Racing in the “wet”

Alright guys and gals, instead of talking about only last weekends NASA race at VIR, I’d like to take a moment and discuss something that all racing drivers will have to face in their life time, a “Wet” track. Now we all know how to drive on a nice dry track (or at least I hope we do!), aim for the line, pass your competitors and if all goes well, score a win. What about racing in a downpour? When the weather made the decision, you slap on a set of wet tires, soften the shocks, remember to slow your inputs, aim for the rain line, and hope for a win. The rain tires will do a really good job of removing the water from the tire, and because they are generally a softer compound you still have a fair amount of grip.

What about the “wet?” What if the track has been wet all day, but there is no rain? There are faint rooster tails coming off the cars that are currently on track and thus far there have been no accidents. The decision is now slicks or rains? If you slap on the rains you may over heat them if the track drys out, but if it starts to rain more and you are on slicks you are completely hosed. Decisions decisions!

The Sunday race this weekend was exactly what I described above. The track was “wet,” the air was cold but it was not raining. I could see faint rooster tails from the cars on track when I was called to grid. This weekend I only brought two sets of Kumho V710’s, leaving the rain tires 5 hours away in my garage. So the decision was already made for me, and I figured the track was drying little by little. There was no standing water on track at all, and everyone I talked to said it was “ok.” As soon as I got to grid, it started misting again, and I still had no working windshield wipers (that is at the top of my list to fix). Crap! After qualifying second in class, and tenth over all I was not happy about the weather at all. Not only was the track now not drying, there were a lot of fast cars on slick tires about to get out there and race.

As soon as we start rolling out onto the track I realize that the RainX I’d used was not working below 50mph. That meant that the pace lap was going to be rough, but I got though it and when the green flag was dropped I was ready to go. With more than half of last years races being in the rain and wet I felt prepared for anything, and I knew how to stay out of trouble. Rounding turn 5 I see a corvette spinning a few cars in front of me, and I see him get T-boned by another car. Into the grass I go taking a rather rough “short cut” around the mess. Back onto the throttle a little, and I was back on track.The rest of the race was a lesson in throttle, brake and steering modulation. The track was getting wetter each lap, and I was on slicks. Then again, so was everyone else, and chaos ensued. Cars were going off everywhere, and the EV Crew was working extra hard. I’d pass them and get back on the “line” and put my head down. I kept with the same group of cars for the entire race, being cautious but fast. No need for stupid late brake passing, if I wanted to get by someone, I did it with power on the straight. It was simply, easy and kept me in second place. You could see the marks were the other cars had been before me, and thats where I went. That “line” was warmer and dryer than any other place on try so why not. While I kept my car in the right orientation, I did nearly hit a very sideways Andy Watt’s in turn 14. He had messed up his heel toe, and that sent him sideways and send me into my ABS trying to miss him. We both recovered and kept going.

A lap later I saw the class leader in the grass with no bumper, and it finally set in that I was leading my class. Two laps later I was finally a nasa race winner, and I could not be happier to get off the track. It seemed like the race lasted forever but in the end i managed to keep the car facing the right direction, on track and in one piece. It was a good race for sure.Bottom line is when its “wet” and you are on slicks, keep to the line created by people in front of you. Realize that you MUST nail each and every heel-toe, give yourself more room, and honestly be cautious.


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