Drive Like Hamilton: How To Overtake
In all levels of motor sport, drivers need to be confident at overtaking. There’s the thrill of the chase as you hunt the other karts around the track, but as you become more proficient, you need to get good at slipping past your opposition – an essential skill if you want to increase your chances of standing on the winners’ podium. Contrary to normal road rules, it’s not just as simple as driving faster than someone else. There’s technique and skill involved, you need to plan ahead and you also have bear safety in mind as you’re driving at fast speeds close to other karts. Once honed however, the pay-off for sneaking past someone is huge!
In most cases, overtaking should usually be attempted around a turn when you’re positioned on the inside of the track, but here are some ideas from our Absolutely Karting staff to help you get ahead of your racing rivals. Just consider yourself an F1 pro in the making…
1. Slipstreaming (the basic overtake)
This is all about following the kart in front of you very closely until right at the last minute when you slip out and wave goodbye as you roll on by. How? On a long straight, come up behind the driver you want to pass and stay close behind their kart, driving directly in their racing line. Positioning yourself like this in their slipstream means you can travel just as fast as them but with less throttle because they’re taking the brunt of the oncoming wind resistance. This drag from the oncoming air doesn’t affect you, so when you move out of the slipstream, you can put your foot down and enjoy a burst of momentum to carry you past your opponent. Take the corner on the inside and accelerate early. Just make sure you brake in time on a sharp corner or you might end up overshooting and potentially colliding with the other person.
2. The rolling pass
This move encourages a special touch on the brakes. To execute, you’ll need to be relatively close to the lead driver going into a corner. The key is to keep your eye out for when the kart ahead brakes and then mimic, so you brake at the same time as well. Quickly though, lift your foot off the brake pedal so you get a spurt of power to go faster and get more momentum to overtake as you exit the turn.
This works best when you’re trying to overtake from a few karts back, and it’s an aggressive tactic. Lunges are best performed on gentler bends than hairpins, but the idea is to start taking the corner before another kart does. Turn your wheel early aiming for the corner and as you approach the bend accelerate to gain more ground before hitting the brake so that you beat the other person to the turn. As long as you get on the inside of your rival, it’ll work and propel you ahead and on to victory.
4. Pile on the pressure
Don’t make last minute overtaking attempts that can lead to contact or collisions. It’s bad etiquette to just appear out of nowhere and try to squeeze through a gap on the track. Your overtaking needs to be set up and carried out with confidence, and most importantly, the other kart needs to see you. If you race up and charge, chances are they’ll probably hit you and take you out of the race. Apply pressure by driving closely behind, and let them know you’re tailing them, forcing them to make a mistake, because if they falter you can capitalise and accelerate for the win.
5. Be patient
Sometimes it’s about playing the long game and setting up a passing opportunity. Get a better exit on your last corner and put yourself alongside the car you want to overtake, and then finish the overtaking manoeuvre at the next corner. Overtakes are rarely made on the spur of the moment, even the ones that seem opportunistic. Familiarise yourself with the track layout as quickly as possible too. Find the bends that lead into the long straights and practise getting these angles right, because a lot of your overtaking will come from how well you master coming out of corners.
6. The switch-back
Obviously things don’t go to plan sometimes, so be aware of what’s happening to those in front of you. Someone might brake too late and overshoot the turning point of a corner. If you’re driving wide you can hook in quickly to the inside, aiming for a late apex around the track bend and then make sure you accelerate early, which will give you the advantage over your mis-positioned rival.
7. Go left
Get yourself on the inside especially when approaching a corner as this will disrupt the other driver’s ideal racing line, forcing them to go wider while giving you the dominant position around the corner. Make sure you drift wide to the outside of the track immediately after exiting the bend in order to block the other car so that you remain in control of both of your exits. Be aware though that if you’re approaching a chicane (double corner) which switches the other way, pushing your opponent wider to have an outside position then becomes the inside position for the next corner and they can do exactly to you what you wanted to do to them! Pick your overtaking moments carefully on the track.
8. Brake on the straight
Karts only have brakes on their back wheels so avoid slamming them down on a corner. If you do, you run the risk of spinning. Remember to always brake whilst on a straight line so that when you’re in the corner you’re able to control the speed with the throttle. It goes without saying that cornering is the most important part of racing, so brake before you enter, then maintain pace through the apex, before accelerating out to leave rivals behind.
9. Dummy move
Footballers and basketball players know the benefits of dodging to the side, fooling their opponent as to which way they’re going to move next. Even though you’re in a kart, you can still employ the same strategy. To perform a dummy, make the driver in front think you’re going to head down one side of them by moving your kart to the left or right. As the kart in front spies your move, they may try to block you by moving to one side – but this opens the door for you to reverse the dodge and slip up the other side of them and away.
10. Focus on where you want to go
In the heat of the race, you may be nervous to overtake, but kick out any fear by focusing on the path you should be taking, not on the object you want to pass. Drivers drive where they look. So when overtaking, don’t focus too much on your target kart because that can trick you into keeping your distance. You may find yourself concentrating on the kart so as not to hit it. The key is to look at the space between the edge of the track and your target driver. Focus on the gap, aim at it and drive into it. If someone ahead of you has spun off, then likewise concentrate on the gap you need to drive-through, and overlook the spinning kart.
Many of the world’s greatest F1 drivers first learned their overtaking prowess on go-karts. Whatever your level, practise these passing manoeuvres and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a brilliant racer.