Go Karts - Becoming a Racing EnthusiastWritten by Michael Walker
Imagine – ripping your torso as you hit a curve launching your sprint kart down circuit. Pressing on accelerator as you exercise dead-on hand-and-eye coordination determining smartest way to turn drift in 21st minute of an hour-long enduro race. Or perhaps be a spectator – routing for likes of Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher as they race neck-and-neck on last lap. Guess what – you are breathing and witnessing (even smelling distinctive aroma of clay dirt on dirt track) atmosphere that comes with go-kart racing.
Developed in 1950´s by pilots with a zest for tinkering with motorcycle engines to propel simple frames, go-karting extended internationally after construction of first go-kart by Art Ingels in Pasadena. Before dwelling on it’s mass European appeal and discussing pinnacle of Formula 1 racing, let’s backtrack for a second. Riding go-karts (or karting) is best way to break into professional racing. It is simplest means of exploding your chassis down track before getting into sophisticated arena of professional racing. Single cylinder engines, basic chassis models, and lack of speed producing components provide go-kart racing with air of simplicity, geared towards beginners and novices.
The concept of sprint karting comes to our mind when we think of prototypical kart & track in amusement parks, recreational areas, and arcade palaces. Impeccable karts with sleek designs and sturdy frames rip through on short tracks, usually made from asphalt or concrete – ranging from half a mile to a mile in length. Sprint karting is divided into classes (think boxing middleweights and welterweights) that distinguish engine-types (two-and four-cycle), driver (classified according to age and weight), brand of kart (Yamaha and Honda are popular choices), and specifications. No carbon-fiber made frames and McLarens built with lightweight materials here! Sprint karting is a simplified, scaled-down form of professional go-kart racing with shorter tracks, downgraded technology, less experienced drivers, and downgraded components across board.
Other forms of karting include enduro racing. Endurance racing, or “enduro” for short is a prolonged version of sprint. Propelled by aerodynamical butterfly steering, enduro karts are an upgrade over sprint karts – participating in races lasting an hour or more. Dirt, oval tracks is staple of endurance racing and is more prevalent in Midwest than anywhere else. Because of long racing period, special emphasis is paid to durable karts and pit stop maintenance than focusing on just speed. In runner’s terms, enduro is a marathon - not a sprint. If you sacrifice chassis and tire maintenance for speed throughout course of a race, reaching finish line is out of question.
Behind every successful sprint car are its well-performing components, specifically its frame, engine, and tires. The dynamics of a go-kart is two-fold: to be built to withstand rigors of racing and to serve as backbone for speed. Usually made of steel, frames have option of being flexible or not. Flexible frames mean easier maneuvering along track, especially when turning as to maintain good “side bite” and control of kart. Because non-professional go-karts have no sophisticated traction and suspension system to withstand bumps, frames are usually subject to more punishment. Sprint kart tires usually do not have indented grooves, as they are soft in nature and more suited to all-terrain.
Go Kart Frames - Choosing the Right One for YouWritten by Michael Walker
Karting enthusiasts emblazon image of perfect chassis in their minds: lightweight, yet powerfully durable material capable of launching a kart forward without slightest wear or tear. Rare material that comes with likes of professionally built popular race-cars like illustrious McLaren. What about karts that could rip through side turns at speeding bullet speeds without raising a wheel a centimeter above ground, gliding swiftly like a falco such as futuristic cars in I, Robot? And along with perfect frames comes perfect tires, tires “grooven” to perfection providing finest traction and downright freakish controls when running curve.
Let’s discuss intricacies and place a perspective on frames for your go-kart. The chassis as it is called in professional and enthusiast circles, is by far most important piece of this machine. The construction is paramount in maintaining a solid go-kart. What constitutes a frame? Think of a frame simply as parts holding a component together. In case of these speedsters, frame is welded together by torsion bars. Stiff frames are a result of shorter bars crossed together, and more flexible frames are associated with longer bars.
Stiff frames that do not provide flexibility were backbone of earlier go-karts and broke down easily. First off, simpler go-karts do not have specifications needed (most important, suspension and tire traction) to ease punishment frames go through while turning, accelerating, and stopping. Running on 2 or 4 cycle engines does not help compensate health of a frame. A lack of traction on your tires will cause uneven weight transfer and stability on your frame, ripping one or both sides loose at same time. In essence, frame is responsible for determining how well your vehicle moves zipping on asphalt, concrete, or dirt – dictating your performance on wide turns and shorter turns.
A sturdy, well-built frame is key to manoeuvring well on track, especially when turning. Wait, isn’t a frame supposed to be resistant to rigors and demands of punishing your go-kart as it explodes forward? Of course – but most important criteria for an excellent frame is to negotiate turns well. Frames are directly responsible for how well go-karts turn left and right. Weaker go-karts with cheap components are known to slide and drift along turns – in some instances, flipping to its side entirely with careless driving. “Side bite” is referred to keeping a go-kart planted to track without sliding. Without proper frame, go-karts will manoeuvre out of control, even shutting off in some cases due to over pressure to engine.
The design of go-kart chassis has everything to do with how well it moves on turns and maintaining side bite. If width of rear rails (go-kart frames constitute front rails and rear rails) is narrow, with measurements ranging from 24¨ to 25¨ - from “kingpin” to “kingpin”, ends of rail – it will have less side bite. Wider rails barely ever exceed 30¨ on standard go-karts. The dynamics of front and rear rails can be effectively pictured using this example: suppose you had two bottles – a two-gallon jug and a 16 oz. Water bottle. Giving it a swift, hard poke to its side – which container has best chance of tipping to its side? If you guessed water bottle, you guessed right! Wider rails provide stability and “foundation” while turning, reducing side bite overall.