Karting tips: Overkarting

Getting past another driver is one of the most important aspects of competing; it is also one of the most difficult to get right. Learn how with this guide by Josh Hatton.

With randomly drawn heats or nightmare qualifying sessions, the chances of even the quickest driver never having to overtake is incredibly slim. It is therefore fundamental for a driver to understand how to act on an overtaking opportunity, quickly and precisely.

Firstly, it is important to understand that there are two different types of overtaking opportunities; the driver will either see the opportunity coming for a while due to the fact they are catching the driver in front/have been following them for an amount of time, or something will occur suddenly and the driver will have to rely on their reactions to seize the opportunity. The first option is generally easier as the following driver will have the opportunity to plan a precise attack, identifying advantages and disadvantages around the circuit caused potentially by setup or driver skill, before acting on those plans and taking the position.

The second type is much harder to get right and can really set a great driver apart from the good.

Fear can affect overtaking. A driver can quite easily circulate on the same piece of track, pushing harder and harder, becoming ever more comfortable with how late they can brake and how much speed they can carry through a corner. The reason this becomes more and more comfortable is because the drivers brain is able to understand the patterns occurring lap after lap, becoming familiar with its surroundings. The actions required to get the kart around the circuit then become embedded in the driver’s subconscious, allowing for thoughts to be focused on improvement rather than just circulating.

This is where the fear comes into overtaking, the brain is suddenly receiving different information from the driver’s eyes as the driver will be off the normal racing line, it cannot rely on its bank of patterns to communicate instructions to the brake pedal and the steering wheel through the body. These change of circumstances lead to uncertainty and cause the driver to make snap decisions, often resulting in braking too late, missing the corner or a potentially nasty accident. It is important to accept this fear and to work on it; the following tips have been laid out to help with that.

It is often fairly noticeable from observing the front running drivers, or even just seeing photos of them driving a corner, that they aren’t looking directly at the ground in front of their nosecone. They will be looking much further round the corner than slower drivers. This is simply because they are a number of steps ahead, they are filling themselves with confidence by observing that firstly there is nothing obstructing their path (allowing them to avoid getting caught up in any potential accidents) and secondly giving themselves more time to prepare for the next corner so it is there subconscious acting when they get there. This extra confidence allows thoughts to be focused on situation changes such as overtaking, “I will have to brake there to make the pass,” “I will have to hold the brakes for longer in order to make the corner,” these thoughts act like clear cut instructions, allowing the driver to do exactly what they intended. Looking ahead also avoids the driver becoming distracted with what the other driver is doing when they are alongside them. Far too many mistakes are made by drivers who are focusing on exactly that, rather than on their own braking point and apex. Looking ahead also prepares the driver better for the second type of overtaking.

Visualising

Drivers don’t often believe in the method of visualising but it is an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly. The driver needs to find somewhere they will not be distracted, this can often be on the grid with their helmet on and visor down before a race. They must first focus on visualising laps and become comfortable with this process. The best way to test this is get the driver to visualise a lap with their eyes closed, starting a stopwatch at the beginning of the lap and stopping it at the end, they are visualising it well if the stopwatch time is the same as an actual lap time. When at this stage of visualising the driver can begin ‘practising their overtaking’ trying to focus on things like braking points and apexes while off the normal racing line. Whilst this may sound ridiculous, it is actually working by tricking the brain into believing it has already experienced these overtakes, creating patterns in which information can be drawn, making the driver much calmer and more confident when in the situation.

Braking

One of the biggest mistakes most drivers make when overtaking is thinking that they have to brake a huge amount later than the driver they are passing. This more o_ en than not leads to the driver completely missing the corner, giving the position back and losing time in the process. The braking position only needs to be slightly later, just enough so that the extra bit of momentum carries their kart ¾ of the way alongside the other, this then means the lead driver cannot carry on around the outside and it means they cannot dive back underneath the overtaking driver straight away.

Timing

Once overtaking becomes a natural part of racing they can

then begin to think about the importance of timing. If they can overtake a driver in one corner but lose over a second because it gets messy, or they can wait two corners and overtake them position only needs to be slightly later, just enough so that the extra bit of momentum carries their kart ¾ of the way alongside the other, this then means the lead driver cannot carry on around the outside and it means they cannot dive back underneath the overtaking driver straight away. on a straight, losing say two tenths, it is obvious which will help them in terms of the overall race even though both result in them gaining that particular position. These details make a good driver a really great driver.