I started my racing journey in the Pacific Northwest region of America about 8 years ago. Despite what locals will tell you, the stereotypes exist for a reason, it does rain there and often! At first, the hint of rain sent disappointment running through my body as the fear of driving in the wet took over from the enjoyment of racing. Fast forward to today and the only two things that I dread about racing in the rain are not being able to see through the windscreen and above all, wet feet and damp conditions in the paddock.
Early on, when the heavens would open, I would say "oh I love racing in the rain". I didn't really! I just didn't want to look weaker in front of my fellow racers. As I got smarter and more honest with myself and my friends I started to really look at racing in the rain as a new and exciting, but daunting, challenge. Interesting, that moment when you start to 'drive the car' vs. 'the car driving you around' racing in the rain got easier (as it did in the dry). Now I relish the chance of racing in the rain - if I can see that is - and this weekend at The Ridge Motorsports Park will be wet for the 6 hour enduro.
Do I still get anxious driving in the wet? Of course! We run on street rain tires in Spec E46. The Toyo RA1 is, at best, an adequate rain tire (comparing it to a proper race tire like a Hoosier). You aquaplane quite easily and the grip isn't that consistent, but you know what... everyone else is on the same tire!
Below I've placed a video of a wet and dry lap at The Ridge. There will be times when watching that a viewer might say "why coming out of the throttle there?". The answer is simple, if you understand the anatomy of the track and what the car will do 'over the limit' the next time around you'll bring it down a notch to keep it together. The RA1 aquaplaning I talked about is a great example in the video of 'partial/off throttle' close to the end of the straight. The Ridge has a road surface that doesn't absorb rain, it just sits on the top (to allow the track to dry faster), that area also has a mild crest in the road from mid track to the right hand lane (getting on the racing line), the puddling close to braking means if you aren't exactly in the right spot, you'll aquaplane just as you think about brakes!
Anyhow, Hank at AAF has gotten the visibility challenge sorted which leaves just the wet feet problem. From plastic bags over your race shoes to tip toeing to the car on grid to avoid puddles, I've done everything possible to avoid damp toes but, alas, it rarely works. Oh well, wet feet it is!
Race report to follow next week where we'll determine, after all of this talking, if I'm any good at racing in the rain whether I love it or not!