Slash Your Karting Lap Times by Learning How to Lean

Sick of your friends thrashing you at the kart track? It’s all about mastering the lean.

byLewin Day|
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Most of us will never get to engage in wheel-to-wheel combat in real race cars. It's an expensive and exclusive sport, leaving the rest of us to fight for glory amongst our friends at the local kart track. If you're looking for an edge, getting your lean game just right could net you much quicker lap times.

Thankfully, KTips has provided us with a useful tutorial on YouTube. It explains the various ways in which leaning your body can affect your lap time, both on straightaways and in the corners. Learn to put your body in the right spot at the right moment, and you'll pick up time everywhere on track.

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The video explains that the key is to lean outwards when traveling around a corner. This lifts the inside wheel which helps with cornering as karts run a solid rear axle with no differential. It can be tempting to lean into the corner to resist the natural forces pulling you out, but that's exactly what you shouldn't do.

The problem is that during a turn, the inner wheel travels a shorter distance than the outer wheel. Thus, without a differential, there's a degree of understeer as the rear axle prefers to continue traveling in a straight line, at least until a certain degree of wheel slip is generated. Lifting the load off the inner wheel reduces this understeer significantly, letting you steer the kart into the corner much more easily.

This is demonstrated across two karting sessions on the same track with the same kart. Leaning towards the outside of the track netted a lap time of 1:03.062, versus a time of 1:04.671 when leaning towards the inside of the corner.

The difference is stark to see even besides the time difference. Leaning outwards, the kart can be steered into a corner with a deft touch on the wheel. When leaning inwards, there's more weight over the inner wheel, which tends to push the car straight on. Thus, it takes more wrestling to get it around the bend.

The video also explains that ducking forwards can net a minor drag reduction on straightaways, though the effect is likely minimal on all but the fastest tracks. Meanwhile, leaning back is the go for the braking zone, to ensure there's plenty of weight over the back wheels which do the stopping in a kart.

Knowing these simple facts could net you a key advantage over your rivals during your next karting adventure. If you're desperately in need of help, it might pay off to earnestly tell your friends to "lean in for speed" just to maximize your chances of winning. We won't tell a soul.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com

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