Driving a racing car in the rain is a
science mastered by knowledge and above all experience.
I try to get out on a rain soaked racetrack every chance
I get. I find this helps build skills and confidence
so you are mentally and physically prepared for your
inevitable rain race.
Racing in the rain mandates “smooth.”
This is not a time to be throwing the car’s weight
around, inducing uncontrolled skid and slide. Balance
is critical. When I am in need of extremely smooth driving
skills, I visualize my racecar as a bathtub full of
water with four wheels on it. I see myself in the tub
with water level now elevated right to the top. I try
to drive my tub / racecar without spilling any water
out the front, back or sides. I picture blown egg shells
on the pedals, don’t break the shells. The “squeeze
on and ease off” application to the brake and
gas pedal is critical.
Be smooth with your gear changes. Try going one gear
higher in the turns than you normally would, using third
gear where you would normally use second. This will
lessen the chance of severe wheel spin by reducing the
amount of torque to the drive wheels.
Aquaplaning is one of the trickiest parts of racing
in the rain, when the tire cannot cut through the buildup
of water on the track surface, and it begins to skim
across the top of the water. The trick to controlling
aquaplaning is to do as little as possible, be gentle.
Aquaplaning is like driving on ice, the less you do,
the better your chances of surviving. Do not “jump”
off the throttle, as the sudden suspension unload and
compression braking of the engine will cause forward
transfer of weight and cause rear wheels to slip. Under
no circumstances should you go to brakes. Keep the steering
wheel pointed straight. Here is why---consider aquaplaning
equal to skimming across the top of a puddle. If the
front wheels are turned at an angle when you reach the
other side of the puddle, they will now regain traction,
while the rears are still on top of the puddle with
no traction. The front end of the car will now follow
the front tires, and the back end is going to skid sideways
causing a spin out.
The general rule in rain driving is to drive where everyone
else hasn’t. In other words, off the ideal line.
The idea is to look for, and use, the grippiest pavement.
Through the years of cars driving over a particular
part of the track, the surface becomes polished smooth
and the pores in the pavement are packed with rubber
and oil. That is exactly where you don’t want
to be in the rain. You want to search out the granular,
abrasive surface. This can sometimes mean driving around
the outside of a corner, or hugging the inside, or even
crossing back and forth across the normal line. I use
the pace lap or my out lap of a practice to look for
the grippiest pavement and identify locations of standing
Last but not least, in the event of a full spinout lock
up the brakes. Many times impact can be avoided or minimized
by slowing a spinning car down by full application of
Driver and Car Preparation
Racing is a business of organization and
being prepared. Personal and car preparation for a rain
race needs to be started as we become aware a wet race
Your chassis / suspension setup may have
to be changed for the rain. Generally, you want to run
a softer car: softer springs, shocks, and antiroll bars.
In fact, many drivers disconnect the antiroll bars entirely
in the rain. This will help your overall grip while
giving you more feel for what the car is doing. If possible,
since there will be less forward weight transfer, and
therefore braking, by the front wheels, you should adjust
the brake bias to the rear. You also may want to add
more downforce from the wings, and adjust the tire pressures-less
pressure if there is a little rain, more pressure (causing
a slight crown across the tread of the tire) in heavy
rain to help avoid aquaplaning.
Much of personal preparation centers around
visibility problems resulting from glasses and or helmet
shield fogging. I have tried most of the ski preparations
for anti-fogging with some success. However, I find
Dawn liquid soap to work best. Apply a small amount
to inside of shield or glass lens and smear it around.
Let it dry and then lightly buff just to the point of
clear vision. Repeating this process twice helps. Multiple
flowed on layers of Rain-X to the outer shield for open
cockpit cars really helps. I avoid putting my glasses
on all the way until just before the car is rolling
and even then I hold my breath until air is flowing
through the car. Keep your head covered on rain race
day. The combination of wet head and warm body temperature
can increase steam fogging inside helmet. Protect your
driving booties from soaking and wipe their bottoms
prior to going to the car’s pedals.
Having yourself and your car well prepared
early for a rain outing is a big confidence builder.
Look at the rain as an opportunity and equalizer. Take
confidence to it based on skills and experience. Opportunity
exists for a tremendous mental advantage for the confident
and competent rain racer.
– Don Kitch Jr.
ProFormance Racing School
Reprint at the permission of the author only