The first time I saw a Formula 1 race was a few years ago and I immediately noticed that at the end of the warm-up lap, each driver did slaloms (turning back and forth quickly on the track) in order to warm up his tires. Recently, I saw that same thing happen on 2-stroke go-kart races and wondered how effective it was.
Warm tires are needed because they grip the turf better once warmed to their optimum grip temperature, improving lap time. Warm tires don’t slip or lead to poor starts.
How Do You Warm Up Go Kart Tires?
After finding that heating the tires while go-karting works, I was desperate to improve my lap time and not lose races. I found a few ways to do this:
Zigzagging Across the Track
I saw Formula 1 drivers heat their car tires by zigzagging across the track while running laps. So the next time I went go-karting, I ran laps like usual but decided to copy the F-1 drivers’ moves. When it was time to race, I not only won but (much to everyone else’s horror) set a new lap record.
Running Practice Laps
I tried to arrive a little earlier and get some practice laps in. I noticed my time improved after every lap since the tire compound was heating up slowly, even though I did not zigzag. I did find this process a bit time-consuming, but it was also effective.
Now I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I used to ignore the tire pressure quite a bit. After becoming notorious for my slow time and inconsistency on the kart track, I checked the tire pressure on my kart.
Turns out go-kart tires get good traction if they are warm, and they only have good traction if they are hard and firm. So maintaining air pressure definitely helped me warm up my kart tires faster.
Using Tire Warmers
Now, this is more like it. Professional tire warmers helped artificially heat up my kart tires before my race without any practice laps. The result was rocket-powered speed with no slipping or screeching. You can find them on Amazon or direct from Chicken Hawk Racing.
Why do F-1 Drivers Warm Tires?
As I mentioned earlier, I noticed F-1 drivers warming up their car tires by swerving on the track in their practice laps or using tire warmers. They do this because F-1 car tires are completely smooth and have no texturing. Thus, the tires would slip if they weren’t heated and used cold.
After the warm-up, the flat surface of the tires becomes flush with the track. Almost as if the rubber is stuck to the track surface. I realized that this allows F-1 drivers to effortlessly zoom across the track surface and take sharp turns without slipping.
Is It Relevant To Warm Tires On A Go-Kart?
Yes, absolutely! If the tire compound is warm, it can provide a better grip. Not only did my starts improve, but I could maintain my speed and accelerate at will, without any wheel spin.
I have now made it a point to always warm up my go-kart tires before I channel my inner Speed Racer. The hot rubber of the tires sneaks into the little crevices of the track, giving you a quick launch and superior grip in the corners.
Sure, you won’t be going nearly as fast as an F1 car but by applying these same tire warming tips you’ll improve your karting results for sure. Give it a try and let me know how you do in the comments!