If you are surfing the web and have found our site and this information, we would invite you to the track for a race day. This is the best way to get you acclimated to our program and our sport. If you are too far away from Sugar River Raceway (SRR) to become a regular racer at our facility you will need to seek out local racetracks and learn about their programs. Much of the SRR information presented here may apply, but there will likely be local rule and program differences across the country. Know what the local rules are where you will race before you buy anything.
If reading this section is just a part of the homework you've done and your research and reading are getting you a bit of clarity as it regards go karting, you have a next step to take. You need to get out to the track to watch a race and ride a go kart. After that if you still have questions, the SRR staff will be happy to answer them. Call us, e-mail us or ask while you're at the track in person.
If you come out to the track on a race day, buy a pit pass (allows you into the pit area where all the go-karters are, and is also personal insurance) and wander around to see what goes on. Ask questions, as 100% of the people who race at SRR are great folks and will be more than willing to answer your questions. They were beginners once too, and can add some insight to your quest for go-kart knowledge. You will find good information in the pit, and will quickly learn that most go-karters are the best sales people of the sport. They are doing something they really enjoy and will be happy to talk about the sport with you. Just ask them why they are involved in the sport and why they'd recommend that you too become involved. Ask them what they like best about go-karting.
If at this point you still aren't sure if you want to commit your time and money to this sport, then you'd better take the test. Rent a go-kart and try it out! SRR rents go karts by the half hour during open practice days. We have rental karts for eight years old and up. We also offer the 9 HP that is used for our 'Rent to Race' programs. Anyone 18 years and older can select this kart for the ½ hour 'Hot Lap' session, as we call it (current fee is $30 per ½ segment per driver using a 6.5 HP kart or $50/half hour on our 9 HP karts).
Go-karting most simply put, is the least expensive form of motor sports that exists. Go-karting got its start in the middle to late 1950s. It was a huge hit. It started into the first phase of its life, the fad stage. Everybody had a go-kart (or at least it seemed like it), there was a go-kart track in every little town. Some tracks were no more than a path in a field, others were actually paved. The fad stage lasted through the early 1960s until a combination of cost and disappearance of local tracks and programs reduced the sport to the dedicated few. Why did this happen? There were no sanctioning bodies that cared to control the cost of the racing programs. Manufacturers of go-karts and engines were as numerous as the early days of the automobile industry. Design was changing rapidly, as were parts and engines. What you raced one week was obsolete the next. Local racetracks were operated as hobbies, and as the fad slowed, the number of tracks diminished quickly. In the middle 1960's many European built engines found their way into American karting. In the early 70's kart design evolved to something similar to current day karts with engines mounted on the side rather than the rear. This allowed for better air cooling of engines and positioning of drivers so their knees weren't in their chins! In the late 70's we saw the decline of the dominant American engine supplier, McCulloch (Black & Decker bought the company and phased out kart engines). Briggs & Stratton engines began the long climb to becoming the dominant source of horsepower for American go-karting. We also saw the introduction of the Yamaha karting engine in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, sanctioning bodies started to stabilize with World Karting Association (WKA) east of the Mississippi River and International Kart Federation (IKF) governing west of the Mississippi. Many different forms of go-karting were becoming recognized and formalized. Some different types are, but are not limited to, Oval racing done on dirt, asphalt and indoors in the winter months. Road Racing is long distance high speed racing conducted on sport car tracks. Sprint racing, (the first form of go-karting that SRR conducts) and Street racing or races conducted during special events on city streets. Go-karts are now being used for driving schools and on a rental basis (One time race events for individuals and/or corporate outings). In the 90's the impact of big time professional motor sports hit go-karting. After being exposed to motor sports many looked for a level they could participate in, finding it in go-karting.
What does the new millennium hold for go-karting? The sport is as popular as it has ever been with continued growth every year. The manufacturers who have stayed with go-karting have added stability. Common sense class structures have eliminated weekly and even yearly obsolescence of equipment. Motor sports in America is becoming (if it isn't already) the most popular of all sports. The national level of awareness of NASCAR, CART, NHRA, IMSA, SCCA, ASA, and local auto racing programs has only added to the popularity of go-karting. Most any race fan would love to be connected to NASCAR racing in some way. Any connection possible, from race fan, to crewmember, to driver, to team owner are all more expensive than being involved in your own racing program in go-karting. We'll get into the costs involved in more detail in a later section of this article, but to illustrate this point, listen to this quote from a current go-kart racer at (SRR). "I used to race radio controlled cars. I spent more money on them than I do a competitive go-kart, and I get to ride along in go-karting!"
