Most professional drivers get their start as go-karters at ages as early as 5 (and therefore a driver's license is not required). But as young competitors, they must become familiar with basic go-kart racing rules, most of which continue to apply throughout their racing careers. While general rules apply to all go-kart competitions, rules can vary from league to league and facility to facility. Whether you are an adult or child, go-karting for fun or in competition, knowing the basic rules of go-karting is imperative.
It's imperative to wear proper safety attire when karting. Go-kart drivers must wear a helmet with a balaclava underneath, and a fire-retardant driving suit. A balaclava is a fire-retardant cloth mask that protects the driver's face and serves as a barrier between the driver's skin and the helmet. The best helmets have shields that protect the eyes, plus an emergency helmet-removal system that allows emergency personnel to take the helmet off -- with minimal moving of the neck and spine -- in the event of a serious crash or injury. Racers should wear racing gloves and shoes that completely cover the feet. A go-kart driver should refrain from wearing any loose or flammable clothing.
It's mandatory that all go-kart drivers attend the drivers' meeting prior to the race. At the drivers' meeting the head of competition will discuss how the race will be conducted, such as what types of moves will be tolerated and what types will not. He will share any special information about track conditions, such as bumps or marble cleanup. Knowing when marble cleanup is to occur is important; shredded tires form marbles that collect on the track and can be slippery and dangerous when driven over. Drivers also have the opportunity to ask questions -- the goal being to ensure a safe race for everyone.
Before entering a race, all go-kart drivers must be well-versed in the meaning of flags used during competition. Flags are the primary method for communicating vital information to drivers during a race. Confusion about flag signals increases the chances of an accident. A yellow flag means that the driver must slow down and maintain his position in single file. Yellow flags usually follow an accident, which requires clean up on the track. A blue flag means a driver is off-pace and needs to stay out of the way of competitive karts. A black flag means a driver is being kicked out of the race. Finally, a red flag means that there's an emergency on the track and requires that the drivers stop immediately.
While many racing venues such as Nascar allow for bumping, this type of behavior is strictly prohibited in go-karting. A go-kart driver should never attempt to bump, rub or push another driver. Bumping can result in a black flag being thrown on the offender, resulting in his disqualification from the race.
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