The Art of Racing in the Rain | The reality

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Aug 21, 2021 | racing, Racing in the Rain

Photography Credit: Gary Whipple

Racing in the rain might have made a loving, touching movie, but the actual experience? As Team Sahlen’s Will Nonnamaker reports, it can also be wet. Really wet.


Sometimes in racing, an event goes from trying to win and place well to a pure survival mode,” he tells us. At ChampCar’s recent eight-hour contest at Nelson Ledges, it was all about survival thanks to a rainy weekend at a facility already soaked from a week of downpours.

The Carousel turn was flooded 25 yards into the grass, with 2 feet of the apex underwater,” he explains. “The back straight was just pavement and ponds on either side up to the tire walls. Turn 12 had a small river that you had to release your brakes to avoid hydroplaning.”

Despite the conditions, the team’s Boxster finished second overall. “But that is why endurance racing is such a metaphor for life: Just surviving sometimes is the victory in the end.”

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L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf HalfDork
8/20/21 12:33 p.m.

Really wet? Seriously? He has a roof and wiper. Try an H-Production Fiat 850 in the rain that is "Really wet".

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/20/21 12:44 p.m.

You are car racing having fun.  Wining about it raining is like complaining that your supermodel wife / husband is too hot and too smart and too nice a person.  I somehow don't have any sympathy for them.  

Feel sorry for us that we are driving in the rain on the race track and we got wet in some of the coolest cars.   It was such a struggle. . . .    Ya It just does not resonate with me. 

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
8/20/21 12:58 p.m.
L5wolvesf said:

Really wet? Seriously? He has a roof and wiper. Try an H-Production Fiat 850 in the rain that is "Really wet".

Oh Yeh.  A Jaguar D type at 150 MPH at 3 straights on the track?  Tires are 5.3 wide too. Yes treaded so probably 4 inches of actual rubber.  A windshield designed to look over, forget about wipers or staying dry.  You practically need a snorkel. 

racerfink
racerfink UltraDork
8/20/21 1:16 p.m.

I’ve raced a Z32 “speedster” in Champcar on several occasions.  It doesn’t even have a windshield.  The only time it really sucks in the rain is during cautions, of which there seem to be a lot of when it rains...

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand Reader
8/20/21 3:30 p.m.

The reality is that golden retrievers pass on too soon. sad

SkinnyG (Forum Supporter)
SkinnyG (Forum Supporter) UberDork
8/20/21 4:11 p.m.

I had never really felt hydroplaning until being the first car out in a Super 7 with 9.5" wide slicks on all four corners.

It is totally like snowboarding on fresh powder, only zero control. You just wait until you wash ashore, figure out where you beached, and then head back out on course.

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf HalfDork
8/20/21 4:43 p.m.
frenchyd said:
L5wolvesf said:

Really wet? Seriously? He has a roof and wiper. Try an H-Production Fiat 850 in the rain that is "Really wet".

Oh Yeh.  A Jaguar D type at 150 MPH at 3 straights on the track?  Tires are 5.3 wide too. Yes treaded so probably 4 inches of actual rubber.  A windshield designed to look over, forget about wipers or staying dry.  You practically need a snorkel. 

You've got me beat with the 150 MPH and 5.3 wide tires (I had 7" wide) and treaded rain tires

I had a short wind-diverter designed to look over (SCCA allowed removal of the windshield).

I wore a full face helmet with plenty of anti-fog.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/20/21 5:31 p.m.

Another reason why I'm happy to just do autocross. I like rain, it cools it off. It's also a good equalizer for me.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
8/20/21 6:27 p.m.

Pfft, I've been on a wet track on a motorcycle with slicks..............sissy.

Seriously, while I do well racing in the rain I can't say as I like it. The just trying to survive pretty much sums it up. 

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
8/20/21 6:35 p.m.

In reply to L5wolvesf :

Remarkably even with a 88" wheelbase and 50" track width. Plus locked rear end !!!   I was actually comfortable at 150. I did have a fair amount of caster  since it's fast and short.  But with a full face helmet I pretty much had to lock my neck straight ahead to keep my neck from being twisted off.  

GPz11 (Forum Supporter)
GPz11 (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/20/21 9:03 p.m.

I played at Daytona in the rain back in the day.

racerfink
racerfink UltraDork
8/20/21 9:13 p.m.

In reply to GPz11 (Forum Supporter) :

I did a WRL 14hr at Daytona a few years back in a 350Z.  I had Randy Pobst come and drive with us.  The 350 was quite good in the rain, and during Randy’s first stint, it rained hard, but not very long.  I happened to be on the headset at the time, and Randy radioed in that the car hydro-planed in the front quite a bit.  I was just about to radio back “10-4”, when Randy drove across start finish line at about 140mph (he and I were seeing 152 at s/f in the dry) with water shooting out of every wheel well!  He was FOURTEEN SECONDS faster than anybody else that lap.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
8/20/21 10:45 p.m.

