Let's face it: racing is expensive. Many people can't afford to purchase a car, make it race-ready, and then proceed to crash it every weekend. Indoor go-karting, therefore, may be the most cost effective way to express your inner Jeff Gordon.
It's also the easiest and quickest way to prove to all your friends that you are, and will forever be, better than them.
Even if you're already a top driver, it's likely you'll still spend a large majority of your spare weekends tearing it up at the local kart track. After all, The Bachelor only runs on a Monday, and it's senior's night at the bowling alley. What else is there to do?
There are a few ground rules you must follow (regardless of ability) before we can divulge into the secrets of indoor karting:
- First, under no circumstances should you bring your own helmet, regardless of how awesome you think the painted Tiger bursting out of the back may be. No one likes a show off and, as we are all well aware, proper equipment is provided. I've seen it before, and I've heard the word "cock" disguised as a "cough" by other racers plenty of times to back it up.
- Second, and this might seem obvious, but don't drink and kart. There is usually an area adjacent to the track where you can grab a burger and a beer while waiting for your race. If you think drinking and driving on the road is dangerous, add a helmet, track, a tire barrier, and the drunk who believes he is invincible. He will quickly find out that he is not.
Ok, with that said, let's talk about how we can ensure victory among our peers. First things first, we must be attentive. While we wait for our turn, it's easy to get suckered into conversations with our buddies about GT500s, breasts, superchargers, breasts, quarter-mile times and, of course, breasts.
Don't do this. Now, you must be focused on watching the other sessions. Which kart is fastest at the end of each run? Do you see a pattern forming? Pick two or three options and engrave these kart numbers into your brain.
The facility will likely not be changing all the kart's tires at the same time, so some may be down to the chords, whereas others may have brand new boots. It's inevitable that some machines will have taken a bigger beating than others, so consistently stellar times on the board indicate a kart that is a sure bet to be fast. If you happen upon a bad kart, no matter how good a driver you are, you won't overcome its deficiencies.
Next, when your session is called, be ready to run and claim your prized machine. If someone else in your group has also refrained from talking about breasts and beats you to it, remember your back-up numbers and go to plan B.
After a few laps on track, you might notice that if you hustle you can stay flat-out the whole way around. Despite what you may think, this isn't necessarily an indication of being fast.
The worst thing you can do with an indoor go-kart is scrub speed. Full power, flicking the car like a demented rally driver is exciting, but it's slow. Indoor karting is a game of momentum, where the guy that lifts slightly to avoid sliding, mixed with silky smooth steering, will be the fastest.
Pay close attention to the engine noise. Try to keep the revs up with smoothness. If you slide too much, you'll hear the engine die. You must avoid this. Play with your racing line to maximize engine revs, too. If a certain line leaves you with a higher sounding rpm at the exit, it will likely be faster.
Another tip to increase your exit speed, and let the engine recover, is to hop out of the seat when exiting the tighter turns. This momentarily frees up the motor and aids acceleration. It's subtle, but when you are looking for every hundredth, it adds up — especially if you are fat.
Finally, we must talk about race craft. Timing a pass is key to ensure you don't bog the kart down by attempting it at an inept part of the track. Remember, maintaining momentum is paramount.
When you decide to make a move, flick the kart's arse out with the brake on corner entry. This way if your competitor turns in, they hit your outside rear wheel causing them to bounce wide, preventing the two of you from tangling and losing time. Also, given that you are heading down the inside and the corner will therefore be tighter, the rotation provided by flicking the kart will help you turn and exit the corner quicker to avoid a counter attack.
Don't be afraid to use your bumper, either. If a useless hack is in the way, you can't spend two minutes of a ten-minute session being polite. Ditch the bastard into the tires and carry on. There is no time to lose.
If you select a fast kart, manage to not overdrive, and are aggressive and ruthless when it comes to passing slower drivers, you can be pretty sure you will blow your friends into the dust.
But when you do, just promise me one thing: As your confidence grows, and your head expands, please don't be the cock that turns up in his own custom painted helmet. Just pay your 20 bucks, and have fun. Ain't none of us pros at indoor karting, after all.
About the author: @Alex_Lloyd began racing in the U.S. in 2006. He won the Indy Lights championship in 2007. He's competed in the Daytona 24-hour twice and the Indianapolis 500 four times — placing fourth in 2010. The native of MADchester, UK began racing karts at age 8, open-wheel race cars at 16 and finished second to Formula One World Champion - and close friend - Lewis Hamilton, in the 2003 British Formula Renault Championship, followed by a stint representing Great Britain in A1GP and winning races in Formula 3000. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife Samantha (also from England) and three young "Hoosier" children. He also enjoys racing in triathlons and is rather partial to a good old English cup of tea. But not crumpets.