If you are five years old or older and in good health you can become a go-karter. There is no upper limit, as each year we seem to see older and older drivers compete. So far 63 years old is our oldest feature winner! Drivers range from 50 to over 200 pounds. Drivers range from under 4' to 6'6" tall. Some drivers have had other racing experience, but most have no prior racing experience. Some go-karters are back for their second career. They ran as kids and have returned with their kids.
SRR is all about families having a good time together. In the beginner ranks of go karting family's rule! We have fathers and sons and fathers and daughters and mothers and sons as the crew chief and driver. Regardless of the team make up the rest of the family is at the track on race day cheering on their favorite team. There are a lot of jobs that family members must fill on the race team; crew chief, driving instructor, head race strategist, race car hauler driver, sandwich maker, team photographer, etc. Go-karting will build or strengthen family bonds and build friendships that last a lifetime. If you have an interest in motor sports and want to find common ground to spend that quality time, this sport is for you. We have several families participating at our track who have told us that until they found the sport of go-karting they didn't have a family activity that involved everyone. Go-karting offers good behavior incentives also. In a perfect world, parents wouldn't need any leverage to get their kids to do everything they are supposed to. Only certain special activities attract kids with such power that they make certain they don't miss a single opportunity to participate. We at SRR aren't suggesting that a 'behave or you don't go-kart' standard should be adopted, but we have heard that it works very well!
If you're at the stage of independence, (defined as 18 years old or older) you may not be looking for a 'family sport', but you may feel the need for speed. Racing at 1/2" off of the ground at the national speed limit will definitely take care of that yearning. Yes, racing a car would do the same, but the costs are much higher, and it is the speed and G force that most are after, right? Many professional drivers (stock cars, midgets, sprint cars, sports cars, legend cars, etc.) participate in the SRR 'Rent to Race program and they suggest to us that the eye hand coordination required, G loading in the corner and the kick of wheel to wheel competition are as good as it is in the race car! The only thing missing is the acceleration from the race car. More than one driver has told us that his time on the 'Rent to Race' go kart has made them a better race car driver. Yes, go-karting is a thrilling hobby, but there is another whole subset of people in go-karting who are looking for the training ground to get to the professional ranks of racing. You could analogize that go-karting is like getting your undergraduate degree. Go-karting is the training ground for your life's path, if you would like to make racing your career. You had better be solid in the basics or your learning curve will be steep and very expensive in the big leagues. Some of today's best professional race drivers cut their teeth in go-karting. Let's see, Darrell Waltrip, Alan Kulwicki, Scott Pruett, Lake Speed, Emerson Fittapaldi, Al Unser Jr., Scott Goodyear, Ken Schrader, Jeff Gordon, and all of Formula 1 to name a few (racing in Europe is much more structured than in the States, as drivers must start in karting and progress through the formula cars ranks). If you can afford to learn to be a professional race driver in a Winston Cup car you can do so, but the odds are stacked against you without the right experience and training (you could shorten your life expectancy). Go-karting has the correct speed and expense ratio for beginners.
At SRR we do a form of go-karting called 'sprint racing'. Sprint racing is typically on a paved road course and the races are short in length or duration (6 to 15 lap races are the norm). Go-karts made for sprint racers have a wheelbase that is in the 32" range for our Kid karts, and the 39" - 42" range for all other classes. Any used or new kart can be set-up to accommodate most any driver. This is accomplished by changing seat sizes and driver/control pedal location. A complete ready to race go-kart weighs about 150 pounds. 6.5HP Honda engines power our beginner's go-karts. We feel we have an excellent beginner's program with our Box Stock Honda classes. This concept is explained in detail later in this article. Other classes use a Briggs & Stratton OHV engine. The rest of the go-karts use a variety of 2 stroke engines with the dominant engine being a 100cc Yamaha, purposely built for go-kart racing. Another 2-stroke alternative that is gaining in popularity is the HPV (Horstman Piston Valve, 100cc) engine and related classes. Both of these engines, depending on the class rules, (intake and exhaust restrictors are used) will be in a range of 8 to 17HP. At the top of the go-karting food chain are the TAG and Shifter classes. Touch and Go (TAG) is an electric start 125cc 2 stroke engine package that puts out nearly 30 HP. The Shifters use similar motors with 6 speed transmissions. We do not run the shifter karts at SRR due to their violent performance (no place for a beginner even if you can easily afford it) and our mainstay of Kid Karts, Box Stock beginners and rental karts; a bad mix on track
The competition is wheel to wheel and great to either participate in or watch. Sprint racing at SRR will reach speeds (measured at the fastest point on our longest straight a way) of 25 mph to 70 mph, depending on the class or engine package. So in summary, what is go-karting? Motor sports for the masses. A program in which any skill level, any age, and most income levels can participate and have as much fun while learning, as the participants in professional motor sports.
