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How To Get Into Go Kart Racing

Updated on April 5, 2014
A pack of 10 go-karts entering a turn in a go-kart race
A pack of 10 go-karts entering a turn in a go-kart race | Source

Why Go Kart Racing

Go-Kart racing has become a very popular, fun, and inexpensive way for an entry-level individual to find their way into racing since go-karts were invented back in the late 1960’s. The type of karting that we see now in today’s world have become a way for young kids to learn important skills that is needed for the professional upper-series of racing like with NASCAR, Indy Cars, Formula One, and other popular organizations that are well-known through the racing world. Besides the fact that karting is about racing what if I told you that our most favorite drivers like NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon got their starts in go-karts. The idea behind go-karts is to learn everything hands-on with learning everything like the racing groove, passing, learning setup basics, and even to the media with asking questions about your racing. So, you see that karting is not about popular racing games that we play on our Playstation or XBOX...it is about learning in person.

A pack of go-karts coming down double-file for a start of a flathead feature race
A pack of go-karts coming down double-file for a start of a flathead feature race | Source

Visit Your Local Go-Kart Track

When starting out in go-kart racing, it is always a fantastic idea to go visit your local go-kart track whether the racing is on the dirt ovals or on a 10 turn road-course that features a way to view the racing from the grandstands. The idea for making a visit to the go-kart track is to find out what to expect when it comes to competition and how the karts are running around the track in regards to racing line. For a first timer that is looking into karting, focus on the first and second place runners and see what they are doing. Another idea is always to buy a pit pass to just walk around at the go-karts in the pit area to just find out what type of chassis brands are being run at your track, the type of motor, class for each go-kart, the type of safety apparel, and more. Once you have looked around, just ask some questions to some karters, parents, technical inspectors that make sure the karts are legal in the classes to get the picture on what to expect.

A young karter getting ready to race in a kids kart race
A young karter getting ready to race in a kids kart race | Source

Getting Your First Go-Kart

After you have visited the track to take down some notes from the veteran racers out at the go-kart track, it is the time to decide on what you want to race in. If you are bound for wanting to race on the dirt-ovals or with running indoor go-kart racing events, everyone is really racing in the majority of the stock clone classes which consists of an unrestricted 4.5 hp clone motor and a weight limit for the certain classes. These classes are great for starters and can really measure up to the competition at the same time. You can learn from other drivers instead of racing in another class by yourself since the fastest drivers will determine how to setup your kart and what to do. If you have a child that is possible too young to race in unrestricted, it is a great idea to introduce them to quarter midgets, champ karts, or a restrictor plate class that runs at a reduced horsepower rate.

For road-racing, it is completely opposite from oval racing since there are 2 types of engine classes to run in. You can choose to race a 2-cycle or 4-cycle motor from shifter karts, sprint, and enduro karts that race throughout road-courses. Road-Racing for go-karts give a much wider variety of classes over the 4-cycle oval classes. The only difference between sprint and enduro style of road-course racing for go-karts is that sprint style go-kart racing is held on road-courses less than 2 miles in length and enduro racing on road-courses are held on bigger tracks where racecars actually run on like Daytona, Road-America, and Mid-Ohio that run for longer laps.

As you can see, the choice is in your hands on what you want to do in getting into go-karting since oval racing is more common in the U.S. than road-racing, and road-racing has more classes of go-karts than oval racing. Make your pick and stick with it.

Visit A Go-Kart Shop

Just like with going to the race-track to find information on the go-karts in person, it is a good idea to contact or go to your local go-kart shop in person for information on the rules that each organization that the go-karts are sanctioned in. The rule-book is one of the most important tools to find information on what you can and can't do in national and world championship races. It can be costly if you fudge the rules to getting busted for a violation and can lead to punishment if found with something illegal on your motor or chassis that is deemed unsafe and an advantage over the other individuals that are possibly racing fairly.

Going to the go-kart shop would be an opportunity to stock up on what you need if a dealer is not present at your track to help get you what you need. If you need anything, start with Kart Parts Depot or K1 Racegear as a starting spot

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The Summary So Far

  • Why Karting
  • Visit Your Local Go-Kart Track
  • Getting Your First Go-Kart
  • Visit Your Local Race Shop
  • Getting Your First Laps Around The Track

Getting Your First Laps Around The Track

When you have decided to pack up everything you need, you got your go-kart setup for raceday, the final thing that you need to do on your first time in karting is to turn your first laps on the track. When I first started go-kart racing, I ran every single lap I could in each practice session on the day of the qualifying heats and the main race to just get the feel of the kart for the first time and to get used to the speed, not to mention in feeling like I was going to throw my lunch; but, fortunately I didn't do that

The most important detail is to try to learn the starting procedures, how restarts go, learning the line that everyone is driving on the track, learning the braking points, and knowing if I've got the right gear on the kart that will make the go-kart keep going instead of maxing out to where you lose horsepower on the most parts of the turns or on the straightaways. Also, it is a great idea on your first race to opt into starting in the back no matter you qualify since you could get run over by some veteran karters that know the ropes more than you do and also hold your own no matter what speed you are racing at in other words make your moves respectfully and move out of the way if you are getting lapped by the leaders.

Reflecting On Your Racing

After you have been racing a full year in go-karts, try to reflect back on your season to try to improve on the next season since you could be coming out of your rookie season and determine what you can do better with the next season in becoming faster and competitive. When I ran a season on the dirt-oval at my local track, I started looking at more of the chassis and performance of my chassis to improve my speed each and every week. I looked at ways to adjust caster and camber more thoroughly, fine tuning with tire pressure, running ceramic bearings on all four corners to reduce friction, and maintained my motors every few months in staying on top of the competition. These things can make a difference between winning and coming in 8th out of 10 karts in a race.

While I started out in used equipment, I decided to move up to current or new equipment that really made more difference since some older chassis don't have certain adjustments than the newer go-karts. The newer go-karts were whipping my tail everyday I saw the track. So, as a personal recommendation from me, determine what you may want to do in winning races instead of finishing runner up or dead last each race. Try to think like the competition and determine what they are doing to win races and go where they go. You can stick with used equipment, but you probably won't have too many podium finishes.

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    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      Fabulous hub on a fabulous sport - great to keep teenage boys on the straight and narrow (or twisty), its so good for them to have a passion! Up, interesting and useful

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