Should You Drift Go Karts During Races?
Drifting your kart can be a good way to get ahead... in Mario Kart. Real life racing is a different story.
Real racing, as our competition racers can attest, often comes down to a few split seconds. Three tenths of a second can in many cases mean the difference between victory and second place.
Drifting is a valid technique in rally driving, where drivers race on dirt, snow, and mud. It's also a genuine sport in its own right, with drift shows hugely popular, particularly in Asia.
However, in real go kart racing when you drift karts you lose traction, speed, and valuable seconds.
HOW GO KART DRIFTING WORKS
Go kart drifting is largely made up of three components.
- Front slip angle
Drifting is when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle, to such an extent that often the front wheels are pointing in the opposite direction to the turn.
So, for example, the cart is turning left, but its wheels are pointed right or vice versa. This is also known as opposite lock or counter-steering.
The effect is that your go kart drifts. Or, in other words, they appear to slide around the corner.
WHY IT SLOWS YOU DOWN
Drifting vs. the clean racing line comes down to laws of physics.
On the tarmac of a go kart track, the coefficient friction of a rolling tyre is greater than that of a sliding tyre. Therefore, the rolling tyre will always have more traction.
The more traction (grip) you have the faster you can brake, corner, and accelerate. By taking a clean racing line, you can drive into the corner faster, take it quicker, and exit it at a greater speed.
As soon as you start to drift karts, they lose grip, so they naturally also lose speed.