Box Stock racing means beginners and Honda. SRR runs a locally developed class called Box Stock Honda (The Honda engine got its start in our box stock program in 2006 and takes over from the Briggs Raptor engine in 2007). We ask that all of our new go-karters start in the Box Stock class. Box Stock racing was created because go-karting needed a class that was simple and inexpensive, yet very competitive. How does this class make go-kart racing simple? The rules put limits on the chassis, engine, clutch, muffler, tires, and driver experience. These limits also work to make this class inexpensive.
Remember earlier when we said that go-karting was the most inexpensive form of motor sports that exists. This is true, and Box Stock Honda racing is the least expensive type of go-kart racing. What makes it the least expensive? We some what limit spending by using a strict set of engine rules. To summarize our engine tech inspection: you must race an engine supplied by Sugar River Raceway that is wired and sealed shut. You may choose your carburetor jet size, spark plug, crankcase oil and gear ratio, the rest is limited either by rule or the wired up engine parts. That may miss a few rules, but not many. You do not need to be an engine builder or mechanic to get your start in Box Stock racing. We've made sure of that with these rules. You say "what about the guy who can figure out how to slip something by the rules?" We hold frequent surprise inspections at the end of the race day. Anything found that isn't Box Stock gets disqualified. With an engine disqualification the all important season championship points also go away for the day. That can really hurt a competitor's chances of winning the season championship.
Aside form our Box Stock engine rules our tire rule is the other great cost manager. We use a Bridgestone YDS compound slick 4.50" wide in the front and 6" wide in the rear. We have run this tire and tire rule since 1994 and it has been a perfect recipe for use with our track and the speed of a Box Stock kart. It is inexpensive ($175/set circa 2009) wears extremely well, and is extremely consistent.
But the best thing about our tire rule? It really dictates what type of chassis you will run to be competitive. This tire isn't high grip and a go-kart handles through weight transfer. A hard or low grip tire like the YDS needs a kart that gives or flexes a little bit, or transfers weight easily. Do you know what kind of kart does this best? Usually the bottom of the model line up and almost always anything from 1990 to current. That makes for a huge universe of used karts that can be put into service as your first race kart. This keeps pricing low and nearly 85% of our new karters start on something used. Why? Because they know they can win on the less expensive kart. We don't need an exclusionary 'No Foreign Karts' rule because the tire rule eliminates most of them. These karts are built for high horsepower high grip tires and don't usually work the best in Box Stock. So be careful on E-Bay or at the next swap meet. You don't want some motivated seller making you the new owner of something that you can't even bolt a 4 stroke engine on yet alone make work with our YDS tire rule.
So what does all of this mean to the beginning racer? We've developed a class system that negates the need to spend money at a really rapid rate. This is done to allow the natural learning curve to take place without bankrupting or discouraging beginning go-karters. Yes, many people's budgets can withstand much higher cost racing, but the price limits these rules put in place are also closely tied to our desire to limit complexity (i.e., a flat learning curve means fun, not frustration). You don't need to learn how to be an expert engine builder to win in Box Stock. You don't need to have hand eye coordination that could qualify you for 'Top Gun' school to win in Box Stock. All you need is the desire to have some racing fun while you learn to drive and tune a chassis.
