Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
It was almost 8 years ago when I had my first real racing experience at Allsports Grand Prix. At Allsports I not only drove a kart for the first time, I made my first connections in racing, raced wheel to wheel for the first time, learned the fundamentals of racing, spun out for the first time, and of course got into my first argument with another racer over racing room. You could say it changed my life.

In recent years, I hadn't been going to Allsports much, despite living just 15 minutes away during this time. I lamented that the leagues were smaller and not as competitive, about this guy and that guy not racing there anymore, the conditions of the karts slipping, and how after doing probably tens of thousands of laps there, I wasn't really gaining that much by racing and lapping there.

Recently though after not visiting at all since last winter, I began to think about going again. I envisioned just stopping by after work by myself and just getting in the zone, rattling off laps. Then before I even got of my ass and went, I heard the place was closing for good in less than two weeks!

In the closing weeks I did find the time to visit several times. I met up with many people I had raced with for many years, but hadn't seen much lately, and even met some new people. It was great. It felt like old times, when I looked forward all week to having the chance to race in the league. It made me think how and why I got away from such enjoyable, fun racing.

And then that was it, Allsports was closed forever. There's talk of opening a bigger and better place at another location, but as always with racing I'll believe it when I see it! Until then thank you Allsports and all the employees and racers that gave me so many great memories.

For my tribute to Allsports, here are a few videos. First, me driving my TAG racing kart at allsports. I'm not sure if I went faster than an Allsports “superkart” despite having around 3 times more power and being significantly lighter.

Second a typical league race at Allsports. I literally ran several hundred races like this.

Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
In the past I posted certain things and noted that I'm wasn't calling out anyone I know because I wasn't. This time is different. I'm calling out about 90% of the people I race sport karts with.

The context here is regular sport karting (or arrive and drive, rental, recreational, “concessional”, whatever you want to call it) arrive and drive sessions. There are almost always new people in these sessions, and for even an average karter who participates in leagues or other competitive events, we are always way, way, way faster then the noobs! That's not surprising and it's not unlike any other sport.

I cannot count the number of times I've seen an experienced karter and friend take out a random noob. Like dude, why are you driving through/across that random noob after you dive bombed his ass instead of backing off and letting him straighten himself out? Why are you pushing that random chick straight off into a wall instead of letting her move herself (slowly) out of the way and driving around?

Yes, the noob did not have good situational awareness and probably should have seen you. Yes the noob was practically parked at the apex because the noob was not really taking the right line and did not understand kart control. But it doesn't really make it right for you to take them out right?

There are several downsides to taking out noobs. First, by leaving them stuck up sideways against a wall, they are getting in the way of my hotlaps! Second, you are beating up the equipment which hurts both the track and other racers. Finally, you are discouraging the noob from coming back and staying involved in karting, and thus hurting the growth and sustainability of the sport.

Taking out noobs doesn't mean you are a bad person or a bad racer. I've probably done it myself before and have certainly come close too often. We are all competitive and want give it hell 100% of the time, but sometimes might forget to respect others on the track too. I do my best to not take out noobs and you should too.
Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
I previously compiled some tips on indoor karting here and here, which proved to be pretty popular. Since I've been recording a lot of my recent races on my awesome GoPro Hero 960 (review coming soon), I thought I'd try and put together a tutorial of a breakdown of a lap. This is at Allsports Grand Prix on the standard track configuration in the regular, 6.5 HP Sodi Karts.

Note that track grip can vary significantly which may effect the line, braking and turn in points somewhat. Kart differences can also have some effect. Driver weight can have an effect too.

If you want more tips or coaching, let me know!
Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
Ok, so I'm probably not the fastest indoor karter in the world (yet) but I'd say I'm pretty decent these days so I'll share some things that might help you. A while ago I posted about the basics of Indoor Karting a few “advanced techniques” and I thought I might elaborate on these and introduce a few more ideas as well. Feel free to comment with your opinions.

