So, you’ve all heard about the apex of a corner. In motorsport, the driver has to usually “hit the apex” to go faster. Before I started karting, I didn’t know why hitting the apex was essential for speed. In fact, I heard so many different terms, like late apex, early apex, ideal lines. Are any of these critical for go-karting? Do they affect the speed of your go-kart?
Knowing the optimal racing line is essential if you want to be fast at a karting track. However, the lines that we use in karting differ from those you’ll see F1 drivers use. Unlike F1 cars, a go-kart is unstable, so you’ll need to take the line that allows you to keep the most momentum.
All of this is great on paper, but things get much more complicated in reality. I’ll do my best to explain the differences between racing lines and corners, as well as the ideal line for defending and overtaking.
What Are Racing Lines?
Before go-karting for the first time, I thought that the only racing line was the green line that F1 games had. This is far from the truth.
A racing line is the best path that a driver can follow to be faster on the track. A karting line is different from the racing line but is the fastest way around a go-kart track. Both of these are split into four main parts: the Braking Point, the Turn-In Point, the Apex, and the Exit Point.
The braking point is the part of the track before a corner where you lift off the accelerator and step on the brakes. A general rule of thumb is that the later your brake, the faster you’ll be.
The turn-in point is right after the braking point. It’s when you lift off the brakes and start turning into the corner. Most of the time, you’ll have to accelerate gently as you’re turning so that you keep the momentum (and the engine revs in gas karts) through the corner.
The apex is the middle part of the corner. Once you’ve reached the apex, you should start accelerating more, as you’ll have to straighten your go-kart. Don’t overdo it, though; you could end up spinning out if you push the throttle to 100% suddenly.
Once you’ve gone past the apex, your goal is to straighten the kart and reach the exit point. The exit point will be the part where you’ll be going full-throttle after the corner. This will be different if you’re going through a chicane or a sequence of corners, but I’ll explain more about that below.
Now, it’s time for my favorite part… Math!
The geometric line is the best way to utilize the entire track and carry the most speed through a corner, as well as keep a consistent pace throughout the corner. However, the geometric line isn’t the optimal racing line.
A karting track has a lot of corners, and while the geometric line is the optimal one for singled-out corners, it’s actually slower in reality. That’s because the geometric line focuses on keeping a stable speed throughout the corner. In karting, you’ll mostly need to focus on having a good exit speed and keep the momentum of the kart, especially when the corner is followed by a long straight.
But, the optimal racing line will differ for every corner. Plus, there are several corner types, each of which has a different ideal line.
What Corner Types Are There in Go-Karting?
Karting tracks have a vast number of corner types. The most common corner types are 90-Degree Corners, 180-Degree Corners, Chicanes, Hairpins, and Double-Apex Corners. Before telling you about each corner type, a general rule for karting is taking a late apex, especially if there’s a long straight after the corner. This is the best way to keep your momentum.
A well-known 90-degree corner is Saint Devote (the first corner in Monaco F1 track). The best way to take such a corner is by braking really late and barely touching the end of the apex. This is the straightest line that you can take.
The Parabolica in Monza is a great example of a 180-degree corner. Unlike hairpins, 180-degree corners have a large radius, which means that you can carry a lot of speed through the corner. You should usually take a wide entry on such corners and attack the late apex.
Chicanes are my favorite corner type. The image of the “Singapore Sling” immediately comes to mind when I think of chicanes. The karting line on these is relatively similar to the racing line, so you should attack the first apex and take a wider approach to the second one.
Hairpins are the slowest of corner types. The “Grand Hotel Hairpin” at Monaco is infamous for being a slow corner. Just like 180-degree corners, you should always approach them from the outside and take the straightest line for the exit.
Even though I haven’t had the luck to take one of these corners, the double-apex turns are very tricky. You have to take a very wide approach for the first apex and basically go straight into the second apex. If you’ve ever raced on the Karting Genk track, you’ll know how tricky it can be to take the first turn, which is a double-apex one.
The Ideal Racing Line
As I mentioned previously, the geometric and ideal lines are similar. But, they do have a few differences when it comes to approaching the apex.
The ideal racing line includes braking and turning in a bit later than the geometric line. At first glance, this seems slower. Following the ideal line means that you’ll take the corner at a sharper angle, so your speed will be lower than the geometric line’s approach.
However, in karting, you’ll need to focus on carrying the momentum AND having a good exit speed. So, taking a sharper corner will make you slower on the apex, but it’ll allow you to be faster on entry and exit.
In order to follow the ideal racing line, you’ll have to remember to essential tips:
- Don’t accelerate before you’ve reached the turn-in point.
- Don’t turn in before you stop braking.
These are simple on paper but much more complex in practice. One thing that has helped me is to keep my wheel stable while I’m on the brakes and slowly accelerate once I’ve started turning into the corner. Remember to always be gentle with both pedals; they’re not on/off buttons.
Following the ideal line will help you get the fastest lap during practice, but it will make you vulnerable in a race. This is why there are defending and attacking lines that you can take.
Defending Lines vs. Attacking Lines
From my experience, defending and attacking lines are different depending on who you’re racing against and what corner you’re approaching. If your opponent always takes a wide approach to a corner, you can simply cover the outside part of the track, and they’ll never overtake you.
However, defending lines often include taking corners at a sharper angle and following a more centered or tighter line. This way, your opponent will not be able to overtake you easily. That said, a defending line is obviously much slower than the ideal line, which will leave you vulnerable if the corner is followed by a long straight.
Attacking lines are much more flexible. You’ll need to force your opponent to make a mistake or make them change their line before a corner. However, don’t ram your opponent so that they change their line. This will only get you black-flagged.
When you’re attacking, you’ll mostly need to follow the ideal line through corners so that you can be faster at the exit point. Once you spot a gap, it’ll be your time to attack. As Ayrton Senna once said, “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you’re no longer a racing driver.”
This is pretty much all you need to know about cornering and racing lines in karting. Keep in mind that braking optimally is also crucial to be faster. Otherwise, you’ll end up drifting your go-kart and finish the race in last place.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!
FAQs for Karting Racing Lines
How Does a Racing Line Work?
The racing line is the fastest path to follow at a karting track. It’s a group of several parts of the track that make sure you take the “straightest” line on the track. I’ve explained the different points of a racing line above.
Why Are Racing Lines Important?
Racing lines are important for carrying your go-kart’s momentum through corners. Knowing when to brake, when to turn in, and when to accelerate will make you much faster around the track.
What Is the Apex of a Bend?
The apex is the middle point of the bend and the point where you’re the closest to the inside of the corner. If you know the apex of each corner will make you faster on the track, as I explained above.