Along with our engine and tire limits we also keep the professionals out of our beginner class. We have a system that counts wins and determines when someone must move up to the next class. A racer can not be chased out of the Box Stock class in their first season. If they don't eclipse our 15 race win rule in their first season, or ran less than half of the scheduled races, they may come back to Box Stock with a stipulation. Those with less than ½ of a season get another year of Box Stock eligibility. Those who are over the ½ season rule will then have to leave the class when the win their 15th race during the first half of their second season. They may take their points with them if they wish to go to Super Stock (a Box Stock class for experienced drivers). This leaves one to two seasons for the beginner to learn among other beginners. No one likes to feel like a Christian being thrown to the lions. Get a seasoned go-karter and a beginner racing one another, and betting on the outcome would mean sure money. It also means sure frustration for the new guy. Only the extremely strong willed stay around to become the experienced in a system like that. We find our old and new go-karters much happier when we match skill levels and budgets correctly.
A common question we hear: "If I start at the beginning of a season, how much will I need to budget to race all year?" We'll try to get you in a range. Whether you start with new or used equipment will impact the amount you spend. SRR sells a lot of used go-karts in our parts store 'The Pit Stop'. As a matter of fact we sell far more used karts than we do new ones. This tells us that the majority of new go-karters start with second hand equipment. This is often a good strategy, as a chassis as old as 10 to 12 years (and older in some instances) will be competitive in our Box Stock Honda class. Sometimes you'll find it with a used engine ready to go. A good visual inspection of a used go-kart will reveal many potential problems, but you can't tell what is inside the engine. Once you buy your used kart we can do a free engine leak down test to see if the used Honda needs any engine work. Anything we sell used will have this done and will be at a level good enough to win races.
We also sell new go-karts in our shop. We are factory direct dealers for two different brands of karts, Margay karts that are built in St. Louis, MO, and Coyote karts which are built in Spencerport, NY. Both of these builders offer excellent models for any of the current classes in go-karting.
Let's talk about average costs for these different options:
Let's talk about the safety gear you'll need.
Low to high on safety gear is $245 to $1500.
You'll end up owning 4 to 5 gear changes by the time your driving improves and you maximize your gear ratio. Cost: $50 to $125. This depends on whether you can find some used sprockets or buy new. Spare Parts: you don't really need any if you race at SRR. We keep everything that you could break in stock in The Pit Stop. Why own it before you need it? The exception to this would be if you found a not so popular brand of used kart that uses some less than standard steering components. We might not have these in stock. So you may want to get a spare set of spindles or steering shaft just in case ($125). You'll need a two-gallon gas can and some gas (we are racing an engine with 8.5:1 compression ratio, so feeding it 110 octane is a waste of your racing budget). You should also have a small toolbox. The smallest of the small will get you by, the type with the lid that opens to reveal a tray with a bit more space below it. Your normal hand tools will get you started. Bring a socket set, box end and open end wrenches, pliers, Allen wrenches, and screwdrivers. Any specialty tools you need are again available in 'The Pit Stop'. These might be special wrenches to use in hard to get at places or a tool to repair your chain; $5 to $30 price range.
The most expensive thing you'll need is transportation to the racetrack. This comes in all forms. Go-karts show up shoved in the trunk of a car, in the back of a pick-up truck, inside a mini van, on a snowmobile trailer, or even in a purpose built enclosed trailer used only for go-karting (you know, the toy box on wheels). These are go-karting's version of a NASCAR's hauler. Don't sweat how you arrive. Just remember you can't have fun until you get to the track and start riding.
Well, believe it or not there is a charge for using the track at SRR. A race day entry fee will cost in a range of $20 to $40 per driver. This includes the driver's insurance pass, track use fees, and race awards. Practice sessions will cost a driver $20 for the entire day. On race days, anyone entering our pit area will need a pit pass. These are currently in the $10 range. Practice days don't require the pit pass for non drivers. Yearly practice passes are available also. At the time of this writing they were priced at $250.
There are some consumables you'll need to budget for. Some of these items are tires, synthetic racing oil, spark plugs, carburetor jets, engine gaskets, and gasoline. A set of tires for our Box Stock class is about $175 per set (sales pitch; buy them in 'The Pit Stop' and un-mounting and mounting is included). Depending on how much practice you run, two sets of tires should last most of a season, but the serious guys that are running for the season championship will replace tires about every 5-6 weeks. The kids in the 8 to 12 year old class will likely get a season on one set of tires. As kart and driver combined weight increases so does tire wear. If a competitor runs in a 2-cycle class, speed becomes a factor in tire wear, and more tires will be used. It should also be noted that speed costs money, and most everyone who runs in the faster classes accepts this and expects to spend more money go-karting. Synthetic engine oil runs $7.50 to $10/quart. A Honda engine needs the oil changed every time you spend a day at the track and a quart is two oil changes. Spark plugs are $2-$10 each, jets $6, and gaskets at $2 - $10 depending on type.
