This past weekend, after a wonderful Thanksgiving, I was at VIR for the last event of their season. I was excited to be helping Reg, a friend and client of mine, with a brand-new car. It was a bit of an upgrade for him—a newer model of his Porsche 911 Cup.
We had a great plan in place, with incremental goals for each session as he learned the new car. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t want to cooperate. There was rain in the area that washed out our plans. We chose to use the time to learn more about the car instead, enabling us to optimize our day even though we stayed put in the paddock.
How do you judge when it’s beneficial to go out on the track or better to stay put? In this particular scenario, given that it was a first-time experience in a new race car, we decided it was best to minimize the variables. That meant not running the car in the rain.
With so many protocols on new race cars these days, it’s vitally important to be familiar with your controls, especially when you’re at speed on track. You don’t have time to be looking down to find out what switch does what! So, instead of driving, we spent our time learning all of the buttons, switches and protocols that the car has.
Sometimes it is advantageous to run in the rain or other adverse conditions. One main reason is if similar conditions are forecast for qualifying or your race. You can consider practicing in the rain as a scouting mission to discover where the puddles are, where it’s extra slick, and what the limits of grip are in particular areas. You can even go out there to see if your windshield fogs up and what visibility is like in the car.
Obviously, another big reason to brave bad weather is simply to gain seat time in the rain. It can also be beneficial to “weather the weather” if you’re learning a track for the first time and need to maximize seat time.
Given that VIR is Reg’s home track, he didn’t need to learn the course, so for him there was more risk than reward. He didn’t get the seat time we’d been looking for, but we still made the most of the day. That way, Reg will be even better prepared when the sun comes back out.