This is a collection of tidbits, insights and lessons that I've learned in my 2 seasons since starting to race the Tillotsok T4's that you're about to discover by yourself.
1. Sprockets are important
They control your gearing and acceleration versus top speed. Don't bother with single tooth increments, go with two teeth. The difference isn't really even noticeable between two sprockets with 1 tooth in the difference, especially when starting out. If you're unsure about what sprocket size to use, go with the higher teeth. You're likely to be a bit messy in the corners when starting out so you'll be glad of the extra acceleration out of the corner.
2. Tyres are critical
Along with sprockets, tyres are incredibly important. For the race, you want your tyres to be as new as possible (but not brand new, maybe 2-3 laps to "scrub" them in). So use older tyres for the practice days. Depending on your championship, you're limited to a number of dry sets (slicks) per season, so use them wisely.
3. Tyre pressure makes all the difference
The hotter the weather and track, the lower you want the tyre pressure to be. Even a 1 psi difference can be noticeable in your times.
4. Heat your brakes
During a race form-up lap or in your first lap of practice, it's easy to remember to try get heat into your tyres. Your fellow drivers are swinging the karts from side to side and sliding into corners. That's all well and good (and essential), but don't forget your brakes. There's nothing worse than barrelling into turn 1 after the form-up lap, getting on the brakes and realising they're not ready to slow you down. Give the brakes a good workout on that first lap too, your cornering will thank you.
5. Know when to defend, and not to defend
- On practice days. Don't defend like you're racing. Let faster drivers through and see the lines and breaking points they use.
- Above advice also applies to race day. Be aware of a faster driver behind you. If they dive down your inside, don't turn in on them, you'll take yourself and them out and nobody likes bent steering columns, stub axles or frames, for that matter. Let fast drivers go, learn from them and lower the cost of racing for you and the experienced drivers out there.
6. Changing tyres can be a nightmare, but it doesn't have to be
Changing tyres will break your absolute heart unless you've come prepared. Use a silicone lubricant in the wheel rim. You also absolutely need a pair of tyre scissors. Don't bother trying to change tyres without them.
7. You'll have good AND bad days
You'll have bad days and weekends. There were weekends when I questioned why the hell do I bother. Everyone has those weekends. They're made up for by the good weekends. Things will go wrong, parts will break, someone will take you out (most likely by accident). But that's racing.
8. Don't forget to enjoy it!
Kart racing is incredibly fun and with all the prep, cost, and bad days, it can be easy to forget to simply enjoy it. I literally scream my head off when I get a corner just right or overtake someone. So much so that spectators can hear me and laugh. I don't care, these karts are utterly a joy to race. When the tyres are on and you hit a corner you've been working on just right, there is absolutely no better feeling!