When I got my hands on a go-kart for the first time, I wondered why it was so lightweight. I didn’t know what to expect, to be fair. I thought it would weigh closer to an actual car, but I was surprised to see that I could lift one with my hands. Considering that working out wasn’t my forte back then, this was pretty interesting. This got me wondering about racing go-karts. They must weigh more than rental karts, right?
Well, the average race-ready go-kart weight is between 160-170 pounds. Race-ready means that the kart has every component fitted and filled with the required amount of fuel.
But, race-ready weight doesn’t include the weight of the driver and their equipment. So, in reality, when we’re talking about senior classes, a racing go-kart along with the driver might weigh closer to 350 pounds.
This raises the question of how the weight differs between go-kart categories and engine types. I’ll be explaining more about that below. That being said, we’ll initially need to understand whether go-kart weight matters when it comes to racing or not.
Does my Go-Kart Weight Matter?
At first, I believed that the answer was pretty simple. Having a heavier go-kart will affect the drag force on the kart in some way, but it will also have a negative effect on its speed since the engine will have to push a heavier load.
That answer isn’t 100% correct. In reality, go-kart weight has a varying effect on the speed of a go-kart. There’s no general rule of thumb because what matters more than the weight of the kart is the track. But, most of the time, if you put two drivers of the same caliber side-by-side, the one who’s driving a heavier go-kart will be slower.
That being said, there are many factors that can make a huge difference. From my experience, I’ve had drivers go a couple of tenths faster than me, despite me being lighter than them. Again, this depends on the go-kart category and the type of kart you’re driving.
I wanted to get a better insight on this, so I asked some people on a couple of go-kart tracks near me. I got similar responses from them, which was good.
For starters, when it comes to professional racing, ballasts are added to the kart so that everyone is racing on equal terms. However, in such instances, the heavier drivers will be slightly faster.
This happens because the ballasts mess with the weight distribution of the go-kart. On the other hand, if a driver is heavier, they can control their weight so that it gives them an advantage.
Another factor is the track’s width, length, and the number of corners. Generally, the longer and slimmer the track, the worse it is for heavier go-karts. The same is true for tracks that have lots of corners. That’s because these karts can’t keep up enough momentum through the corners, and when the track is slim, there’s not much space for corrections.
There’s also a big difference between 2-stroke and 4-stroke karts. Weight affects 2-stroke engines negatively when running in low revs (i.e., in slow corners).
So, there’s no doubt that go-kart weight matters in karting. But, its effect differs from track to track and even kart to kart.
That being said, I mentioned that go-kart categories also play a significant role in how much go-kart weight matters. But, what are the different go-kart categories?
Differences Between Go-Kart Categories and their Weight
There are five main go-kart categories: Bambino, Cadet, Junior/Mini, Senior, and Gearbox. Each class has subcategories, each of which has its own age and weight requirement. Instead of listing every subcategory, I’ve included a table below, which shows every category’s weight and age range.
|CLASS||AGE REQUIREMENT||WEIGHT LIMIT|
|Bambino||6-8 years||152 lbs (Kart & Driver)|
|Cadet||8-13 years||227 lbs (Kart & Driver)|
|Junior/Mini||11-17 years||271-326 lbs (Kart & Driver)|
|Senior||16 years +||271-361 lbs (Kart & Driver)|
|Gearbox||16 years +||389-441 lbs (Kart & Driver)|
As you can see, the most significant difference between the categories is the age group and the minimum weight requirement. While higher categories have a higher weight limit because of the age gap of the groups, it’s also because the older you are, the more powerful engines you’ll use.
If you’re eagle-eyed, you’d have noticed that the Senior series has a large weight range. Some senior karts use 4-stroke engines, while others use 2-stroke engines, which are lighter. But why are they more lightweight?
Why are 2-Stroke Karts Lighter than 4-Stroke Karts?
2-stroke karts are usually lighter than their 4-stroke counterparts. That happens because 2-stroke go-karts have a much simpler design.
As I’ve already mentioned, 2-stroke engines pump fuel in the engine in two steps (one upstroke and one downstroke), while 4-stroke engines do the same process in four steps. So, this adds an additional two pistons to the engine.
On top of that, there are no valves or oil pump and lubrication systems in a 2-stroke engine. 2-stroke engines are usually built for high top speeds, so every part that’s used is much less complex.
If you add all of this up, you’ll understand why 4-stroke engines are heavier. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad engines, but when it comes to their weight, their 2-stroke counterparts demolish them.
Kart Engine Models and Their Weights
Instead of just mentioning that 2-stroke engines are lighter than 4-stroke engines, I decided to find some engine models and compare their weights side-by-side.
|BRAND||ENGINE||TYPE||WEIGHT||HORSEPOWER||Weight \ Power Ratio|
|Vortex||ROK GP Engine||2-Stroke||54 lbs||36HP||0.66 HP \ LBS|
|IAME Karting||X30||2-Stroke||45 lbs||28HP||0.62 HP \ LBS|
|TKM||K4S||4-Stroke||48.5 lbs||20HP||0.41 HP \ LBS|
|Honda||GX270||4-Stroke||55 lbs||9HP||0.16 HP \ LBS|
|DuroMax||XP16HPE||4-Stroke||77 lbs||16HP||0.20 HP \ LBS|
As you can see, when comparing the horsepower and weight of the engines, there’s a clear difference between the 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines. This is why you’ll never see 2-stroke and 4-stroke karts in the same race. 2-stroke engines are all about top speed in sprint races, while 4-stroke engines are more about endurance races.
But, I never gave a definitive answer as to whether being lighter is better in go-karting or not.
Is it Better to Be Heavier or Lighter for Go-Karting?
Well, in most cases, being lighter will be better when it comes to go-karting. That’s because you’ll be faster in most go-kart tracks.
That being said, being heavier will give you some added traction on the track, albeit slowing you down on long straights. On the other hand, you’ll be able to maneuver much better when you’re lighter. I’ve given a more in-depth look at how your body weight affects your results in karting over here.
But, from my experience, I’ve noticed that no matter how heavy or lightweight you are, you’ll need to have strong arms and shoulders. If you’re strong enough, you’ll be able to maneuver around like a feather.
I recently came across a fantastic video by WTF1 where, with the help of F1 reserve driver Jack Aitken, they measured how much your weight affects lap times.
That’s everything there’s to say about your weight and go-karting. I always strive to be healthier, so I’d advise you to do the same. The stronger and healthier you are, the better you’ll be at karting. Plus, if you race go-karts regularly, you’ll get stronger and lose fat at the same time.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!
FAQs For Go-Kart Weight
Does Weight Affect Karting Times?
The answer is yes. Your weight has an effect on how quickly you’ll be going. Most of the time, lighter drivers are faster than heavier drivers when they’re using the same karts. But, there are times when the extra traction of the heavier driver makes them faster.
How Much Difference Does Weight Make in Go-Karting?
Each 10 kg (22 lbs) of extra weight will usually make you two-tenths slower. So, if you’re racing against a driver who’s 50kg heavier than you, you’ll be one second faster than them. This, however, comes down to the type of go-karts and the track you’re racing on.
How Much Do You Have To Weigh To Drive a Go-Kart?
The weight requirement depends on the class and the race’s organizer. Usually, the weight range is pretty broad, and you’ll be allowed to drive a go-kart on the nearest track no matter how much you weigh. Some tracks won’t let you get in the kart if you are over 450 lbs for safety reasons.