How to overtake
Whether you’re looking to sneak into the lead or battle it out for a place on the podium, the ability to safely overtake is a skill that every driver must possess to compete in a race.
What’s handy is that despite being an essential skill, overtaking is a whole load of fun, too. In fact, here at GoKart.Academy we think the best part of any race is the moments where drivers sneak their way past a rival – they’re certainly the most fun to brag about in the bar afterwards!
Interested to learn everything there is to know about overtaking? Packed with information on slipstreaming, late braking, undertaking and loads more, our guide to overtaking will help you make your way to the front of the pack in next to no time.
When should I overtake?
You wouldn’t overtake in a car or bicycle on the road if it wasn’t safe to do so, and the same rule applies for when you’re out on the racetrack. Never attempt to overtake if there isn’t sufficient passing space, or if you believe the move will put yourself and others in danger.
On any racetrack, the best places to overtake are through the corners. This is because they are often considered the most difficult parts of the circuit – something that allows more skillful drivers to nip past their opponents that brake too early, or accelerate too late.
Remember, every kart at most rental places and races boasts the same spec, and without corners, it’d be very difficult to overtake at all.
Some of the most common corners that facilitate overtaking moves are:
- Hairpins: given the sharp nature of hairpins, drivers often brake much earlier than they need to when approaching this particular corner – a move that allows other drivers to brake later and swoop past them upon entry.
- Chicanes: just as hairpins cause drivers to brake early, chicanes are another spot where drivers tend to slow down more than they need to. Again, this can present an opportunity for faster drivers to overtake.
- Straights: Ok ok, we know we said the best places to overtake are corners, but that doesn’t mean you can’t overtake on a straight. In fact, if you time it just right coming out of a bend onto a straight, you’ll be able to slingshot your way past your rival.
Now we’ve discussed the best spots to overtake on a race circuit, now’s the time to learn some of the skills you’ll need to do just that.
Slow in, fast out
When it comes to overtaking, this one really is the golden rule.
Rather than racing towards every corner, throwing your kart into the bend and slowly pulling away, try focussing on your exit velocity, rather than the entry speed. What we mean here is keep things smooth as you execute each corner – and don’t throw your kart into bends at breakneck speed.
Not only will this help to maintain momentum, but it’ll also allow you to slingshot past any opponent that’s struggling to get back up to speed after rushing into a bend faster than the track will allow.
Ever wondered why professional cycling teams ride one behind the other when competing on a velodrome, or why slower cars have the ability to compete with faster models when competing on a straight line on a racetrack? The answer to both is simple: it’s all about slipstreaming.
When a vehicle moves along, it encounters wind resistance, also known as drag. This drag can slow the vehicle down, even when traveling within a controlled environment – such as an indoor kart track – with no wind.
As the vehicle moves through this drag, it creates a partial vacuum behind it, known as a slipstream. In this area, other vehicles will experience much less drag, meaning they can travel quicker than the vehicle in front. When you’ve caught up, you’ll find you can ease off the throttle slightly – the lack of drag will allow you to travel at the same speed as the car in front without using as much engine power. Then, when you pop out of the slipstream, you have a bit of extra engine power to speed past your opponent.
On a racetrack, a slipstream can be used to your advantage, especially if you’re trying to make up as much ground as possible. To ensure you’re in the slipstream, simply sit directly behind the driver in front, tracking their movements across the track if necessary – you should soon start to notice your kart catching up in no time at all.
Leaving it late
As we discussed earlier, as long as there’s a corner coming up there’ll always be an opportunity to overtake. It all just boils down to how brave you’re feeling.
Leaving it late, block passing or ‘late braking’, refers to the practice of braking at the very last available second. Think of it as a game chicken, where the kart that brakes the latest, wins.
Sounds easy, right? Well, just consider the following:
- First, if you leave your braking too late, you risk locking up your wheels and skidding off the track. Not only will this dramatically hinder your chances of successfully overtaking your opponent, it could also result in you re-joining the race in last place.
- Secondly, it’s pointless trying to out-brake a go kart that’s traveling directly in front of you, as all this will do is shunt you straight into the back of them when they brake – an offense that could lead to you getting a black flag (aka, removed from the race).
The best place to out-brake your opponent is up the inside of them. Not only will this allow you to nip in front of them as you turn into the corner, but it’ll also allow you to steer your kart into their path, thus blocking their route – hence the term ‘block pass’.
Just like in football when a player feints left before moving right, the same logic applies in the world of go karting – as in, to trick your opponent into allowing you past, you must first perform a dummy move.
To perform a dummy, make the person in front think you’re going to head down either side of them by moving your kart to the left or right, whichever is the opposite side to the one you’re looking to overtake on.
As the kart in front of you spies your bumper, they may then try to block your move – this opens the door for you to reverse the feint and slip up the other side of them. Easy.
A great example of a successful dummy can be seen here in this clip of Lewis Hamilton overtaking Robert Kubica.
Around the outside
While going around the outside may seem like the long way around, if the corner in question is quickly followed by another in the opposite direction, you might just find it allows you to gain a huge advantage.
To perform the perfect ‘around the outside’ maneuver, stay close to the side of the kart you’re overtaking as it moves around the apex of the corner – if the gap is too big, you’ll risk colliding with them at the next bend.
Then, as both karts start to move towards the next corner, dab the throttle and try to out-brake your opponent. Don’t go too fast mind, as this will simply allow them to power out of the apex ahead of you!
Once you’ve safely navigated the apex, hit the throttle and charge away, leaving your rivals to eat your dust. Just be warned though – if you get this even slightly wrong, there’s a chance you could end up being shunted into the barriers as your rival bumps you out of the road!
Ok, let’s do this!
If you think you’ve got what it takes, let us know in the comments!