Shifting bodyweight – this definitely helps on slick tracks. I haven't noticed the benefit so much shifting front to back as I have side to side. I try to “preload” my weight meaning I push my body up against the side of the seat opposite the direction I am about to turn in. My theory is that it will help the outside rear tire bite, and also lift the inside rear which will help the kart turn as the kart has a solid locked rear axle with no differential. How much (if at all) this will help will depend on the tracks grip, the kart, driver weight and the turn. It will likely help heaver drivers that fit in the seat more snugly less. In many, maybe most situations it may be negligible but I do feel in certain situations it helps.

Drafting and taking an aerodynamic lean – while the draft can be huge on an outdoor track in the same types of rental karts at speeds as low as 40-50mph, (you might not think so but I have the data to prove it) I have not noticed any noticeable draft effect on any indoor track. I've experimented with leaning forward, crouching behind the steering wheel to reduce frontal area and coefficient of drag, but I don't think what you sacrifice in steering control (you might end up turning the steering wheel slightly and scrubbing speed), vision, and remembering to shift your weight back for braking and cornering is worth the possibility of slightly faster straightaway speed.

Ballast – There are several ways I have run ballast in rental karts; using a weightbox built into the karts sidepod, sitting on it weight, and wearing weight. Each method has it's own challenges. Wearing the weight on your chest or back is most similar to what a heavier driver experiences and I also feel it does the most of help with kart grip. I think this because you are able to “engage” the weight by leaning in whatever direction you want. A big disadvantage to wearing the weight is it is most likely to interfere with your driving. I've found with weight on my chest my hand bumps in sharp turns with my normal technique. An alternative is to sit on the weight, this won't interfere with your inputs at all, but will alter your seating position slightly. You won't be able to “engage,” the weight, it will be stuck in the same position all the time, so in my opinion you won't see any significant increase in grip. Another alternative is to use a weightbox usually built into the karts sidepod if available. From my experience, this alters the karts handling the most, so it may take the most getting used to. In theory, I think the weight in the sidepod could give you slightly more grip, and it my help or hurt you more turning in one direction vs. the other, but I haven't run like this enough to come to any conclusions.

Feathering the throttle – Indoor karts are underpowered and although many times you can go straight to the floor with the throttle, you may need to feather the throttle at least a little bit, more then you may think. At tracks with buffed/polished surfaces it can be pretty difficult to actually feel when your wheels are spinning under acceleration and when they are completely hooked up. Even at gripper tracks, you may find it sometimes necessary to feather the throttle a bit, especially if running a higher powered/super kart.

Bouncing up and down and leaning forward under acceleration – One of the theories behind this is with less weight on the rear, the engine revs will increase faster. You can try to take advantage of this by leaning forward under acceleration to shift weight to the front of the kart ( leaning forward also coincides with the aerodynamic lean technique) or bouncing up and down in the seat, which will temporarily unload and reload the rear of the kart. I've never felt any noticeable increase in acceleration from this. Although some increase might be possible, it is tough to measure. I guess if you're bored, why not though? It's good for the show. People will think your cool. Maybe.

Sliding seats – Most all rental karts have either adjustable seats or adjustable pedals. If the seat can be slid forward or backward, you can significantly change weight distribution doing so. Seat position is IMO a driver preference. Find what works with your driving style. I know short guys who sit as far back as they can, using pedal extensions to reach the pedals comfortably and big guys who sit far, far forward all scrunched up over the wheel. Sitting forward should make the kart looser or oversteery, while sitting further back should make the kart tighter or understeery. I generally find a position I like and stick with it, however, moving the seat forward or back depending on the kart and track conditions is definitely something to look into.

Following another kart – I've noticed I typically set my fastest laps when I am following someone about the same speed as me. I think a big part of this is motivation to keep up, and having a reference to keep from overdriving the kart. I never thought of it beyond that, but recently I've heard from several people that they've felt following another kart can be faster because they are basically heating up the track for you. I have to say I at least semi believe this as I typically feel more grip and turn my fastest laps when following another fast kart.

