From the Super Mario Wiki
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In the beginning, the player will need to hold until the meter on the right is full. Waiting too long will mess up the player. Afterwords, the player will be sliding down a steep slope where a yellow line is seen going the length of the whole track. They must go over the line to fill up the meter. When the meter is full, the player can hold the button to move much faster. Their meter will drain as they go, unless they are still on the line. However, if the player is at top speed and hits into a wall, they will crash, slow down, and need to fill the meter again. Once the player crosses the finish line, that will be the official race time for the player. Whoever finishes the course in the fastest time, wins the event.