14 Sep 2012

Want to race? Go karting first

Karting was pure driving, real racing. And that makes me happy. – Ayrton Senna

Karting is the purest form of racing there is. Every Formula 1 driver on the grid today started with karts, and it’s been that way for many years now. Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, every modern Formula 1 driver started his racing journey on a humble go-kart.

That’s probably because karting is the best platform to start a career in racing. There’s no big prize money involved, no big budget teams, no electronics, no outside interference, it’s just man, machine and the other man on the other machine. It’s also the best platform to help develop children into brilliant race drivers who can go on to achieve great things on the circuits of the world. In fact, I dare say that the next Schumacher and Senna will come from a life of go-karting.

I started karting when I was six. Back then, my English was poor and the deal I had with my dad was to go to MPH Bookstores and read any English book or magazine I want for about an hour and go karting after. Obviously I picked up the ones with cars. I also had to do extra schoolwork to make up for the classes I missed while I was out karting abroad, it was tough but I would do it all over again if I could. I did something I really enjoyed. When you’re at the grassroots level of motorsport, you always give it everything you have. There’s no real fear of danger, of damaging your car, there’s no backing off and collecting the points instead of going for the win. At that level, you’re only going for the win, and how you do that is what makes you a great race driver.

Go-karting is an important first step for anyone who is looking for a step into the world of four-wheel racing. Go-karts are like a livewire, and with no real barrier to soak up everything the kart throws at you, your body feels like it’s connected to the kart via the palms of your hands, and your spine. Over time, this builds your sense of feel for what the kart is about to do as you chuck it into corners, and this helps you learn the characteristics of a kart, and that knowledge will help you drive at the very edge while still being in control. In simpler terms, it’s called practise.

There have been many drivers who have been all too eager to make an early jump into single-seaters, and most of them have only enjoyed decent results, while others have had to move on to other forms of racing. The point I am trying to make is that while people should try to race at least once in any series, never mind making a career out of it, but if you’re going to do it, then you should do it right and not just barge into it.

Motorsport is undoubtedly dangerous, but with all the latest safety equipment there is, it’s actually very safe. When you drive it and when you get it right, it’s one of the most fun experience you’ll ever have. But it’s not easy, and you have to be mentally and physically prepared, and the best way to do it is to start with the grassroots level of racing, then move on to bigger things. A lot of the top drivers in the world today still keep sharp by driving and racing go-karts, and that just goes to show how important it is.

So try to take part in a race series at least once, but start with the basics, and you will be rewarded for sure. Like all things, you first need to learn how to walk, and then learn how to run.

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