Some of our competitors travel to race at other tracks. First year go-karters seldom wander away from SRR. The caveat we always issue is "It costs more money to go-kart as soon as you drive out the front gate of Sugar River Raceway." Why? Other tracks don't run a Box Stock Honda program. They all start with a faster class like the World Karting Association (WKA) sanctioned blueprinted Briggs & Stratton class. These are great classes, and we have them at SRR for our experienced karters. This type of racing will cost anywhere from 2 to 4 times as much to race as it does in Box Stock Honda (Box Stock engines sell for approx. $500, while we've seen ads for blueprinted Briggs engines as high as $1700). Upkeep, complexity, and speed are all greatly increased in this class, making it in our view a poor beginner's class.
Regional and national race programs exist. These series are filled with go-karters with 2 plus years of experience. The cost, of programs like these go up due to the added travel costs. If a weekend of go-karting in Indiana is what you desire then the cost of lodging, travel, and meals will be a part of your race budget. Your go-kart career may take on a "National" flavor, and this is the training ground for the professional driving ranks we talked about. Professional drivers, Alan Kulwicki and Scott Pruett, both won National Championships at SRR. Other go-karters choose to stay around home to spend their racing career. That's great also, as we don't chase you away. We have classes to challenge all skill levels at SRR.
So you've got your go-kart purchased and now you need to learn how to get max enjoyment out of it, but how? Check our schedule for practice sessions on our web page, by phone (608/897-2898), or in person at the track. Your next plan should be to practice, practice, and practice. You'll gain more confidence and speed with each practice lap. Soon you'll be looking for those 'pick-up races' that go on during practice. Don't worry about your first race until you are both confident and comfortable with your skill and kart control. These sessions will give you a chance to learn the track, learn your kart, find out what normal maintenance needs to be done, and begin to learn what some of the adjustments to the kart will do.
Some of the things you need to know will make themselves obvious during the practice sessions. Others you will learn from fellow practicers. And still other things will be learned with our help, the staff of SRR. When you buy a kart from a kart shop they say, "Thanks and good luck when you get to the track". At SRR we are both the kart shop and the track, so we are there during your every practice session and can lend help and advice as you learn about this great sport. We can also help get you a good baseline on your kart. We offer scale sessions in which we put you and your kart on the computerized scales to get the weight bias set. Buy the kart from SRR and it is included. We offer follow up sessions at $40/hour, but usually a scale sessions takes 15 minutes.
This will be a nervous time, but a fun kind of nervous. This is bigger than your first day of school! You are putting your personal safety and your ego on the line. The later has a greater potential to be bruised that first day, as karting is quite safe, and you will be the one applying the pressure to perform (unless of course your spouse is with you). You're going to meet a lot of new people. Just remember that they all were beginners a very short time ago. They remember that and will be glad to advise or help you. You will have read about the rules and typical race day procedures by now, but you'll have to start remembering it as things go by at a very fast rate! This shouldn't be a problem just remember to listen carefully in the driver's meeting. When this first day is past it will be bittersweet. You'll be glad that you put it behind you, but you'll remember it fondly as some of the best fun you've ever had.
We make all of our new Box Stock karters wear yellow number plates for their first six races. These yellow plates also earn you the honor of starting in the back of the class. This program too has its pros and cons. If you're well prepared for the start of your racing career and are feeling very racy, you'll wonder how you're ever supposed to get to the front when always starting in the back. Yes, that can be a problem. An advantage to those yellow plates and rookie status is using them to lean on like a crutch on some days. For instance, when you have passed your way to mid pack and then execute a major league spin out and finish last, you can just tell everyone, "hey, what do you expect, I'm just a beginner, didn't you see my yellow plates"?
So what is the big idea of the yellow plates? This signals the other drivers that you are a new competitor, and to expect new competitor type maneuvers. You know, give you a little extra space to execute your cornering. Nothing more needs to be said at this point, as your racing season and career will start to fall into place. Yes there will be some rough days at the track as you chase that first victory. You'll have mechanical breakdowns and mental errors that will cost you that first win, but you will get there. Practice and persistence will pay off.
