By now you'll probably have pumped a stack of hours into Mario Kart 7, but if you're still finding yourself more loser than leader we've got Mario Kart medallist James Newton to put together a few short tips to help you shave seconds off your performances.

If you want to put your new skills to the test, check out our Mario Kart 7 communities to meet up with other users and even the odd staff member too.

Still not sure if this affair of the kart is for you? Our Mario Kart 7 review should explain more.

Bigger Boosts

The quest for quicker times begins at the start line: hit the accelerator at the right time and enjoy a speedy start.

The key is to press and hold accelerate just as the 2 stops spinning: hit it right and your launch boost will last around a second. Push too early and you'll spin out; hit it late and you'll get a shorter boost. If you're playing a heavyweight with poor acceleration, getting the fastest start is crucial, especially when taking on the tricky staff ghosts.

R Rated

The R button is crucial to Mario Kart mastery; not only does it let you drift around corners, tapping it on jumps and ramps gives you a minor speed boost upon landing, a little like the tricks in Mario Kart Wii. It's a little boost that makes a big difference.

Blue Boosts

You've probably noticed there are blue and red boost ramps now: red function as normal, but hitting a blue ramp breaks out the glider for weaving gracefully through the air. As above, pushing R on the ramp initiates a little spin for a boost on landing.

When you're in the air, be sure to look out for any pipes or fans blowing up air: these can be used to push you to greater heights and grab vital coins and extra items.

Be aware that you're still vulnerable to items while in the air, so plan accordingly.

Drifting Away

Drifting has been a Mario Kart staple for years, but its appearance in Mario Kart DS divided users due to the prevalence of so-called "snaking". While that hasn't been eliminated in MK7, it's been toned down to make things a little fairer.

You no longer need to tap left and right on the Circle Pad to build up your sparks, as they build depending on the tightness of your turn. Let your kart drift lazily around the corner and you'll be lucky to build up a boost; aggressively attack the inside line and you should grow your sparks much more quickly.

Of course each character handles differently so take the time to learn your chosen combatant's quirks and you'll be well rewarded.

In the Slipstream

Stick behind a rival racer for a few seconds and you'll get a nifty boost of speed. You'll know if you're slipstreaming correctly as small dash lines appear on screen and you'll hear an audio cue too; just stay behind them a little longer and you'll be able to boost past them.

Greed is Good

For the first time since Mario Kart: Super Circuit, gold coins litter the raceways of Mario Kart 7. Grabbing them increases your overall speed, up to a maximum of ten coins: if you get hit or fall off the course, you'll lose coins, though.

One thing you may not realise is that picking up a coin gives you a very short speed boost; while one isn't big enough to make a huge difference to your time, could give you a slight advantage over your opponent, and remember — every coin you grab is one your opponents can't.

Unlocking Karts and Characters

Coins aren't just good for speed: they're also the key to unlocking the game's karts and parts. You'll get a new part for every 50 coins until 300, after which you're rewarded for every 100 until you reach 1,000. It then rises to 200, and you get your final parts at 2,500 and 3,000 coins. There's also a very special part for winning all cups with at least a 1-Star ranking, so get practising!

If you're thinking the character select screen looks a bit bare, you receive a new character every time you win a 150cc tournament in Grand Prix mode. To race as your Mii, win every cup on any difficulty — you can even mix and match 50cc, 100cc and 150cc, as long as you win each cup at least once.

StreetPass Ahoy

If you have invitations set to "on" in your StreetPass Mii Plaza, the Miis of people you've raced against — or even ones that appear in your communities — will appear in your Plaza. You can't use them for the built-in StreetPass games, but if you like being nosey it's ideal.

However, if you're a Super Mario 3D Land owner you'll notice your Toad houses have been restocked with gifts from your online Mario Kart adversaries.

Got a Tip?

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