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Go Karts – Becoming a Racing Enthusiast
Imagine – ripping your torso as you hit a curve launching your
sprint kart down the circuit. Pressing on the accelerator as you
exercise dead-on hand-and-eye coordination determining the
smartest way to turn the drift in the 21st minute of an hour- long enduro race. Or perhaps be a spectator – routing for the
likes of Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher as they race
neck-and-neck on the last lap. Guess what – you are breathing and
witnessing (even smelling the distinctive aroma of clay dirt on
the dirt track) the atmosphere that comes with go-kart racing.
Developed in the 1950´s by pilots with a zest for tinkering with
motorcycle engines to propel simple frames, go-karting extended
internationally after the construction of the first go-kart by
Art Ingels in Pasadena. Before dwelling on it’s mass European
appeal and discussing the pinnacle of Formula 1 racing, let’s
backtrack for a second. Riding go-karts (or karting) is the best
way to break into professional racing. It is the simplest means
of exploding your chassis down the track before getting into the
sophisticated arena of professional racing. Single cylinder
engines, basic chassis models, and lack of speed producing
components provide go-kart racing with the air of simplicity,
geared towards beginners and novices.
The concept of sprint karting comes to our mind when we think of
the 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 the 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 the staple of endurance
racing and is more prevalent in the Midwest than anywhere else.
Because of the 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 the course of a race, reaching the finish line is out
of the 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 the
rigors of racing and to serve as the backbone for speed. Usually
made of steel, frames have the option of being flexible or not.
Flexible frames mean easier maneuvering along the track,
especially when turning as to maintain good “side bite” and
control of the 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.
900 BHP horsepower engines are the norm for souped-up Honda
Formula One karts. Capable of reaching speeds of 200+ mph, they
represent the all-out nature of karting technology. For the
novices, a simple 2-cycle engine will do! Running on gasoline
and electricity instead of petrol (typically mixed with other
fuels to suit environmental conditions for Formula One,) sprint
karts run on either 2-cycle or 4-cycle engines. 4-cycle engines
are the weakest engine around, with horsepower topping 20 HP.
Think of the power needed to run a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner –
that’s how much power a 4-cycle engine exerts. 2-cycle engines
are typically associated with the likes of Vespas (European
motor scooters) and mopeds. These go up to 90 HP. Added cylinders
(individual horsepower generators in go-karts) can boost
horsepower, adding pure speed & power to your machine. Perhaps
10-cylinder Formula One kart engines and its incredible
capabilities ring bells to you now!
Want pinpoint control over the speed of your go-kart? No problem
here! Go-karts have basic transmission systems with gears that
control speed to its desired amount. Coming with clutches,
shifter karts (a popular type of sprint kart that allows you to
move at a certain amount of speeds) make the best use of engine
power when zipping along a straight path or maneuvering over the
short or wide curve. Depending on the amount of cylinders and
engine, shifter enthusiasts can lay opponents in their dust
blazing trails up to 90 mph. Shifters usually run on larger road
courses known as road racing. It is flush in structure with
qualification criteria like class of kart, weight of driver, etc. Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha are popular suppliers of engines.
These companies are at the forefront of karting technology,
regularly tinkering with what’s already available or creating
new concepts of their own.
Sprint karting opportunities are available to everyone. If you
want to enjoy it as a form of recreation instead of competition,
visit your local track and rent a kart! Make sure to sign any
insurance waivers and become acquainted with the rules and
regulations! If you like to compete, inquire from within. Sprint
karting is one of the least expensive sports out there. People
from all walks of life and all economic backgrounds can drive a
kart, or even purchase their own with a powerful engine. There
are many karting schools available all over the nation that will
let you ride their karts for a nominal fee. In essence, karting
is more than a pastime. It is a bonafide sport capable of
preparing you for more advanced karting by helping you shape
your judgment, hand-eye coordination abilities, and
technological/dynamical know-how of the instruments you’re using.
Michael Walker is a freelance author providing information about
a variety of go-kart topics. His articles
prove to be both a useful and entertaining resource of valuable
information for the karting enthusiast.