You’re 27 years old, raced for few years, and stuck in the biggest age group ranging 15 years. You’re realistic. You’re making post-college struggle paychecks, living on your own, and finally have a handle on time management… so you think. You still have a passion to get on that podium, but struggle to find the pace needed to compete with today’s top kids.
If your goal is to make it on the podium, what do you do to make it up there?
Hey me too! I’ve commented on this in other threads before, but it’s a great topic.
Being our age, the biggest advantage is that we’re usually way smarter than 16 year olds. Most kids in that age group are impatient and a bit reckless. When you get to be our age, our natural instincts of self-preservation tend to be stronger, so we have a better grasp on what moves are going to result in disaster vs. just chucking it down the inside without thinking.
I’ve always sort of driven this way, but as I’ve gotten older compared to my competition, I’ve found that planning your race out and thinking ahead pays dividends when the younger drivers drive 110% from the drop of the green and burn their tires off early. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become so much more calm and zen during a race, that I don’t get emotionally charged up and force myself into a dumb mistake. For example, if I get passed early on in a race, I know that I’ll be fine once the kart comes in, and I’ll get that spot back later in the race.
The other main issue with getting older is that we no longer have super-human 16-year old physical endurance and our bones aren’t all rubbery anymore. I never exercised as a kid racing, and never really had an issue with fitness during a race weekend. Now, I’m definitely feeling it every weekend, and for the next few days after. Exercise and diet will help keep you on the same physical playing field as the younger kids.
The final great strength we have as adults, is that we realize this is just go-kart racing and we know we aren’t going to be making it to F1 any time soon, so really take advantage of that lack of pressure to relax and have fun all weekend at the track.
That’s me as well!
I think it comes down to three factors, the first of which is budget. For the 15/16 year old, especially if they are running at the front, they are most likely being funded by somebody else so they don’t have to worry as much about budget. For us, we need to focus on spending money where it does the most good on track. Of course, first and foremost is spending budget on practice days to improve your driving and set up the kart. Secondary is means new tires as often as possible, and making sure your motor is in top shape. It means ignoring things like top of the line trailers and race suits, using track air instead of your own compressor, and not springing for the latest and greatest fancy gadget that will result in minimal on track improvement.
The second factor comes in kart maintenance and setup. When you’re on the margin, “good enough” isn’t good enough in kart setup. Spend the extra time to get your alignment and corner weights perfect. Make sure your kart is clean as a whistle when it gets to the track. Get to the track right as the gates open and have a schedule so you avoid the thrash. Keep your tools organized in your pit. When I was a volunteer firefighter, we had a saying, “just because you’re a volunteer, doesn’t mean you can’t be a professional”. I think that applies here.
Finally, driving. Like TJ said above we are older and with age comes patience and maturity which pays dividends on the track. Avoid getting the red mist if you make a mistake or if another driver isn’t playing nice. Pick your spots. Let other people make mistakes and then capitalize. At the same time, you still need some of that 16 year old aggressiveness while passing. A lot of the kids will dismiss you as a non-threat and won’t expect a dive bomb or little bump and run. It’s important to be able to balance patience and aggressiveness, and that is a quality that older drives have that younger drivers often lack.
This, so much this! Us old farts tend to get underestimated. Don’t let the kids nudge you around, dish it right back to them.
I know a few guys who are my age or older and they’re really good drivers, but they often get pushed around a bit because they’re too gentleman-ly. Need a little bit of that edge to knock the kids down a few pegs from time to time.
Budget for Tires & Motor: Check.
Operate like a Methodical Surgeon: Check.
Play like a kid, Act like an adult (or vice versa? lol): Check.
Now you have 5 weeks to prep for the next race. You have 2 opportunities (at most) to practice at a track.
Obviously dependent on one’s own strength’s & weaknesses; what do you focus on while at the track?
Conditioning/Stamina = Long stints on track
Data Analysis/Kart Setup = Short stints, test & tune
What do you focus on while off track in the few hours after a work day before hitting the snooze button again?
Don’t forget to do your chores on Sunday otherwise you start your work week off pace!
Old age and treachery trumps youth and bravado.