In reply to GPz11 (Forum Supporter) :

Treaded tires?

I had no rain tires and ended up going around Willow Springs for 3-4 laps in the wet on my Honda 125 before a dry line formed.

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
8/21/21 5:54 a.m.

During my brief road racing 'career' I discovered that a large part of the field was either very poorly skilled at driving in the rain or terrified of it. The result, for a guy growing up sliding cars around on dirt and snowy roads, was that I moved up several positions by simply keeping my car pointed forward and trusting my tires.

It didn't hurt that I ran in a tin top class. The only way I really got wet was from not sealing the rivets for the sunroof panel.

GPz11 (Forum Supporter)
GPz11 (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/21/21 6:07 a.m.

In reply to Tom1200 :

Yup, I was running rain tires. I was going for the championship that year.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
8/21/21 6:33 a.m.

Gridding up for a mini moto endurance race and it starts pouring. Properly pouring. Slicks. I double stinted and rode for an hour because everyone else on the team was either mildly/moderately injured or had another more important championship they were fighting for and I was the most "expendable". The math says that if the rain is supposed to last for less than an hour we're better off on slicks than changing to wets and back again. I hate math. Also, soaking wet leathers are gross. 

In cars I've alwasy been fine, but only done up to time trial and always on treaded tires. Not sure how I feel about wheel to wheel mostly because people seem less predictable in the wet. 

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
8/21/21 11:09 a.m.

I was running a regional race once just to reactivate my license after a year or two lay-off, and it was pouring rain. I ran an MGA with very low windscreen but had a helmet visor with Rain-X on it so visibility was better than it could have been.  All the other cars in class managed to fall off the track, trying too hard (it was near the end of the season) so I won the class.

Didn't want to affect anyone's championship points so I asked if I could be disqualified and still get my race credit so I talked to a steward and he told me I needed a weigh-in but that if I missed it I'd get race credit but wouldn't feature in the points.  First time I have ever intentionally 'blown' a race.

I hate racing in the rain, but living in the Pacific Northwest means you do it or do without.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
8/21/21 2:44 p.m.

In reply to GPz11 (Forum Supporter) :

We only get about 3-4 inches of rain a year; most of that is in July and August when it is 105 to 110 degree out so we don't often race in the rain. Most of us don't even bother buying rain tires as they tend to rot before they get used.

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
8/21/21 2:49 p.m.
mazdeuce - Seth said:

In cars I've alwasy been fine, but only done up to time trial and always on treaded tires. Not sure how I feel about wheel to wheel mostly because people seem less predictable in the wet. 

I actually find people very predictable in the wet. You can see the off coming in slow motion and pick your way past.

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
8/21/21 3:10 p.m.
ddavidv said:

During my brief road racing 'career' I discovered that a large part of the field was either very poorly skilled at driving in the rain or terrified of it. The result, for a guy growing up sliding cars around on dirt and snowy roads, was that I moved up several positions by simply keeping my car pointed forward and trusting my tires.

It didn't hurt that I ran in a tin top class. The only way I really got wet was from not sealing the rivets for the sunroof panel.

That ability to slide around with comfort really gives you a decided advantage in the wet. Plus those with big power  suddenly gets real tentative. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
8/21/21 3:30 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

That's exactly why I do well. Go to this video of a friend in his Miata following my Datsun. I'm on Hoosier TDRs (not great in the rain) he catches me around 4:30 and I also try to throw it off the road at around 12:20 - 12:30. My driven is pretty much one giant save the entire time.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9BkWphQ4Zik

As for the original point of the post; it semi rains inside the Datsun and if it's cold and wet it's not a great place to be. 

flatlander937
flatlander937 HalfDork
8/21/21 4:08 p.m.

I was here in person, this was an amazing race to watch at Gridlife Mid-Ohio a few weeks ago.

 

https://youtu.be/c_o3unpbpsg

 

Forward to the 10:30 mark to skip straight to the racing.

 

edmagoo
edmagoo New Reader
8/21/21 4:18 p.m.

Years ago, in the rain at Summit Point with no radio, I was cruising along easily in first place but I thought there were a few cars out of sight ahead of me that I needed to chase down. So of course I ended up in the gravel trap.

Or

A two hour enduro at Watkins Glen started in the rain and I ran the whole first hour in first place but early in the first hour a sudden down-pour caused several cars to go off track leading to a black flag to regroup. I was one of the cars off track and was mistakenly restarted in first place. The stewards moved me to last place after the third or fourth black flag at around the one hour mark. My co-driver for the second hour ran the car all the way back to first place in class but second place overall.

Which is a longwinded way to remind me of the following clip from 'Cheers'.

 

 

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