Timing screens - I've never been to any indoor track where GPS will work reliably and I don't know of any tracks that will let you use your own timer with heads up display. However I have been to several tracks where the current session times are displayed on a monitor or projector that is at least somewhat visible from the track. Seeing any feedback is obviously helpful in improving faster, even if it is just previous laptimes.

Throttle and brake on standing starts - Many rental karts have some sort of lockout to prevent you from using the throttle and brake at the same time. I've been to some places where some karts will have the lockout while others don't, so it's just something you have to try before leaving the pits. There are two typical places to use the throttle and brake. The first is on standing starts. In theory this will allow the kart to start higher in the powerband, allow the clutch to start already engaged or closer to engagement and allow for faster reaction time (lifting foot off brake vs. slamming foot down on throttle). I've found this does seem to help a bit on all counts, however, the track may frown upon this technique or ban it entirely.

Throttle and brake in turns – This is the second common throttle and brake technique. It has taken me a long time to master this to a point where I am faster doing it then not in certain circumstances. There are several different ways to do it, but what I do is “overlap the pedals”. After braking and turning in, I start squeezing the throttle early, while still dragging the brake. As I'm adding throttle, I'm trailing off of the brake, often braking all the way to the apex. If I find myself carrying too much speed and pushing wide, I ease back into the brake a bit. So through the whole turn, I am getting back on the throttle earlier, if getting completely out of it at all, and braking for a much longer time. The whole process with my feet is much smoother then if I were to take the corner with no pedal overlap. As with on standing starts, I feel hold some throttle/getting back in the throttle earlier helps with staying in the powerband and keeping the clutch engaged. I also feel staying in the throttle keeps the rear of the kart planted. While braking or even when lifting off the throttle, load is transferred forward and there is much less rear grip, particularly for lighter drivers who have less weight over the rear axle (where the only brake in karts is located). Maintaining some throttle keeps the rear loaded. There are definitely people that are very fast without using throttle and brake, but if you find yourself struggling with rear grip and sliding in braking turns, it may be worth a shot to try.

Since this is already way longer then I intended, I'll post some points to think about, and key tips in seperate posts soon.
Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
At around 135lbs, I'm obviously constantly ragged on when I set fast laps at the local indoor tracks for being able to do it because of my weight advantage to most adults persons of the male gender. I can't say it's not justified.

But how much of a difference does weight make in indoor karting? First off, weight will generally make a much more significant difference in karting vs. cars because karts are many times lighter then even a small open wheel car like a Formula Ford. However, a recreational style kart is significantly heavier then a pure racing kart. A pure racing kart might weigh 180-200 lbs without the driver and while I don't know the exact weights of common rental karts, I'm guessing they might be over 50 lbs heavier. So, just considering the mass of an average sized adult relative to the weight of the vehicle, a weight difference in indoor karting will be significantly greater then in car racing and somewhat less then in traditional outdoor karting. This weight difference means that a lighter driver will be able to accelerate out of corners faster and generally archive faster speeds at the end of the straight, and thus faster lap times. The lighter driver will also have a huge advantage on a standing start.

However there is another factor that might not be as obvious. On a kart, more weight may actually mean more grip in the corners. This is particularly true on indoor tracks that have a very slick polished surface using rental karts with hard long lasting tires. The more slick the surface, the more of an advantage extra weight will be; on tracks with a conventional/grippy asphalt or concrete surface (indoor or outdoor), the effects of any extra grip may be negligible. So on a slick surface, is this extra grip enough to offset the disadvantage in power to weight ratio compared to a lighter drivers? From my experience, 99% of the time, no. Being lighter is still an advantage. However, how big of an advantage on a slick surface could depend on the specific kart and the track conditions.