I’m not quite at that age yet, but getting close! Will be 24 this summer. I find at least where I race I’m sort of in a unique age range. Most of the guys I compete with are either 16, or over 30. The nice part is that I can fit in with both groups of drivers.
What’s mentioned above about driving and mentally preparing for a race is spot on. As you get older your decision making is much more rational. The cost of paying for parts and thrashing on the kart before the next race outweighs the notion of throwing it up the inside of someone hoping you both make it through the next corner.
I’ve been racing in the Gearup F Series for the past 3 years, and have only been involved in one crash during my very first race with the series. Since then, I learned that patience and preparation are key to success (plus spending you paycheck for the month on spare parts sucks). Mentally, it’s interesting to see how some of the young guys react to certain situations. Sometimes they seem to be they’re own worst enemy. With great equipment, unlimited budget, and fearlessness, they often find the fence very quickly.
As far as physical fitness, I have certainly implemented this into my daily routine. As TJ said, I never used to exercise as a kid before racing, but now I can feel it much more. When I’m on the grid I like to do a lot of stretches, weather arms or legs. I find it helps calm nerves a bit, and helps loosen up before hopping in the kart. I think it can be an intimidation practice as well. If you appear more confident and prepared before getting in more respect may be given on the track.
As I am 48 with basically zero racing experience, the only variable I have some element of control over is physical conditioning. So about 2 weeks ago I began the journey of getting into better shape so I don’t konk out around lap 10.
That is he sum total of my season prep. The rest will be trial by fire.
All the kids on the team make fun of me for stretching and doing P90X warm-ups in the mornings. I always tell them, “in 10 years, you’ll understand.”
If I don’t stretch and get warm before the first session, I’m so stiff and sore the next day.
Is there an upper age imit. If some has top gear, can pass track required expertise to be on the track, can I at 65 compete? I am new to Karting but been around a bit in the muscle days…Can I run or will they just let me do track pratice or will they even let me then? I need to really have a clear understanding before I purchase my personal gear…Any Racers going to be at Pat’s Acres Track near Portland, Oregon this Sunday for the Champioships? If s I will see you there, Happy Trails Everyone.
63, and planning on getting back into karting. Was racing SCCA for 10yrs, can’t logistically manage car storage/trailer/tow vehicle anymore, so karting return makes much more sense.
Are you in generally good health? If so, you would be fine. Particularly if you start out on the stuff that’s less hard on the body (harder less grippy tires). There was an interesting article about muscle degradation over age 50 and how it’s reversible.
I’m case you can’t access:
“A decline in physical activity, common among older people, is only one reason sarcopenia happens. Other contributing factors include hormonal changes, chronic illness, body-wide inflammation and poor nutrition.
But — and this is a critically important “but” — no matter how old or out of shape you are, you can restore much of the strength you already lost. Dr. Moffat noted that research documenting the ability to reverse the losses of sarcopenia — even among nursing home residents in their 90s — has been in the medical literature for 30 years, and the time is long overdue to act on it.”
In short, it’ll hurt at first but your muscles will get used to it just fine.
The motto for my group of old guys here is:
“One Foot on the Throttle, One in the Grave”
As a 54 YO I don’t have any sympathy for the old guys in there mid to late 20’s. Actually I do have some, not a lot, but some. But then you mid 20’s guy also don’t have your team mates grandkid asking you “Mr. Mike, why are you so slow? Is it because you are too fat or too old?”
At our track the only thing that precludes you is a heart or health condition. Other than that it would be a driving issue which you have already mentioned or an unsafe kart.
Jack McClure is in his 80’s and literally drives the fastest kart around:
Once you’re in good shape physically and mentally you’re fine. There’s lots of more “seasoned” folks racing in the sport, certainly 60’s and 70’s. Especially if you look at vintage and road racing you’ll see a lot of these.
One thing I recall in the 90’s In europe, for an FIA license you had to do an annual EKG test once you were over a certain age.
Jeff Clyde beats me every race (he always seems to get 2nd place). I was speaking to him last race and he just turned 60. He’s fit as a fiddle and fast as heck. And, he didn’t start karting until his mid 50s.