@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.
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.
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