It’s no secret: my body weight isn’t what it used to be. As the years go on, my metabolism can’t keep up with what life throws at me. As a result, I’m not at the ideal professional racer weight for sure.
I’m reminded of this every time I go to the track with my friends, who weigh much less than me. As we race around the track, I wonder: does my bodyweight matter when it comes to racing go-karts?
Bodyweight plays a large role in not only the speed of the go-kart but the behavior as well. In fact, professional racing classes restrict both kart weight and bodyweight to level out the playing field. While it’s certainly advantageous to be lighter when it comes to go-kart racing, you can use your body weight (and driving skills) to your advantage no matter how much you weigh.
Why Does Body Weight Matter in Go-Karts
With a little more weight on me, I know it takes the go-kart more energy to move me across the track. When I’m a few seconds slower than my friends, I blame his lighter weight as the advantage. There’s less of him to move and so he can go faster around corners and across the line.
In thinking about this whole weight scenario, I figure that it’s about weight distribution too. The kart’s engine has to pull itself and me around the track. When more weight is centered upon the kart, the machine has to work harder than if a lighter person were driving it.
So if I want to post fast laps like my friends, there’s a way for me to do that. Even if I do weigh a bit more. I have to adjust my driving skills in certain spots on the track to make sure I can stay ahead or catch up if I need to. It’s all about that driving technique.
Is it Better to Be Heavier or Lighter?
There are plenty of go-kart drivers like me who think more mass means slower speeds. The kart’s engine has to work harder to pull my heavier weight down the track, right? So it stands to reason that if my friends and I were on the same go-kart, it would have to use more of its power to pull my weight than my friend’s (lighter) weight.
But does that mean I’m always going to be a few seconds slower than someone lighter than me? The extra few pounds I gained in the last few years could translate to a few extra seconds around the track. When the difference between winning and losing is marginal, it could come down to those tenths of a second.
Then again, there’s something to be said about driving skill. It’s all about those acceleration zones and corners. The way you handle your kart can translate to a faster lap time, even if you’re a bit heavier than your opponent(s). The mass that you think is working against you actually has some advantages.
A heavier driver like me will actually have more traction, giving me the advantage when it comes to sliding. Letting the kart get a little loose at times can help lighter drivers through corners or tough spots. However, the more traction a kart has, the more maneuverable it should be. My handling should respond more quickly, allowing me better control through corners.
Do Body Weight Limits Exist in Racing?
Every racing circuit and association abides by their own set of rules. These concern driving manners as well as various limits when it comes to the drivers. It’s all about leveling the playing field to keep things more fair. It’s similar to the reason why beginners are not let out on the track with seasoned professionals.
Just because I’m a few pounds heavier doesn’t mean I can’t drive a kart still. But when lined up next to a teenager with the same passion, however, there comes into play a certain disadvantage on my part. Even if we’re matched when it comes to driving techniques, I could be losing to another karter just because they weigh less than me.
At the same time, most tracks require that drivers meet a minimum weight limit. Drivers over that weight are welcome to compete, but they run the risk of karting with a disadvantage. Establishing a minimum weight sets the bar for riders. It’s really just another way to determine classes for a better karting experience.
Most of the time, racing classes are determined by other factors, such as age, engine, and the total weight of kart and driver combined. Local fun centers that offer go karts may not be as strict, but professional racing circuits may have different rules. Check with the track you’re karting at to see what rules they have established.
Kart Weight vs. Body Weight in Different Categories
The weight of the kart itself and the driver’s body weight do various things while karting. The kart’s weight rests on the four wheels, which provides an amount of traction. More weight upon the kart, and therefore those wheels, adds to that traction. This can be good or bad, depending on how you want the kart to behave as you race.
It goes without saying that lighter drivers do have an advantage on the course. Their body weight does not affect the momentum of the kart as much as a heavier driver’s weight (mine) would, so any movements are typically soaked up by the kart’s frame. That said, it is possible for a lighter driver to lose to a heavier driver, despite their weight differences.
Heavier drivers like me, however, can “cheat” my weight with skillful driving. Avoiding sliding and locking the brakes will help me keep my momentum, which I should also maintain through my turns. The less change in speed I have, the easier it is for my kart to maintain the equilibrium it’s achieved.
Then again, the weight seems to only make a difference when it comes to gas-powered karts. Electric karts minimize the effects of additional weight with a boost of torque off the line. Keep this in mind as you’re karting so you can adjust your technique.
Body Weight Balancing in Competitions
When it comes to go-kart racing, having control over yourself and your kart is key. Part of that is balancing your weight, just like professional motorcycle racers do. Basically, the kart and I have to move as one to increase my speed for better lap times.
One particular thing you’ll hear about a lot in racing is “the line.” This line is what you should follow around the track in order to increase your success of shorter lap times. Part of that comes with mastering corners. Depending on where I lean on the kart, how fast I’m going, and how much I weigh, I could ace the corner or it could cost me time in the long run.
For instance, rally drivers must master the racing line, especially given the complexity of the courses they traverse. These drivers use a technique called a Scandinavian flick. The driver manipulates the bodyweight of the vehicle (and the occupants within) in order to make the most of the turn. When the weight is properly distributed through the turn, less momentum is lost. This, in turn, can increase your speed tremendously.
Speaking of turns, the solid rear axle in the back doesn’t allow the rear wheels to turn at varying speeds. With no differential, it’s up to the driver to remove the weight (and traction) of the fourth wheel in order to navigate the turn properly. So how does a driver do such a thing?
Lighter drivers can simply shift their weight to bring that wheel off the ground through a turn. Since there’s less mass to maneuver, the weight shift doesn’t have to be as drastic. However, heavier drivers should lean out of the turns, not in. Since heavier drivers have more mass to throw around, they can create an unbalance simply by leaning. Mass shifts away from the rear inner wheel and unloads it to the point where it can lift up, thereby reducing unnecessary traction.
Throw Your Weight Around at the Track
Now that you know a bit more about how your weight affects your karting, you should be able to make some adjustments next time you’re at the track. Sorry, but you won’t be able to blame weight for winning or losing anymore.
That’s okay! Reading this article should make you a better driver. You’ll be able to adjust your techniques to take advantage of your weight (and your driving skills) to bring your go-karting to a whole new level.
I’ve made a few adjustments and now my friends won’t have such an advantage over me! I know how to throw my weight around, in all the right ways.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!