As Go-Kart drivers and hobbyists, learning how weight affects lap time is a significant factor that doesn’t just affect your time between slips but can also add up to your safety and driving efficiency.
While driver skills and experience can influence lap times the most, weight is another important factor that kart drivers have to be aware of. The added weight affects the acceleration, traction, and stability of the kart. It also requires driving the go-kart with the added force for steering inputs and instant brakes. Not being able to achieve the speed and efficiency for steering and brakes can lead to a slow lap time.
Lap times are important indicators for the driver’s performance and skills in racing. It is used to compare and measure capabilities. Hence, understanding how weight can affect it can be a noteworthy advantage.
Does weight affect lap time karting?
As we have briefly tackled above, weight can play rather a significant role in lap time. When drivers of the same racing class but different weights compete, the heavier one is at a disadvantage. Generally, every 10 kg. increase of weight, 0.2 seconds per lap in the circuit is lost.
The added weight affects the acceleration, traction, and stability of the kart which can cause slow lap time.
When the added mass in the lightweight kart is heavier, the weight makes the gravity pull harder downward. This downward force makes the speed of the kart slower. However, kart racers still argue that weight is only significant for the acceleration of gas-powered karts and not for electric karts. This is because electric karts are designed to produce instant torque eliminating any weight advantages.
Heavier drivers will have more traction compared to lighter drivers. While this sounds like an advantage, it is not very helpful especially because it produces more friction. If more friction is produced, a smoother ride is hard to achieve. Because of the weight and the added traction, steering the wheel and initiating brakes can be very difficult too.
Karts with heavy drivers can achieve good stability but this can lead to the limited ability of the kart to jack up the inside rear. This is a concern because the inside rear is supposed to be lifted off the ground when turning. Thankfully, this possibility can be contrasted by tweaking the chassis or adjusting the seat to match the center of gravity.
Are there karting weight limits?
There isn’t any standard or universal weight limit when it comes to karting. However, different kart associations can set their own standards and weight limit measures.
More than the weight limits, most kart associations are more concerned about the minimum weight requirement for each class. Not reaching the minimum weight requirement can cause safety concerns to the driver and others on the track. When an underweight person drives a kart, they will experience very little traction and eventually lead to losing control. Hence, as a safety measure, all drivers are required to be weighed before driving.
For overweight drivers who exceeded the set weight limit, they are still allowed to drive a kart most of the time. However, they are informed about the difficulties and disadvantages of doing so.
For races, participants are divided into race classes which are determined by age, engine, and the total weight of the kart and the driver.
Focusing on the weight, when the racer is underweight, they can opt to add weights to reach the minimum weight requirement. For overweight drivers, they can choose to upgrade to the Senior or Masters level and add weights if necessary. The minimum weight for these levels ranges from 350 lbs to 410 lbs. This weight is inclusive of the driver’s weight and the kart’s weight.
How can a heavy driver race better?
Drivers on the heavy side surely have much more challenges compared to drivers with a lighter weight. Nevertheless, with proper skills and techniques, heavy drivers can still compete on the race tracks and reach exceptional lap times. Here are some tips that can help a heavy driver race better.
Take time to understand how to handle and drive your kart.
Understanding how something works can help you utilize it more efficiently and safer. For heavy drivers, driving a go-kart can cause intense traction because of the added weight making the kart contact the asphalt more. While this is not a bad thing entirely, it could be a disadvantage, especially during hot weather. When the road is dry, it can make steering difficult or might lead to kart hopping. Being familiar with your kart’s engine and knowing how to maneuver your kart can make a great difference in driving.
While sliding can bring the adrenaline rush to a whole new level, heavy drivers should avoid this because slides, whether intentional or accidental, can kill the momentum. Losing the momentum can lead to losing control and traction. Heavy drivers may experience more and farther sliding as well. To avoid this, make it a habit to not brake too late and not apply the steering lock while under braking.
Get educated with the binding problem and the solution
Kart drivers especially heavy drivers will find much difficulty when it comes to binding. Binding is the phenomenon when both the rear tires travel at the same velocity for all the track sessions. This makes the kart travel in a straight line even when you turn the steering wheel. To solve this, you have to learn how to rapidly and strongly snap at the wheel whenever you turn in.
What is the best go-kart for a heavy driver?
Many heavy and tall drivers are concerned about the size of the karts if they ever get into kart racing. Thankfully, karts are now more available in different sizes and power and can support the majority of the weight classes.
Different Karting Associations provide different selections of karts. To find out the best kart for a heavy driver, the driver needs to be weighed first. After finding out the weight, they can proceed to select an appropriate kart.
Some go-kart models that heavy drivers can choose from are the Rok GP, Rotax FR125, IAME X30, Parilla Leopard, and PRD Fireball. These go-karts can support a minimum weight ranging from 350 lbs. to 415 lbs. They are suitable for Senior and Master racing classes which allow participation from drivers who are 15 years old and older.
In addition to choosing the appropriate kart for the weight measurement, it is also important to get educated on how powerful the engine of the kart will be used. Drivers on the heavy side are advised to use bigger karts that come with bigger and more powerful engines. While these engines can achieve good performance and speed, they also require more force to operate. Not being able to control the power of the kart can raise safety concerns.
Does karting help lose weight?
The short answer is yes. Karting is an effective sport to burn calories and aid in weight loss. In fact, a study conducted on UK adults at the TeamSport Leeds Track supported the idea of using this sport as a workout for maintaining or lowering one’s weight. In the study, the participants were tasked to complete a track session while wearing heart rate monitors. These heart rate monitors measured resting heart rate. As the track session progressed, the average heart rate elevated and calories started getting burnt during the race.
The same research noted that the participant was able to burn an average of 358 calories in 30 minutes of karting. That is almost 40% higher than the number of calories burnt during 30 minutes of jogging which is only 199 calories. This amount of burnt calories is also higher than the number of calories burnt when trampolining which is only 167 calories,
While it may seem like karting doesn’t require much energy, the truth is it requires more effort compared to other workouts. Go-karts don’t have a power steering mechanism which means that the physical output from the driver is highly necessary for steering. The elevated heart rate and the adrenaline in kart racing also act as a cardio exercise which is proven effective in weight loss.
Aside from weight loss, karting can also help in strength building, reflex improvements, and increased reaction time.