Racing at SRR, and most of go-kart racing, is done on an amateur level. This means there aren't any cash awards. During the race season at SRR we will have 4 different race dates on which we will award big trophies to the top five, (or more) drivers in each class. We don't give trophies each race day due to the high cost. The entry fee mentioned in an earlier section is where the money for awards comes from. We feel our customers would rather keep the entry fees low rather than get a trophy every week. Too many trophies take up too much space, take too much time to dust, and have a novelty that wears off in short order. On regular race days SRR awards medals to each of our top finishers. These awards are determined based on the number of entries in each class and finishing position. In our Box Stock junior classes all racers get a medal. Due to the cost of trophies this isn't the case on trophy days. You'll have to work hard to earn one of them.
Each race day there are really two races or two award systems that are being contested. We have a season long point championship in each class that is hotly contested. This point system is closely based on the NASCAR points system (that is the old one before the 'Chase' came around). We run a first and second half season championship in most classes so we can notice our first half winners. This also helps us enforce our 'Box Stock Eligibility' rules. Each class gets one or two throw out races per season half. In 2009 we are running a 7 race series and championship for our Yamaha and HPV classes. A nice set of awards is given at our season ending awards banquet each fall. It seems apparent that the plaques or trophies awarded come in second place when compared to the pride shown, and respect of fellow competitors earned. Accomplishment seems to be the true reward that most competitors relish in.
Other levels of go-karting sometimes do race for merchandise awards. This is typically at the regional or national event level where manufacturers of go-kart equipment donate items as sponsors of the event. There are also events held where a cash purse is awarded. This is also done at levels far above where the beginning go-karter competes. The purses raced for won't usually pay for the day's expenses. This is similar to other levels of racing, where the prize money won't pay for the racer's bills. In major league racing it's the sponsorship money that makes ends meet. In NASCAR the sponsor is someone spending a big advertising budget. In go-karting you're the sponsor. You don't get advertising you get a lot of fun and a form of motor sports that you can afford on a working man's budget. There are exceptions to every rule, and you will see go-karters with sponsors. Most of the time the sponsor is a business owned by the go-karter, and/or a business associate of the go-karter.
We talked in an earlier section about kicking you out of the beginner's class after you've achieved a certain level of experience and wins. That's true, but you can remain in the Box Stock class if you wish. This class has the same in-expensive and simple engine rules. We call it Super Stock. We allow different exhaust systems and other subtle differences to up the performance a bit and then match you against other Box Stock graduates. You can stay here another season or a racing career. The competition is good. When the racing is wheel to wheel and there is a pack of them, speed becomes somewhat relative. But, you still want to go faster, so what do you do? We do support the WKA (World Karting Association) class system at our weekly events. You can move on to the Blueprinted Briggs Animal classes. These classes allow several modifications Briggs engine along with methanol fuel, different clutches, exhaust systems, and tires. The class also brings along the bodywork which makes the karts look like a small racecar.
Or if you like racing something with a camshaft but want something other than the WKA version of the Animal engine you can jump into several different classes. Briggs Animal is run with a set of local rules that requires the YDS tire rule, and a sealed engine on gas. Or we have an over 35 year old Honda OHV class, called 'Honda Masters'. This too is a YDS tire sealed engine class. In 2009 we will add an over 50 category to this class. And if you want to really melt the asphalt try the new in 2005 Briggs World Formula class. 15 HP and boy does it fly.
We also have different Yamaha classes and an engine called an HPV. These engines are all 2 stroke or 2 cycle engines, and represent the highest performance. The Yamaha classes allow different mufflers/expansion chambers and clutch set-ups. The HPV is an Italian made engine that has a set of rules that will make you think of Box Stock Honda racing. It is a spec engine class that locks in things like exhaust and clutch. This scheme levels the playing field while promoting longevity. There is also a class called TAG (TAG=Touch and Go, which refers to the electric start 125cc water cooled engines in the 26-30 HP range). All of our classes other than Honda are common throughout the United States due to the National Sanctioning of WKA & IKF. Regional and National series are available for those interested
Remember the first time you saw a hockey or soccer game? Or better yet an Australian football game. You wondered most of the way through what the heck the rules were, and what these people were trying to accomplish. Well let's take a bit of time to go through some of the rules/standards/norms of go-kart racing. Strangely enough, not all of this information is always written down in any one place. These procedures, rules, standards, norms, expectations of all racers are gleaned from several sources. Rule books, driver's meetings, customs, and from other sports that also practice good sportsmanship. Whether this is new information or a refresher to our readers, we feel it is good to review from time to time. After all, any sporting event is much more fun to participate in or watch if you know the rules.
