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How Mastering the Art of Braking will Give You a Super-Sensitive Feel for Your Kart and Help You Go Much Faster

In my experience with coaching, it’s the drivers who learn to really enjoy playing around with braking that go places fast, so it’s where I’d like to start with you.

 

 

In karting there is nothing more satisfying than elegantly sliding up the inside of another driver, with your kart pitched sideways, tyres chirping away whilst you delicately adjust braking pressure to maintain traction. It’s one of those times when you feel like the world is in slow-motion and you are a driving god!

Master Your Braking on an EvenFlow training day

Step 1 in Mastering Braking.

To master your braking you need to remove any fears you might have with locking up and spinning. And the way to do that is to go out on track and get really medieval with that brake pedal. Remember your kart is a beast and you need to tame it, and to do that you need to show it whose boss. Here’s what to do (this is great fun too)

1. Choose a sharp corner with a short straight before it (so you aren’t going so fast you get scared)
2. Choose a braking point slightly earlier than normal.
3. Make your normal approach but give yourself a bit more space at the edge of the track….you may find you need it.
4. Drive flat out to your early braking point and stamp on that brake pedal! Really give it a bang
5. Your right foot needs to come off the throttle, and your left foot needs to exert maximum pressure on the brakes in a flash, your feet should be a blur! BANG IT.
6. After the initial bang on the pedal, release some brake pressure and control that kart. Be ready for the kart to snap sideways and snap back again when you come off the brake.

When you hit the pedal you should sense all or at least one of the following.
- The kart breaks loose at the rear and you have to come off the brake to control the kart
- The tyres make a high pitched ‘squeal’
- The engine notes drops very suddenly (and almost stops if you are clutchless). If you don’t sense any of these you need to hit the pedal even harder and even faster.

Now, if you are hitting the pedal as hard as you can with no result, get your brakes re-kitted because they aren’t working! And if you keep spinning, it means you are holding on the brakes too long. Release the braking pressure after that initial hit so the kart comes back to you.

Karting expert Martyn Lyell
Martyn Lyell locking his rear tyres for kicks Picture by www.kartpics.co.uk


This takes practice and your timing needs to be spot on, so you need to learn to get off the brake in time for the kart to come back to you, then you can turn into the corner. But stick with it because you are learning extreme kart control. You are learning that even when you are violent and excessive on the brake pedal you can still control that kart, and that means you won’t be scared to push your brakes to the limit…and you will be able to make those crazy looking out-braking moves that the pro’s pull off.

How to Refine Your Braking Technique and Get Faster

Ok, so now you’ve had your fun let’s get into the serious stuff. While you were getting used to really nailing the brakes you might have noticed that your kart became even livelier and more responsive. Also, in taming the kart under extreme conditions you will have developed a new level of feel for how much grip is available, and how hard you can push. So now we need to take advantage of all of those, and maximise your new potential.

Science bit: When you hit the brake there is a moment just as the tyres are beginning to lock, when they are producing the maximum braking traction. And as a race driver it is your job to keep on the throttle for as long as possible and therefore shorten braking distance as much as you can. So to do that, when you brake you need to keep the tyres in that region where they are almost locking to get maximum braking force.

A great way to help increase the braking force is to make sure you keep your body weight over the rear wheels during braking. So when you are about to hit the brake, brace yourself slightly and push back into your seat.

Steps to Using Your Braking Technique for Quick Times

1. Choose a braking point. Use your usual braking point if you have one.
2. When you hit your braking point hit the brake hard and fast again.
3. Be sensitive on the pedal and hold the brake pressure so that you can sense the wheels beginning to lock, you should hear that scrubbing sound, and a sweet chirpy sound. If you feel the wheels lock release the pressure slightly. This is like learning to play guitar, you have to practice and be sensitive
4. Be aware that whilst maximising your braking you will be tempted toward the apex too early, keep the kart straight for as long as you can and turn in late for the corner when you are almost finished with braking.

The idea is to exert maximum braking pressure at your braking point, and then start releasing the pressure as you approach the corner. Lesser karters than you will be doing it the other way round, pushing the brake harder as they approach the corner and finding they keep spinning.

Once you are really comfortable with this kind of advanced kart braking you can move on to refining your exits and using advanced karting steering technique, to make sure you keep the kart's speed at a maximum.

Learning to brake hard in a kart is a very rewarding aspect of driving and I promise you will develop new level of sensitivity and involvement in driving, so keep hard at it and keep practicing!

Terence Dove
EvenFlow Kart Driver Coaching
Visit www.evenflow.co.uk to get a free copy of Terence’s ‘Advanced Kart Driving Techniques’ E-book