark already said: Rolling starts are more about looking ahead and picking some good tow rather then reaction times. It’s a game of drafting opportunities and situational awareness.

-You have to be aggressive, and in a sense break your opponent’s will. If they bump you, let yourself be bumped and hold that position. Bumping doesn’t mean I am faster, let me in. It means they can’t pass you for whatever reason.

-Look around you for where you can slot in without getting hit or hitting someone. Stay dynamic, move your head around.

-Look ahead for the next drafting opportunity. No, that’s too close. Look FARTHER. The best draft might not be the fastest guy who’s passing everyone, it could even be the guy he already passed! All you need is some clean air to start working your way up very, very fast.

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.

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I am ‘old school’ so keep that in perspective. First, do NOT plan. Each start is unique, dynamic, and usually unpredictable. I planned only once and it backfired. Second, I concur that the ability to ‘look down the lines in front of you’ is critical. So do that, take in the field in front of you. And, be also aware that a quick racer may be starting behind you due to some malfunction, so do not be surprised when they draw even. Playing games when on the front row has pretty much gone out the window, though back in the day I had much fun turning other front row sitters into knots. Fence watchers sometimes knew what I was doing, and predicted ‘watch Colm, he is going to turn the other racer inside out’. Nowadays that seems verboten. Third, observe the habits of the Starter. As in baseball, the Starter might have some habits they display. Good luck, because you CAN win the race at and during the start. Colm

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Going to revive this for relevancy.

The last few races I’ve been in, I’ve seriously struggled on starts, most notably in the outside lane. Either I get stuck out there, unable to get in line and getting passed by slower karts then having to repass them, or drivers on the inside lane spin under me, forcing me to evade and lose spots that way (The most recent race having that happen twice and put me in a position to later DNF). It’s immensely frustrating to watch other drivers fire it to the front from the rear with ease while I can’t seem to figure out how to make sufficient progress. I’m hooked to the rear bumper of the driver in front of me as we come to the flag, but I’m also trying not to win the race in turn 1.

How do you guys manage starts, in general? What are some things I should be doing to be more aggressive or more efficiently to capitalize?

One of the things that help me with rolling starts is watching the momentum of the guys in front of me. Depending on where I start, if I can read the momentum of the front of the pack, then I can time when I accelerate so that when they bunch up in front of me that I’m moving forward.

Although, if I’m starting on the front row (which admittedly doesn’t happen often) then I do my best to slow the pack down as much as possible leading up to the flag, so they are as bunched up as humanly possible to potentially slow them up when we all start.

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From the outside row your strategy is a little different compared to starting on the inside. Your main goal is to get to the preferred line as quickly as possible. You might need a little more “win the race in turn 1” mentality if you’re starting on the outside. You just have to find a place to slot in so you aren’t hung out to dry. Whether it’s squeezing the inside guy or doing a crazy banzai move around the outside of the karts in front, you absolutely just need to find the inside line as soon as you can. Sometimes, everyone tries to get to the inside and it gets so bottled up you can make up spots and find a place to slot in by taking the outside line. It’s just a matter of having a loose plan going into turn one and taking decisive action when you see an opening.

Unfortunately the outside line is going to be tough no matter what, and some tracks it’s worse than others.

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Starting on the outside is definitely challenging, especially if you are starting at the back of the pack and the polesitter punches it. You’re left on the outside of a turn, driving the marbles and other junk while trying to keep up.

One of those things that makes it fun :smiley:

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I kept your’s and Davin’s advice in mind this past weekend (again, on the outside lane…) and it worked out a lot better. I still lost one spot, but that was a lot better than the past few weeks. Just being more aggressive paid off. Oakland Valley definitely doesn’t favor the outside (right) lane with two hard left corners so I’ll take a -1, haha.

Thank you guys!


TJ’s advice may work on principle, but I suspect followed too closely you’ll end up in more wrecks than not, and perhaps more frustrated.

Depending on the track, one thing I have seen experienced outside line starters do is take a highly exaggerated wide entry to the first corner, which sets them wide of the main group should trouble start. Additionally, often the inside line tends to bunch up tightly mid corner to apex into the first corner on anything more than a 60 degree type corner, which can position you to muscle your way through into a position in line on corner exit. Typically, the drivers that focus on muscling into line (unless a gap opens up otherwise) on corner exit have a higher chance of mostly maintaining position and also steering clear of T1 trouble.