Every race day just before the races kick off we conduct the driver's meeting. This is the time that the race director and flagman will tell the competitors about the days events. The intent of this communication is to express what is expected of both the track officials and race drivers. The content of the drivers meeting is redundant week to week. This is done so that things are very consistent, and to make sure that new competitors get a full understanding of what to expect while competing at SRR. We will also use this time for questions from the racers and to also make any announcements regarding something new or something that we will be watching or strictly enforcing during that race day. Each driver's meeting will discuss:
In the previous section we alluded to some of the flags that would be used to indicate that a restart of a race would be done. This deserves a bit more explanation, as we at SRR will use different procedures from time to time, and it may look a bit inconsistent. We tell our racers at the drivers meeting that we will reserve the right to use many different procedures as it regards restarts for races. You will notice that most incidents or accidents will happen on the first lap of a race. This is because everyone is close together, and they all want to win the race on the first corner. The laws of physics often get involved (two karts can't occupy the same space on the track at the same time) and you have one or more kart that spins out, runs off the track, run into each other, etc. If the race crew is unable to tell what caused the commotion we are witnessing, (i.e., what or who caused the disruption to traffic flows) we likely will choose to restart the race. This gives everyone a fair chance to win. We tell everyone that they may come around and see different flags based on how we decide to solve our first lap problem.
How do we determine the line-ups for each race? There are several methods that could be used on any given race day. If you get to the track early enough you may witness time trials. When we do this we simply time the last practice session. We do this with the computerized scoring system and the karts each have a transponder on them. Most competitors like to time trial as it has some bragging rights attached. Classes that time trial also line up the first race according to who was fastest. If a class doesn't time trial to determine the first heat race line-up, two other methods may be used. On a regular race day the starting position is drawn out of a hat at the registration gate. If we have a special event planned, we often line the first race up according to when the racer entered the event.
You noticed the term heat race used in the preceding paragraph. Most all karters get to race in three races in a regular race day. We call them first heat, second heat, and feature. We run a format where each race and position finished within that race pays a predetermined amount of points. We use what is called the Motto-cross point system to score these events. At the end of the day the racer with the most points is the overall class winner. So the karter who wins the feature isn't necessarily the overall winner for the day. When using this format to line up and score our races, we also have rules governing how we line up the second heat and the feature. The second heat will be lined up by inverting the finish of the first heat if the first heat was lined up according to time trial. If the class drew for position then we simply invert the start of the first heat race for the line up for the second heat. This gives those with an unlucky draw a chance to start in the front the second time around. If we have a first heat start determined by highest season point position, we will again invert the start of the second heat, but we will run the first heat a shorter length when running this format to give an advantage to point leaders. The feature race is lined up with the highest point earner to the front and the other entrants heads up by point total. The only exception to this would be our beginners with the yellow number plates. They will line up in the back regardless until their first six race days are run. In this race format the race lengths are typically eight laps for the first two heat races and ten laps for the feature.
The three-race Motto-cross point format is run until the class entries exceed fifteen karters. At sixteen entries we switch to a race format that is similar to what a local stock car event would run. We do this so that the number of karts on the track is limited (safety), and so everyone has a chance to race to the front. In this format we will break the class into different heat races. If sixteen karts are entered we will have two heat races of eight karts each. If twenty-three are entered we'd then have two heat races of eight and one of seven. We then run the first two heats and transfer the high point drivers to the main event. Those not finishing high enough will be lined up in the semi feature. In this format the winner of the feature is the winner for the day. No points are used to score this format (other than the heat points which determine feature and semi feature line ups). The race lengths in this format are 8 laps for heats, 10 for the semi feature, and 12 for the feature.
We try to teach all new racers what the 'rules of the road' are, because they apply in practice as well as during a race. 'Rules of the road' are an outgrowth of both common courtesy and sportsmanship. Strict adherence to the, 'rules of the road', are demanded of all drivers so that a safe place to practice and race exists. Here are a few of them.
Have you really read all this way? Then you're hooked. You might as well get your trip to the track planned to either rent or buy your first kart. This really is a great sport and great way to spend some leisure time. We would love to host your race team at SRR. Come on in and introduce yourself. We are looking forward to your arrival at the track.