Speed Secrets: Time To Hit The Rental Kart Track

By Ross Bentley

December 12, 2013

So it's the off-season. Unfortunately. Most racing is finished up for the year, and won't start up again until March. Most of the drivers you know will be hanging their helmets up, sitting by the fire and bench racing until springtime comes again. 

But not you. You're the dedicated one. You still want to get faster. You know that there are a few months that you could train and really show those guys your game-face when next year comes around. So what are you going to do? 
Go race some rental karts.
Now, before you laugh and stop reading, just think about it for a minute. Rental karting provides a way for you to practice refining the fundamentals of driving fast in a safe and controlled environment.  Realistically, whether you are working with a six-horsepower kart or six-hundred-horsepower car, the fundamentals of how to drive fast will always apply. 
Conserving momentum by using the entire track, looking ahead to predict upcoming traffic, and staying smooth are the keys to speed. When you only have 6.5 horsepower to work with, you have to maximize all these skills to keep up with the fast guys!
Another real benefit of rental karting is that it teaches racers how to adapt their driving styles constantly to different kart-handling conditions.  Because rental karts are driven by the general public (with differing levels of driving skill), some karts will handle differently from others, based on how they have been used (or abused). 
That means that some karts will oversteer a lot, while others won't turn well. Some will have more power, while others will have less.  Although this seems undesirable, it's actually a benefit to drivers who want to improve their skills.  Driving karts that react differently forces a driver to become more adaptable (using the brakes, learning where to turn in on the track), in order to make the kart reach the desired apex.
(Pro-tip: Don't just complain when the kart won't handle. Figure out how to make the kart do what you want it to do. Your objective is to increase your ability to be adaptable, especially when you have no control over the setup of what you're racing.)
Now for those of you who want to bring new friends or significant others into racing, going rental karting is a great way to introduce them to motorsport.  If you just caught the racing bug, it would be good to know if you even enjoy racing with other people (especially before you start spending money on equipment and tires!).
The majority of rental kart facilities are built to support a "time-trial" race format, which means that a driver's goal is to find the fastest single lap over a session. This provides you with a good opportunity to practice finding the racing line quickly, as well as identifying good braking points for reference as your lap times start to come down.
Once you move beyond figuring out how to put a fast lap in, you're eventually going to want to battle other drivers wheel-to-wheel. In this case, facilities that have a quality rental kart racing league are a huge plus. Many people overlook the intense competition that can be found in rental kart leagues because they are seen as "recreational karts." However, these series can be thought of as the "ultimate budget spec series." Since all the karts are relatively similar, the focus is on driver skill and racecraft to move a kart up the field.
So what makes a good rental kart facility?  Find a place with a large track that allows for several drivers to move around safely and easily. If you can, find a place that maintains a large field of karts, so that you can practice driving different machines. Good rental tracks will have track workers who will give you tips and tricks about how to find the line or how to improve your technique. Ask if the kart track has a racing league you can join, then go participate in a few races.
Rental karting is a highly accessible way for competitive drivers to practice during the fall and winter months and, realistically, all year round (just to stay in the zone). The karts and the track are always readily available to you; they provide you with more opportunities to get seat time.
So while everyone else is sitting around, go get your friends together and find your local rental kart track. Get yourself some more seat time and have a blast getting faster!
- Davin Sturdivant
Twitter: @relaxeddriver
Website: http://startinggrid.org
Exerpted from Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets WeeklyFor more tips and additional articles on the art and science of racing, click here to subscribe.
Also be sure to check out Ross Bentley's book, Ultimate Speed Secrets: The Complete Guide to High-Performance and Race Driving.
+ Speed Secrets: Gearhead in Winter