Is rain really the great equalizer?

David S.
Update by David S. Wallens to the Mazda Miata project car
Nov 24, 2022 | Mazda, Miata, Autocross, Rain, Garage Rescue Miata, Martin Sports Car Club

Tell you one thing about autocrossing a Miata in the rain: You get wet.

Or, if you leave the top up, your helmet hits the frame for convertible top–at least ours does.

Yet, despite the liquid sunshine falling during the Martin Sports Car Club’s November event in Tavares, Florida, we still had fun with our Garage Rescue Miata.

We were also reminded of a valuable lesson: It’s okay to talk to other competitors between runs and, based on their advice, change how your approach the course.

In this case, the course wrapped up with an optional four-cone slalom–despite what the map shows, you could enter on the right or the left.

Entering on the left provided a better entry for the final turn.

Entering on the right really tightened up that final turn–and sent you through a big puddle–but you could maintain more speed before the slalom. Plus the course ended soon after that final turn. (Note: Map not totally to scale.)

Despite going through the puddle–yes, we got wet–the second option delivered faster times. Or perhaps the course was simply drying.

The important thing here: Talk to people and, if the advice is solid, don’t be afraid to try something new midstream.

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ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
11/24/22 8:39 a.m.

When I road raced, rain automatically moved me up several spots on the starting grid. It surprised me how many drivers were timid/afraid of a wet track despite the spec tires we ran actually being really good. Problem was, the track usually dried out by race time and I'd quickly get sent back where I 'belonged'. smiley

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
11/24/22 11:02 a.m.

I live in the Pacific Northwest so rain is a very common thing here and I learned early how to handle a car in the wet.  Other drivers seemed less able to dial it back to the revised limits rain necessitates. 

I ran one race just to keep my license current and it was pouring rain. There were two competitors who were vying for the trophy and it was the last race of the year.  Their overheated brains resulted in them both 'falling off' the track and being unable to get back on and I wound up winning the race in that class  Unfortunately the way the race points were awarded favoured one over the other (different number of points for 2nd and 3rd in class) so I had to go to the steward and tell them that I wanted to be disqualified as a finisher as long as I got my race credit to keep my license current so the other two guys that fell off the track would end up the season exactly as they would have if I hadn't participated.

They said it was the first time anyone had requested that they be disqualified.  I don't know whether they fell off the track because they had less rain experience or it was just the red fog of battle that led them into the boonies.

It was a toss up as to whether a closed or open car was better in the pouring rain (I had one of each at the time). Open was OK (RainX had been invented) and the closed cars (I ran an early TVR) fogged pretty easily.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
11/24/22 11:08 a.m.

Thanks for this, I needed to spend some more time thinking about the conditions. I was in the last run group so we were dealing with a course that was mostly dry, but with wet patches and the puddle at the finish. 
 

One of the other E Street drivers came over in grid to advise me that they had figured out that the right side entry was faster, so I was able to try it on my last run.

My inexperience showed through, when I forgot to take into account the fact that I would be diving into that puddle before the turn into the finish, where I had to gather it up a bit to stay clean.

I had a good run going until then, ended up less than a tenth slower than my third run. 


 

 

RobMason
RobMason New Reader
11/24/22 1:18 p.m.

Entering right of the slalom and tight to the last cone was about a half second faster for me. Don clued us all in that we could cut time that way. 

 

Rob

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/24/22 1:50 p.m.

That's one of the reasons I love long straights. Power cars in the rain need a sensitive foot to get the car to accelerate fast enough to be at the front ( where the mist isn't)  yet not so heavy to spin the tires away from traction ( hint; drive off line)  at speeds approaching 150 in the rain light hands and light feet are your friends.  No sudden movements  no swerves or darts. Discipline is demanded. Someone may be bold and charge ahead, tempting you to chase after. Only to fall off the track as he does. 
   There is no acceleration quite as fast as wet tires on wet grass heading to disaster. 

