Going Faster

Going Faster
Category: Comet Technical Karting Blog
Posted: 03-17-2014 11:04

Ideas on how to improve your driving and moving up from the club level to the Regional and National level.

Probably the two most common questions and comments at kart tracks revolve around two topics, chassis setup and horsepower. While both are definitely necessary to run up front the topic less talked about but in most cases should be the main topic is the driver.

In most cases the driver is either our self or our kid and let's be honest, most of us are not as impartial as we think or state about either our ability or our kids. I've taken a lot of drivers from the club level to the national level and the step between them might as well be the side of a mountain. Winning at the club level compared to just running competitively at the national or even the regional level requires a lot of track time. Track time = lots of mistakes, crappy qualifying sessions, moments of brilliance and plenty of dumb decisions. But to truly get to the next level you have to go out there and do all the above and learn as you go.

A major stumbling block when moving up to regional and national races is learning new tracks. At New Castle we change the track up for our club racers almost every weekend. Fast layouts, technical layouts, forwards, backwards and the same drivers always seem to have a handle on whatever we throw at them. But you take the same guys to an entirely new track and a lot of them struggle to find speed. After seeing this happen numerous times I think it's as much a home track comfort thing as it is learning a new layout. The club racers are comfortable at New Castle no matter what layout we throw at them but you take them somewhere with different turns, curbs, competitors, even the concession stand and I think there is a certain level of discomfort that affects performance until they get enough laps at the new track to truly be comfortable. After you take a driver to enough tracks and they see every corner there can be and every situation you can put them in, eventually it doesn't matter where they go, they are fast from the first session. There is definitely a hump a driver gets over and once over that mental hump they can go fast anywhere. It almost happens overnight too, it's an interesting progression to see.

So where does this leave the club racer looking to improve? It comes down to the same thing over and over again, track time! Whether it's you or your little racer, go run other tracks, experience different situations and go with a mindset of learning. Don't look at the results as the ultimate yard stick but improve over the course of the weekend and the season. You might be 25th on Saturday and step it up to 15th for Sunday. Next race you might even find a top ten in there. But next season, if you put in the effort you might be on everyone's stopwatch all weekend long. Frustration is part of the game anytime you are trying to learn a new skill but being good in a kart, especially as you start to travel is all about getting enough laps at enough tracks and learning from your mistakes. Too often many expect to go from local club champ to national champ in one season and when that doesn't happen you start to hear a lot about the kart and engine because it can't be the driver. A term that used to make me cringe when I was a kid but is definitely true in my experience, "you have to pay your dues".

Two things to help you improve -

1. GPS system and overlaying data. The great part of data acquisition is the ability to quantify where and how you are struggling. You might be great through 10 corners on a track and way off in 3. Telling a driver to "go faster" isn't helpful when they really need to work on a small subset of corners or just one section of a track. Having good data from a faster competitor is very helpful in this regard. Ask around, a fast driver will probably have no problem letting you download their data...until you get a little faster! You can overlay the speed data and see where you are struggling. Are you over driving, under driving, is it in the braking areas, the fast corners? With good data you can actually know.

2. Helpful driving feedback. Having someone experienced to watch you or your driver for a session or two can make a big difference. Whether it's "wow look at his hands, that kart is really loose" or "your driver is going in way to deep" etc. it can help pin point more where you need to focus your efforts. This is also where data overlaying can help backup your observations. I sometimes joke that the worst way to know what the kart is doing is to ask the driver. Early on this is usually true because a lot of the chassis handling issues are driver induced more so than setup induced. This is where an experienced observer can make a difference in understanding what is really going on with the driver and the kart and can give some tips on how and where to focus on improving.

Saying "go faster" never works.

Here's an interesting article on "Deliberate Practice"

Mark Dismore Jr.


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