Besides the track surface, the track configuration could also affect the size of the advantage of lighter drivers. From my experience the extra grip from extra weight is a more of an advantage in higher speed corners, so a slick surface on a high speed track would likely be the “fairest” for heavier drivers. A higher speed configuration also generally means less accelerating which also helps heavier drivers, even on grippy tracks where extra grip is insignificant. Naturally, most grippy tracks are higher speed so a heavier driver is not necessarily at more of a disadvantage at a high speed grippy track vs. a lower speed slick track.

Finally, a heavier driver also has more weight over the rear axle of the kart, which is where the only brake on most karts (and all indoor karts I've seen) is. To me, in theory this means a heavier driver will be able to brake better; however considering how marginally brakes are used in indoor karting I'm not sure if this effect is significant.

I have limited experience in traditional higher performance outdoor karting, but my feeling is these advantages for heavier drivers might not carry over to this discipline due to the lighter kart weight, much stickier tires and perhaps other factors, or at least be a much smaller effect.

In conclusion, lighter is faster in indoor karting, but maybe not by as much as you think.

08/09/2009: Indoor karting tips

Category: Indoor Karting
Posted by: Mike
here's a few Indoor karting tips I've figured out:

Take it easy the first time out. Most people are surprised with just how slippery the track is. Some tracks may have more grip then others, but in general, if you start taking it easy and build up speed slowly lap by lap, you will learn faster then driving like a maniac every second.

The first thing to work on is finding the line, don't worry about really pushing the cornering speed or braking. Watch the line the fast guys take. If someone passes you, try to pickup from their line. This is the first step towards being fast and you will pick up a big chunk of time being on the right line vs off. This is compounded on a lot of tracks that have significantly more grip on line. Many indoor tracks have a polished surface that is more worn in on the line.

After you feel comfortable with the line, work on cornering speed. A lot of times when cornering, you want to be in a slight slide but not too much - a lot of times the slip angle is very slight so it's barely noticeable. The exact amount varies and how to describe the feel is difficult; but if you slide too much, you will loose momentum, don't slide at all and you might not be pushing hard enough. Watch the fast guys hands and see what steering inputs they are using. There is a saying somewhere along the lines of - the less steering you do the faster you go.

Keeping up momentum is a big key. Keep in mind the karts don't accelerate very fast. The small four stroke engines used in most indoor karts don't rev up as fast as a comparable 2 stroke engine, and the karts beefed up for rental use and significantly heavier then a pure racing kart.

Emphasize exit speed over entry speed, particularly on corners leading onto long straights. A better exit will mean you'll be faster down the straight. It will also make passing easier. Don't be sliding significantly on corner exit!

Don't worry too much about braking when you're still focusing on finding the line and cornering. Since indoor tracks are short and tight and the karts aren't too fast, braking is not that important in indoor karting. Many corners can be taken flat or breathing the throttle if taken correctly. That's not to say braking doesn't matter at all. Mastering braking could be what it takes to get you the final few tenths and will help your ability to pass other karts. To start, where you need to brake, just straight line brake first. Braking entering a corner induces significant oversteer and things happen very quickly in karts. When you start getting a feel for it, you might want to trail the brakes a bit to help the kart rotate on entry. Also keep in mind the karts only have rear brakes. Never get on the brakes mid corner or after, that will be an insta-spin!

Look ahead! Although you aren't going that fast, the tracks are so small and tight that things happen pretty quickly! Look ahead for where you want to apex as soon as you can. You might be able to get away with only looking a few feet ahead, but I've found looking far ahead is a key to consistency.

Once you get good, adapting to different karts becomes crucial to being consistently fast, particularly if you are running in a series. Don't be fixed on a particular braking point or turn in point. Karts can vary in power and handling. If you have a kart down on power you may be able to brake later and turn in later. If the kart is not handling to your liking try something different with steering or braking.

Finally here are a few advanced theories that may or may not work for you. I don't really know if all of these are significantly effective. Try at your own discretion:

  • moving the seat forward should create more understeer, backward should create more oversteer.

