Alan Rudolph Racing Academy Tip of the Month: Back to the Track
Leading karting school in North America provides first tips of 2018
Karting is about becoming one with the chassis, the engine and the track. Many who have been in and are currently competing believe it is a specific brand or a particular powerplant that can make or break your weekend at the track. In fact, the major adjustment to find extra speed and more consistency is the driver. The one holding the steering wheel and controlling the pedals makes the most impact on the lap time or race pace. The best place to improve on the driver side of the equation is at the Alan Rudolph Racing Academy at the Speedsportz Racing Park in New Caney, Texas. Alan Rudolph is a veteran motorsports driver and a karting legend. The Superkarts! USA Hall of Fame inaugural class member has stood on the podium in all disciplines of the sport. Rudolph has trained well-known drivers who have gone on to race in all forms of motorsports.
Getting the chance to return to the track has been the focus for many in the last few weeks, thanks to the warm weather hitting North America. After a break, winter season, or for those visiting a new track, this segment of the Alan Rudolph Racing Academy Tip of the Month is focused on ‘Back to the Track’. How should drivers approach your return to driver’s seat and back to the track!
eKartingNews.com: As a driver coach/instructor, what are three things you instill new racers when hitting the track for the first time?
Alan Rudolph: First…Have Fun!! Karting is a great family sport, or a great way to hang out with your friends who share the same interests.
One of the first things you should do from the beginning is get proper driver coaching right away. The best money you will ever spend is on yourself. No amount of money spent on different axles, hubs, wheels, chassis’, or engines will ever give you the same advantage as proper driver coaching. Ask any top level driver how much time is to be gained by an axle, hub, wheel, or gear change and they will tell you three to five tenths at the most. If you are ever off more than that, then invest in yourself.
Make sure the kart is setup right the first time. If you put the seat in the right position, set the rear width, front end Toe, Camber, and Caster per the manufacturer recommendation then the kart is 99% as good as it will ever be. Focus on your driving and learn as much as you can.
EKN: Many racers in the northern part of the US and throughout Canada are getting ready to head back to the track. What things should club/regional racers do to refresh themselves with their home track or mentally getting back behind the wheel?
AR: Begin by doing a track walk or two. You may see things new or differently than in the past season. When doing the track walk, always walk on what you think is the correct line so you see it as if you were driving from the seat of your kart.
When you hit the track, start off a bit slower. What I mean is, the track will be green, and you are green. Don’t go out and “hack it up” by sliding all around learning bad habits and burning off your tires.
In terms of kart set-up, don’t make a bunch of changes chasing a green track, or yourself. It will take you a bit to get back on pace so don’t bother making changes to the kart. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen people making changes to their karts right out of the gate when I see them not driving properly, makes me crazy (laughing).
EKN: National racers visit new tracks throughout the season. What tips do you have for experienced drivers who are getting ready to attack a new track for the first time?
AR: Experienced or not, you need to apply all the basics and knowledge you have learned over the years. I have never been to a new track that I didn’t study via a track map, track walk, or drive around in something other than the kart or race car. At the pro level you better be able to figure out the track by the first or second session or you will quickly fall behind. Push as hard as you can every lap every session. The grip level will quickly change especially on day one so you need to be prepared for this by pushing as hard as you can finding the limits.
EKN: Getting back to track walks for say new racers, what key aspects should they be looking for. Is it mainly braking points, turn-in points and exit points?
AR: It’s actually more about visual references. Seams in the pavement, cracks, permanent marks, a particular spot on the track or the curb. All of these help you with being consistent with your braking points, turn in, apex, and exit.
EKN: Are there any mental or physical exercises you suggest racers do prior to even getting to the track?
AR: I think this depends on the person’s age and experience. There have been books written about the importance of both these topics so it’s too much for me to really dive into.
Next month, EKN will review another topic with the Alan Rudolph Racing Academy. For now, find out more about them and their facility at SpeedsportzRacingPark.com