Go Kart Braking can be one of the main driving tools to actually make you faster. Kinda sounds weird right. Braking to go faster? Yup that’s true. Braking is much more than just stopping the go kart. There are a lot of techniques that go into braking. There is also a lot of technical information about braking. We will break it down so you can be ready the next time you hit the track.
To better “brake” this down we are going to look at how a go kart’s brakes function.
Go Kart brakes are hydraulic brakes. Depending on the racing series a go kart can have one brake system to three braking systems. A four-cycle racing class such as the LO206 Series raced in North America utilizes one braking system on the rear axle.
The go kart braking system compiles of the rotor, calipers, master cylinder and fluid, lines and linkages, and the brake pedal. These parts work in unison to navigate you around the track. Most of you do not need this info because you may already race. For those starting out this is the basics of the components.
Let’s discuss how to brake throughout a corner
When you are racing toward the corner your brain is saying lift off the throttle. Atl turn entry there is a lot going on. Your body weight starts to transfer, the go kart frame is flexing, the front wheels grabbing and lifting the inside wheel and many more forces. There is a lot going on. Go kart braking is another force to add when entering a corner.
Find your breaking point. Brake as late as possible to slow the kart down as fast as possible. Slowly release the brake and drive to the apex.
Obviously, it all starts with the entry. When learning how to brake you need to find the braking point. The point at which you can slow the go kart down as quickly as possible without creating a slide. Also you need to be able to stay on throttle for as long as possible to carry as much speed through the corner.
A balance isn’t it! How do you know your braking points if you have never been to a track? Well, you don’t. This is a part of racing and what separates the greats. Some tips to find that braking point as fast as possible are to do the following. Follow someone who is fast, ask other drivers, watch other drivers, look at the track colors for signs of braking zones.
You are off the brake pedal by now and hitting the apex of the corner. The kart needs to be straight and pointed to the exit.
Now you have successfully entered the corner and slowed the go kart down to make the apex. You should be off the brakes or still slowly coming off the brake pedal. This is all going to happen very fast. You will move through a corner in seconds so slowly is a relative term.
Don’t you dare do it! You should be WOT (wide open throttle) and outta there.
No need for the brakes at this point. Unless you are preparing for another corner. Feel the flow carry you out of the corner and down the straight.
Lock up Braking
This braking style is more suited for a higher horsepower engine (2 cycle or shifter karts). On corner entry you are going to drive deeper into the corner (on throttle). You are going to apply the brakes to the point where the tires lock up and then you will release the brakes. Before turning toward the apex of the corner you will release some pressure on the brakes. When you start to turn into the corner you will be off the brakes. Then back on throttle as soon as the go kart is stable enough to do so.
Trail braking is the same entry to the corner as Lock up braking. Instead of releasing the brake at corner entry you carry a bit more speed. You stay on the brake further into the corner. This will help you carry more speed into the apex and possibly off the corner as well
Stable braking is more difficult, and you need to know the go kart’s limit at lock up, track grip and tire condition. This technique requires you to smooth when applying the brakes, so the go kart does not slide.
This is the preferred 4 cycle braking method for smoothness. In 4 cycle racing the engines are lower HP. The go karts cannot recover speed wise as quickly from a scrubbing of speed from sliding.
The approach to the corner is the same as the other methods. You need to know how much brake pressure it takes to slow the go kart down but not to lock up the tires.
Go kart braking is much more than easy on and easy off the brake pedal. A go kart and a driver mesh when racing for some time. It will take a little time to figure out how much pressure you can apply to the brake pedal before lock up. Or what the go kart does when braking and steering.
Practice Braking Techniques
When you are at the track and you are safely away from everyone practice braking. Practice locking up the rear wheels when entering a corner. If you get too sideways, release the brakes and you will be able to regain control. If you spin, Perfect. You found the edge you were looking for.
Try braking later into a corner every time. See how your lap times are affected. If you need the confidence booster to try and brake later use some trail braking or power braking to stabilize the go kart. Braking can be very tough to master. But each driver has their own preference of braking technique.
It is in your best interest to test these different methods and see which one you are most comfortable with. Also see which one is the fastest.
Be careful of these Braking situations
- Braking hard early in a session especially when it is cold
Early in a session the tire temperatures are low, tire pressures are low and the brake components are cold. The rubber in the tire has not warmed up yet to have the proper grip on the track. They will not grab the surface and slow you down. The tire pressures are low, also affecting the ability of the tire to grip the track. The brake components, especially the rotor and pads are cold. This increases the coefficient of friction which makes the brake components lock up faster.
These factors will be something you adapt and overcome while learning. These details are something you will deal with regularly so don’t worry practice makes perfect. Just be aware of these factors.
- Riding the Brake Pedal
The brake pedal is not a footrest. Some new drivers will rest their foot on the brake pedal. Seems harmless and actually seems prudent. Inadvertently their focus is elsewhere and that foot becomes heavy. Lightly applying the brake pedal. This can cause brake drag and overheat the brakes. Overheated brakes will not stop as quickly as cool brakes.
Something to remember about go karts is that go karts flex. Flex as in the metal bends. Even the stiff axle and chassis flex and bend as you corner. The axle and rotor bend. If you are applying the brake pedal lightly and the axle bends the rotor may make contact with the pads. This will result in accidental braking. Dragging the engine down and slowing you down.
- Lock up
When learning to brake effectively you will want to avoid locking up the wheels. Especially while cornering. Go kart engines are usually a lower horsepower engine. Especially in the 4 cycle division. Due to the less HP to recover from mistakes it’s essential to maintain any speed you already have.
Locking up the wheels when braking causes a slide. Sliding reduces your speed. Maintaining your driving line and not sliding too much will help you be smooth. So, you can carry that hard earned speed to the next corner. There are braking techniques that teach you to lock up the brakes. Depending on the series and horsepower of the engine this may work.
- Power Braking
This technique can be tricky. There are certain times that power braking can work. Go kart brakes are a wear item. The pads will wear and overheat along with the rotor. Power braking is effectively applying the brakes and throttle at the same time. Sounds silly almost. One of the major benefits to power braking is the stability.
When on throttle the karts weight is evenly distributed across all four wheels favoring the rear. When entering a corner deceleration causes the weight to shift forward and to the side depending on corner direction. During power braking you can stay on throttle keeping the kart stable and slow the kart with the brake.
Why power braking can be negative. Power brake builds a lot of heat in your brake system. The rotor, brake pads, brake fluid, engine, and axle all build up unnecessary heat reducing performance. Power braking can all have a negative effect on your engine and clutch. The engine will strain to work harder and build heat. A centrifugal racing clutch is designed to engage at a set rpm of the engine. If you have the throttle depressed and the clutch is trying to slip you could burn your clutch up.
Pump the Brakes!
I hope this information helps make you faster the next time you hit the track. Tryout the different methods and see which one works best for you. Keep an open mind and keep pushing the limit.
This article was put together with my personal experience of racing. Along with knowledge gained from Terence Dove’s Book. Learn How to Master the Art of Kart Driving. You can purchase this book on Amazon and learn much more than braking. This book really helped me and I think it will help you as well.
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