The Art and Science of Racing in the Rain
By Dave Pratte
Hidey ho my fellow MotoIQ readers. My name is Dave Pratte and you may know me from such Driver's Ed films as “Alice's Adventures through the Windshield Glass” and “The Decapitation of Larry Leadfoot”. No wait, that's Troy McClure. My bad. Lets try this again. You may know me from Modified magazine, where I used to be the Senior Editor and where I still write a monthly Tech column (ingeniously called 'Tech Talk') and contribute all sorts of other content on a regular basis (I've also contributed to Super Street, Grassroots Motorsports, Modified Luxury & Exotics, Modified Mustangs, S3, AutoGuide.com and Hairy Bears Quarterly…ok, maybe not that last one). But unlike most magazine editors, I didn't get into this business for the free tires or cool press events. I fell into it because I'm a racer and the magazine happened to be looking for someone who could provide them with the type of insights that only come from breaking parts and the occasional track record.
|Hello MotoIQ. My name is Dave Pratte and racing is serious business…
|Chasing this STI down in my K24-powered EG Civic during a damp Canadian Touring Car Championship race was some of the best fun I've ever had behind the wheel. As you can see from the body roll, the relatively soft setup I was using paid big dividends once the wet stuff started to fall, but more on that later.
Of all the stories I've cranked out during a decade or so of work in this industry, the one that generated the most reader feedback was called “The Art of Racing in the Rain”. No, this wasn't a review of Garth Stein's novel by the same name, but rather a look at how to go fast in wet conditions. Some of the e-mails I received about this story included funny tales about driving (and crashing) in the rain, while others wanted to talk about the similarities between wet conditions and snowy or icy conditions. Whatever the case may be, this story seemed to strike a cord with a lot of go-fast enthusiasts, so I thought it would be appropriate to share it here but with some additional technical insights, since MotoIQ is all about understanding how to go fast in an intelligent way.
Contrary to popular belief, the ability to go fast (without crashing) in the rain isn't just an inherent skill that some drivers have and others do not. The truth is that learning to race in the rain – we're talking driving your car as fast as possible around a wet racing circuit – is part feel (or art, if you prefer) and part science. The feel part is something you have to develop from practice, practice, and more practice. The science part, on the other hand, is something you can investigate intellectually, learn on paper, and then go about applying in the real world. But to apply the science of racing in the rain skillfully and artfully, you've got to find yourself on a wet race track, which goes back to that whole practice, practice, practice thing.
|There's no substitute for seat time when learning the art (and science) of racing in the rain, but hopefully you'll do it in something a little more forgiving than ASM's S2000, which looked like it was trying to kill its driver during a rain-soaked GT Live Time Attack event at VIR back in 2006.
|A great way to develop a feel for your car's attitude at the limit of available grip in the wet is to find an empty parking lot on a rainy day.