Does Weight Make a Difference in Go Karting Lap Times?
Does weight make a difference in go karting lap times?
Tell us if this has happened to you. You’ve just set a blistering lap time at K1 Speed, beating your friends and family by half a second or more. But you didn’t win. Instead, there’s some scrawny kid on the track who obliterated your lap time. But that couldn’t be.
You’ve been raised on a diet of cars and racing since birth. As a child, you drew racing lines before stick figures. You’ve beat your friends at racing games, from Pole Position to iRacing. “It’s because he’s (this many) pounds lighter!” you declare as you munch on your loaded pulled pork nachos in the Paddock Lounge. But does weight really make a difference in go karting?
The Heavy Man vs the Slender Man
Tyler, our social media guy, weighs a little over 183 pounds fully clothed. I, Ryan, weigh around 232 pounds – about a 50-pound difference. On track, Tyler and I are pretty close despite the weight difference. Typically, only a tenth or so separates our fastest laps. We’ve both got a ton of seat time in our electric karts and know the two tracks at Irvine like the back of our hands. But are we the same driver? Am I exceptionally good, but my weight is holding me back from being better? Is Tyler really that bad of a driver, where the best he can do is the same as someone 50 pounds heavier?
Testing if Weight Affects Go Karting Lap Times
To test if weight makes a difference in electric go kart racing, we had Tyler eat a ton of fast food for a couple of months, so we could eliminate much of that 50-pound deficit. Just kidding. We picked up a 40lb weight vest from our local big box store. When wearing this vest, we were able to add the pounds onto Tyler without risking a premature heart attack. Plus, the weight is all where the body is, not added to different parts of the kart, creating a realistic simulation.
Our Electric Go Kart Lap Times Without Weight Penalties
To set the benchmark at where we stand normally, we took turns driving the same kart around Track 2 in Irvine. Tyler posted a best time of 20.037 and average lap time of 20.319. I completed my race with a best time of 19.789 and an average lap time of 19.999 seconds.
Now at this point you might think that it already proves someone who is heavier can produce a faster lap time than someone lighter. And you’re right. But the question is, can we do similar lap times when weighing an additional 40lbs. Furthermore, can I still beat Tyler’s normal weight time when I’m 90 pounds heavier?
Our Go Kart Lap Times with Weight Penalties
With Tyler packing more than 220 pounds with the vest on, he did set a slower lap time in the same kart. By a minuscule two-hundredths of a second (.02). But his average lap time was even faster than when he 40 pounds lighter by around a tenth. The reason?
Tyler explained that while the vest itself hampered how he shifted his weight in the kart, it also helped push the kart down firmer onto the ground, eliminating some of the sliding he was experiencing in some of the tighter turns. He was able to charge harder into the corners with this new-found grip.
So Does Weight Affect Your Go Karting Lap Times?
In all the weight DID NOT matter when go karting, as both of his sessions were within a tenth or two – nothing unusual to a typical experience at K1 Speed.
We can already hear you: “Well, yeah, maybe not 40 pounds. But something like a 100-pound difference would definitely do it.”
Can You Beat Someone Who Weighs 90 Pounds Less Than You?
So I put the vest on, weighing 270+ (we discovered the scale we purchased had been previously returned, and was a little off by around 3-5 pounds – hence no specific weights here). Could I beat Tyler’s 20.032 he set when he weighs 180-something? Sure, it’s not 100 pounds, but it is 90 pounds or so, enough for us to see.
With vest on, I stepped back into the same kart we’d been sharing, and off I went. I set a fastest lap time of 19.957 and averaged 20.155, beating Tyler’s 180-pound fastest lap. Nearly 100 pounds heavier and I still could beat him. Take that, Tyler.
“But, Ryan! You were slower than your usual weight time!” – I hear you. And you’re right. But it took a bit of adjusting to the difference of kart handling. As a result, I just didn’t hook together a decent lap like I was able to from muscle memory at my regular weight. It was a little clumsier – more barrier taps, slight overdriving – the usual. It was unquestionably do-able, however. At the end, I was really only about a tenth off in average time. With that much of a weight difference, it’s nothing.
What was most surprising is that I was still only a second off the track record, despite being only 25 pounds away from the maximum weight the kart can support. Being heavier does not make you slower at karting.
In the end, we’ve learned that weight is not a valid excuse at K1 Speed. We’re confident it plays more of a role when racing gas-powered karts, given that you have a power band you need to stay in the entire time. But since our electric karts produce instant torque, it eliminates any advantage that lighter racers may have. So don’t feel so guilty next time you order that double cheeseburger, and instead practice more at your local K1 Speed.