The Art of Karting
The Art of Karting

The Art of Karting

September 7, 2020
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Kart, a machine in the size of a lawnmower, which can blow your mind around the corner with more than 3g lateral acceleration. I know you are thinking why I just mentioned lawnmower in comparison with the kart. To understand this we have to dig into history. The sport originated in the United States in the 1950s after the kart had been invented from unwanted lawn-mower engines. The karts usually have no protective bodywork, and the driver sits only a few inches above the ground.

Steel tube,rear-mounted engine, chain drive, solid-axle, and most important no differential and no shocks and springs. This is karting, where every racer has to start the journey of becoming the next SENNA. Nascar to F1, karting is the breeding ground for every race driver.

If you are an automobile enthusiast you know what magic differential does in a vehicle.  For those who don’t have an idea about differential just keep in mind that differential helps vehicle to turn a particular corner through black magic (In a car, a differential in the drive axle enables the wheel on the inside of a corner to turn slower than one on the outside. Because that wheel can follow a shorter radius without scrubbing, the car easily rotates). If you want to understand the magic then click on the differential and you will be redirected to a detailed article on the differential.

If you know the importance of differential in a vehicle then it will be difficult for you to digest the information which we just discussed a few minutes back. You might have the following questions in your head.

How does a machine with no differential turn a corner? How do you tune a chassis without springs or shocks?

Karting

But this is true, kart can go around a corner with more than 3g lateral acceleration with that solid single-piece back axle. We will discuss both questions in a few minutes but before that, you have to understand that karting is a very pure and basic form of racing but at the same time it is very complex.

As the kart lacks a differential in the rear axle, it prefers to go straight. During cornering both rear tires have the same rotation and can affect handling. To deal with this a kart gets around corners by simply lifting their inside rear wheel into the air.

Lifting an inside wheel is not easy as it seems, a lot of other things help the driver to do that.

If you have ever been around the karts, did you think why is the kingpin so far out from the tire, why do you have all this scrub?

It is all to deal with the solid axle.

Frame stiffness and geometry with other things like front wheels offset, heavily inclined kingpins help to lift the inside rear wheel during cornering. The working angles of the wheel effectively turn the steering wheel into a lever which used to put the outside front tire onto its edge, tilting the kart’s frame and flying the inside rear wheel. It is a trick that is used by every race driver during a race. 

The Kart frame behaves like suspension and we can tune this. The Kart frame is only a suspension spring and it’s very critical to manage this spring while lifting the inside wheel. The Kart frame made up of steel tubes and we can call, this spring is undamped. So kart is tunable for stiffness, geometry, or both. This makes the mass on top of the frame a collective damper, of sorts, but that mass also influences the spring itself.

I know it became difficult to understand, so think of it like this: The kart is the same as any car, and most of its parts affect the outcome. The weight on the kart helps in lifting the wheel, so if you mount the seat incorrectly, the kart will turn funny. Changes in front alignment can make a kart handle better or worse, but so can wheel stiffness, track width, wheelbase, rear-axle stiffness, steering-shaft stiffness, seat thickness, a new seat brace, bumper mounting, or a frame with a handful of races on it. Now you can understand that every little change in any part of any race car can affect the outcome.

Hope this article helped you to understand a few basic tricks and the art of karting.

If you want to read and learn more about karting then you can go through the following book written by Memo Gidley, one of the best driver of his era. You can read his inspiring journey by clicking on his name.

Karting: Everything You Need to Know

Karting: Everything You Need to Know

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about the article and we can always discuss about karting in the comment section below and in the forum.

Looking forward to seeing your feedback soon.

Thank you!

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