During these summer months, you never know what kind of weather you might have at the race track—summer thunderstorms can crop up unexpectedly, so it’s important to be prepared for driving or racing in the rain.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll dissect not only how to drive in the rain, but also how to get your car prepared and set up.
Let’s talk about what you can do to prepare your car for wet conditions. Managing condensation on each side of your windshield is both a performance and safety aspect. One of the most important things for a driver is visibility, and it’s imperative to have the best visibility possible in the rain.
If your car has the option for windshield wipers, make sure they’re fresh. You don’t want beat-up old rubber that has been baking in the sun. It’s up to you whether you store them in the package and only bring them out when it rains or if you install fresh wipers on the car every season.
Inside the windshield, fogging is a huge issue typically because the inside cockpit temperatures get so warm compared to the outside air. Rain-X makes an anti-fog product that you should apply to the inside of the windshield in advance. Applying simple things like a thin layer of dish soap or shaving cream also tend to do the trick, believe it or not!
While having a rag on a stick might sound a bit archaic, it actually is a good safety tool to keep just in case your preventative fog treatment doesn’t work as planned. When I was racing the RX-8s with Dempsey Racing back in 2012, we had a rain race at Homestead. We had prepped the car for the rain, but the windshield was fogging. We had the rag on a stick already in the car, and we wound up using it for most of the race! We could use it on the straightaway and during cautions. You’d have to hold the stick while shifting, then wipe the windshield, then shift again. We were able to stay out of the pits while others had to come in to deal with their lack of visibility. We led in the GT class for a good portion of the race because of that.
Another thing to consider when prepping your car is to make sure that any air vents that might scoop extra moisture into the car are blocked off. Although this makes the additional heat in the cockpit that much worse (Ask me how I know!), it’s worth the benefit of having the increased visibility.
Obviously your driving techniques will be different in the rain, and the same is true for your car setup. Typically the way you want to think about setting up for rain is to make the car more compliant so it’s softer and rolls easier. You want the weight to transfer at a slower rate. By doing so, this loads the tire up gradually, allowing it to accept more load without breaking traction. This is the same way you’ll want to drive, but we’ll get into that in Part 2!
Setup techniques like softening the sway bars or even disconnecting them are very common for rain driving. Taking out some of the dampening in the shocks can sometimes have an added benefit, too.
The pressures in rain tires will be different than pressures in your regular tires, and you should check with your tire manufacturer for their recommended range. You would think that reducing pressure would help soften the car, but normally you want to target the same hot pressure for the rain tire as for the dry tire. Because you won’t have as much load on the tires, you’ll have to start with a higher cold pressure in order to meet your target hot pressure.
If you’re attending track days instead of racing, all of these changes might not be necessary for your car, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting on track in the rain. Tune in next week, when we’ll discuss proper driving techniques for conquering wet weather conditions!