As I’m sure you will have seen, when watching other forms of motor racing such as Nascar, Formula 1 etc., tires and their condition are monitored and discussed at length, highlighting their importance.
Obviously tires are the contact point between a go kart and the track (as with all race cars), so to be fast and accurate through your racing line, your tires’ condition is of paramount importance.
A number of things can impact the performance of your tires:
- tire pressure,
- the quality of construction,
- tire temperature,
- wheel alignment and
- balance of the vehicle.
Tire pressure, make sure you get the right tire pressure for optimum race performance. This will be determined by the manufacturer’s specifications, the weight of the vehicle, including the driver, and even the weather conditions – if it is extremely hot this can cause the PSI (pressure is measured by Pounds per Square Inch) to increase slightly and vice versa.
Quality of construction.
Generally speaking (but not always), the more you pay for your tires, the better they will be. But there can be a trade off between a tire’s traction (softer tires tend to warm up faster and adhere to the road better, giving you better control faster) and its durability, softer tires will wear faster than tires made of a tougher compound. So cost can be a factor in your decision making.
Also, make sure the tires you have chosen are appropriate for the size and weight of your go kart, again check the manufacturer’s specifications.
The temperature of tires increases as they are driven. Getting them to the right temperature allows the tires to adhere to the track surface at an optimum level – enough stickiness to have really good steering control but not so sticky that steering becomes difficult. Warming up your tires before a race, during a warm up lap, gets your go kart to be at its peek performance at the start of the race, rather than working your way into the race. You don’t want to waste time by starting the race on cold tires – as we know, in speed races, every tenth of a second can count. Cold tires don’t have as much grip as warm tires so you may end up sliding around corners wasting precious time and control.
If the tires get too hot, they will start to blister and parts of the tire’s surface might fly off, this can potentially become dangerous, so you should not continue on blistered tires.
Wheel alignment and balance of the vehicle.
Ideally you want all 4 tires in contact with the track surface working in unison to enable the best control of the go kart. As with skiing, you are moving the fastest and have the most steering control when in contact with the racing track.
Poor wheel alignment, that is if the wheels aren’t running evenly across the width of the tire, will lead to faster wearing of the tire, or feathering, in the area that has the track contact. Balance of the go kart will also impact the wear of tires, if more weight is over one of the tires, then try to remediate that by re-balancing the kart itself, or changing the pressure of the tire to compensate.
When racing go karts, as with all racing cars, tires are an important and integral component of your success. So it is essential to keep a thorough check on the quality of your tires’ condition.