Is Drifting a Kart Good for Speed?

Let’s take a trip back to the mid-2000s. Street racing movies and arcade racing games had one thing in common: drifting. When I first watched Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, all I wanted to do was go on a track and drift around. But, that needed a lot of skill that I didn’t have. 

However, after watching professional racers in F1 and Nascar, I noticed that they never drift their cars. So, this got me wondering whether drifting a go-kart is good for keeping up the speed or it’s just a way to show off.

Drifting a kart isn’t faster than turning properly. So, in reality, despite looking cool when you’re doing it, drifting will slow you down and won’t be good for maintaining momentum.

Although some go-karts are made explicitly for drifting. These are usually geared towards children and are not the focus of our article since they are fan karts and not made for racing.

So, let’s focus on the classic go-karts that most of you and I have driven. I mentioned that drifting a go-kart doesn’t make you faster, but why does that happen?

Why Does Drifting Your Go-Kart Slow You Down?

For beginners, I need to say that doing a drifting that will help you take the corner in the right lines a go-kart isn’t easy. In the beginning, I’ve not managed to do it on purpose without ending up in the barriers or facing backward. But, I managed to understand why drifting a go-kart slows you down.

To drift your kart, you’ll need to deliberately oversteer before a corner. This will make your go-kart go sideways, which will stop the wheels from rolling (so you won’t have any grip). A go-kart only builds up speed when its wheels are rolling on the track, so this is where you lose all your momentum.

A more scientific explanation is the result of Newton’s second law. While you’re drifting, the kinetic energy from the go-kart turns into friction, which slows the kart down. So that’s why they teach us this stuff at school. I didn’t know Newton was a fan of go-karting.

All jokes aside, drifting can really damage your go-karts tires. And, when you have to complete an entire race with a huge flat spot on each tire, your kart’s grip will be abysmal. Thankfully, most rental karts have a speed limiter, so drifting them is pretty difficult and keep the tires in good condition.

But, the same isn’t true when you’re racing professionally. When some professional karts can reach up to 87mph, it’s really easy to initiate a drift by accident. So, that raises the question of what you could do to avoid drifting while you’re driving a go-kart.

How to Avoid Drifting while Driving a Go-Kart?

As I previously said, drifting rental karts is difficult, but it isn’t impossible. So, it’s great to know how you can initiate a drift, in order to avoid doing it on the track.

Go-kart drifting consists of three main steps: angling your go-kart, counter-steering, and sliding. 

When it comes to angling the go-kart, for a drift to be successful, the slip angle of the rear needs to be larger than the front. In simpler terms, the front wheels will need to face the opposite direction of the corner. 

Counter-steering is straightforward. If you’re taking a left turn, then you’ll need to turn the steering wheel the other way once you’ve initiated the drift.

The final part is sliding. If you’ve angled your kart and counter-steered correctly, then you’ll be sliding across the track.

So, how do you avoid drifting a go-kart? You avoid the three steps I mentioned above. In other words, you’ll need to focus on following the racing line.

This means that you’ll have to find the perfect braking point, turn-in point, and apex. Every corner is unique, so while you might take one perfectly, you could end up drifting the kart on the next one.

The best way to avoid drifting is by practicing on the track that you’re racing on. F1 drivers don’t participate in Free Practice because they’ve got nothing better to do on Fridays. They’re learning how to take every corner properly so that they don’t end up on the wall. You should be doing the same. Knowing how much speed you can carry through a corner is essential for avoiding drifts.

Professional drivers plan exactly how to take each corner, in which gear, and how to perfectly preserve the momentum of their kart or car (depends on your category).

Also, if you’re racing shifter karts, avoid changing gears while you’re turning. Engine braking (in 4 storkes engines) lowers your speed abruptly, which can make you drift or even spin out.

But that’s enough about how to avoid drifting while you’re driving a go-kart. As I said, you’re probably not going to have a problem with that if you’re on rental karts. That being said, let’s take a look at how you should take a corner correctly without drifting your go-kart.

How to Turn Correctly Without Drifting?

I know that some of you will say: “Well, the answer is obvious. Just follow the racing line and you’ll take the turn perfectly.” This is correct, but it’s not the only thing you’ll have to do.

In fact, turning correctly isn’t just a matter of staying on the racing line. There are tons of different factors that play a role in turning correctly without drifting.

  1. Positioning Yourself in the Go-Kart

Positioning Yourself in the Go-Kart

No matter what go-kart you’re driving, you’ll need to be positioned optimally to be competitive. You’ll have to be seated in a way so that you can reach the pedals with slightly-bent legs and the steering wheel without leaning forward.

Once you’re taking the turn, your body will need to stay stable and not move from side to side. Otherwise, especially if you’re karting professionally, the sudden change in weight distribution will cause the go-kart to spin out. Plus, moving around in the kart will make you feel pretty sore.

Practice Using the Pedals

While it might seem easy for seasoned car drivers, using the pedals on a go-kart is different from cars. For starters, you must make sure to know when the pedals’ sensitivity. Otherwise, you might end up pressing the brake and the throttle simultaneously.

Unlike a car, pressing both pedals at the same time will cause the engine to overheat, and you’ll end up spinning out. This is why you need to know how much pressure you should apply to the pedals. If you’re wondering how to brake correctly, I found a very helpful video that should help you out.

Always Be One Step Ahead

I’ll admit that I’m still trying to get used to this. The only times that I’ve drifted my kart was when I wasn’t focusing on the right part of the track.

When you’re pushing for a fast lap, you’ll have to always be one step ahead. So, if you’re at the apex of a corner, you’ll need to be looking at the exit of the corner. Or, if you’re approaching a corner, you should be focused on the apex.

Our brains aren’t fast enough (yet) to process the track that’s right in front of them in time. So, if you’re looking at the apex while you’re nearing the exit of a corner, you’ll be caught off guard and end up drifting in order to keep the kart on track. This, in turn, will lose you a couple of tenths, which are essential.

Since karting is the gateway to F1, I found a fantastic video by WTF1, which explains everything I mentioned perfectly.

So, that’s about it. To sum up, drifting isn’t good for maintaining your speed in a go-kart, and driving on the racing line will always be faster than drifting.

As I’ve said numerous times, don’t let this stop you from pushing as much as you can on track. You’ll probably never end up drifting on any rental kart.

Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!

FAQs For Drifting a Go-Kart

Should You Drift in Karting?

The answer is no. Despite looking really cool, drifting in karting will make you go slower. Plus, you’re putting your opponents in danger since you might end up spinning out in the middle of the track, there is a faster way to take the corners as we described in this article.

How Do I Make My Go-Kart Not Drift?

The simple answer is by following the racing line. But, it’s more complicated than that. My best advice would be to practice as much as possible and stay on the optimal race line.

If you have any more questions that you’d like me to answer, be sure to contact me or leave a comment below.

Picture of Dor from GoKart36
Dor from GoKart36

Hi, I'm Dor and since my first lap on a go-kart in Italy, karting became my favorite hobby. I check tracks in many places around the world and am happy to share from my experience.
In my daily job, I am a programmer, and during the season, I race in my local league in the senior category.

More About Me
Phuket Go Kart 390cc 4T

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