  • Similarly you can try shifting your body weight within the kart while driving. You can try pushing back under braking since the kart only has a rear brake, shifting forward in corners where you what to help the kart rotate and backward when you want rear grip.

  • shift your weight to the outside on the turn when cornering. The theory is since the kart does not have a differential, the rear wheels will always spin at the same speed, but when cornering, the outside wheel is covering more distance. Ideally, you actually want to try to lift the inside. That's not really possible (that I know of) on a slick indoor track) but leaning to the outside will help the outside rear "bite" and taking weight off the inside rear will help it spin.

  • to the extreme, you can try bracing yourself on the wheel and pushing back with your outside arm/shoulder. not only would this help for the reason above, it also supposedly stiffens the kart.

  • when the kart is accelerating, you can try bouncing up up and down with your body, no joke. Don't quite know the theory behind this, but I've seen it before.

  • I'll add more tips as I think of them.
    Category: Indoor Karting
    Posted by: Mike
    My first season of indoor karting (and the first real wheel to wheel racing I've ever done) is over, and after it all, I managed to tie for the rookie of the year award and 9th in the championship!

    Participating has been a blast. Competition is great - averaging around 30 drivers per event, and in the last race, 28 of the 30 drivers were within 1 second of each other! And the whole season only cost 500 something bucks to run! And I definitely learned and improved a lot throughout the season.

    Thanks to Allsports Grand Prix and NCCBMWCCA for organizing and hosting these events. I plan to do it again next year, whether or not I am racing other things.
    Category: Indoor Karting
    Posted by: Mike
    I've read a few things about this topic recently. In particular, check out this thread from The discussion is about the relationship between indoor (arrive and drive) and outdoor (traditional, bring and work on your own equipment) karting, and if the indoor variety is real racing.

    Although there are a variety of opinions, there are several people - who as far as I know have a long and involved history in the sport - that think indoor karting is not racing and insist there shouldn't be any relationship between indoor and outdoor.

    And its the logic that's quite ridiculous to me. Below are a few of the claims. These are paraphrased ideas and perhaps slanted for effect but read the thread for yourself if you don't believe it.

    Indoor Karting is not real racing because its not dangerous enough and doesn't cost enough money.

    It is useless to promote outdoor karting through indoor facilities, because there is little/no interest and the time/money should be spent promoting elsewhere.

    The first claim is just too ludicrous for me to even try to respond too. As for the second, I cannot fathom a better place to promote karting. Would you seriously think promoting karting at a football game would be a better idea??

    As I've said before, I believe lowering the entry barriers to racing is a key to success and growth in the future. Making indoor karting a first step in the ladder is a great way to do this. Apparently, some within the sport can't understand the concept.

    If your interested, read through the whole thread, its informative and there's quite a lot I agree with.

    01/05/2009: indoor karting

    Category: Indoor Karting
    Posted by: Mike
    I've been indoor karting for a little over a year at my local track: Allsports Grand Prix. Before I actually tried it, I thought that it wouldn't be serious enough for me. I was wrong. The racing karts used at these places require some real skill to hustle around the track quickly, and everything I've heard is that these skills will translate at least somewhat to other racing.

    I recently started running an indoor league at my local track and it has been awesome. The competition is great and it is really pushing me to improve my skills.

    There are a few downsides to indoor karting. Since the karts are used by the public by basically anyone who pays 20 bucks, they are crashed and beat on, and some karts can be significantly better then others. Also, as far as I know, ballasting drivers for weight equalization is not common in indoor racing leagues, I believe for logistical reasons. It's great being light, but its be nice to see how things play out on a level field.

    Overall, indoor karting is by far one of the most accessible and best values in racing. Sure, it might not be as cool looking as racing your BMW on the track, but it is much cheaper and probably much more competitive.

    check out Indoor Karting News for a track directory.