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
11/24/22 2:07 p.m.

Did you watch this years SCCA Runoffs?  

They said that statement 20x. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
11/24/22 3:39 p.m.

At autocross in general I routinely compare notes.

As for the rain. While I do well it's not something I relish especially in wet dry conditions.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand New Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

livinon2wheels
livinon2wheels GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/25/22 5:48 p.m.

One of my favorite books "The Art of Racing in the Rain" less about driving and more about living life but still so good. Driving in the rain and doing it well is indeed an art and a skill I have not yet mastered. It eludes me. I am jealous of those who do it well, and wish I was better at it. But yet cant bring myself to take  Senna's approach of driving in the rain as often as possible to get good at it. It may really bite me badly one day.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/26/22 12:53 p.m.

My last race, an absolute downpour opened up on me during the last three laps.  I'm in an open cockpit car and I was completely soaked, and there was so much water on my visor I could barely see the track. The other drivers were running like the storm wasn't even happening and I couldn't figure out how they were so fast, but I managed to finish without losing any places. When I got to the paddock I commented about the crazy storm to the other drivers and they looked at me like I was nuts.  
 

Turns out there was no storm; my radiator had taken a hit and the entire contents were emptying directly into my face. It was actually a great experience, I learned a lot. Water wetter makes the water stick like glue to your visor. Safety equipment does a great job, and even protects you from hot radiator water. Most importantly,  just the idea of rain and lack of visibility made me slower,  even though the car's handling hadn't changed at all. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
11/26/22 1:13 p.m.

I've autocrosses my daily driver Yaris on Conti ECS several times in the dry and, while funny, it was usually near dead last. The last event of these season was slated to be a downpour, and my XSB Miata on Nankangs is a nightmare in the rain, so I brought the Yaris. I proceeded to shock and infuriate the competition, as I wheeled it to 5th overall in the rain.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/26/22 5:17 p.m.

In reply to RobMason :

Yup. I got the tip about the slalom while heading back grid after a run. Looking back, pretty sure I still left time out there

Still, fun day, fun event. 

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
11/26/22 5:36 p.m.
NickD said:

I've autocrosses my daily driver Yaris on Conti ECS several times in the dry and, while funny, it was usually near dead last. The last event of these season was slated to be a downpour, and my XSB Miata on Nankangs is a nightmare in the rain, so I brought the Yaris. I proceeded to shock and infuriate the competition, as I wheeled it to 5th overall in the rain.

That's similar to my experience last fall at the FL state autocross championship. It drizzled all day and the high was in the mid forties. My Miata would have been useless on the Rivals. Instead, I got a second place in H Street with my Lancer Ralliart wagon. It has a stock suspension, budget Monroe shocks, and Firehawk Indy 500 tires. The one thing I did to prep the car was disconnecting the front sway bar. I had a two or three second lead going into the last run, still finished three seconds ahead of the third place car. 
The expression is, "Horses for courses." A soft suspension, automatic transmission, and good tires for the conditions meant that I hardly needed to adjust my driving. 

LanEvo
LanEvo Dork
11/27/22 12:20 p.m.

I got my start in high-performance driving while living in Canada. Track days at treacherous venues like Mosport or Tremblant were virtually always wet and cold. Even icy at times. Enough snow driving to last a lifetime! Plus the occasional ice racing event on a frozen lake or dedicated venuies like Mecaglisse (Quebec) or the Team O'Neil facility in Dalton, NH. After a few years of that, you get pretty comfortable with "just" rain ... even in a RWD car on slicks with rock-hard suspension and locking diff.

I race a slow, but well-balanced car on modestly sized tires. The rain usually helps me quite a lot.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/28/22 9:40 a.m.

In reply to LanEvo :

Way back in the day, before the dip went away, Road Atlanta's in-house driving school ran an ad with the tagline along the lines of: If you can race here, you can race anywhere. 

Sponsored by

GRM Ad Dept

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