Driving quickly in the wet is a skill only very few people are good at, and where the best drivers can shine – classic examples from Formula One being Ayrton Senna at Monaco 1984, Michael Schumacher at Jerez 1997 or, more recently, Max Verstappen at Brazil 2016. The techniques needed to drive fast in the wet are very different to the dry, so here are our seven top tips to help you be a demon wet weather specialist in a kart – and bear in mind that most of these will apply for car racing as well.
1. Find the optimal driving line
The fastest line around the track in the wet is often very different to the dry racing line. This is because the rubber that is embedded in the tarmac from racing tyres is extremely slippery when wet.
Unfortunately, there is no rule as to what line will be fastest at every corner from circuit to circuit, and experimenting with different parts of the track is often required. In general, faster corners have a more traditional dry line, and slower corners will differ more.
It’s always a good idea to watch the fastest drivers and follow where they drive; it will be quicker to drive poorly on the correct line, than very well on a slower part of the circuit.
2. Steer positively
An easy mistake to make when driving in the wet is being indecisive with your steering and turning in multiple times for a corner. Once you have found the correct line, stick to it, learn the entry, apex, and exit points, and hit them consistently. Use one positive and smooth turn of the steering wheel to allow the front tyres as much time as possible to find grip.
3. Use the throttle to help turn the car
In the wet, there will be much less grip than usual, and a kart will not want to turn due to its fixed rear axle pushing it straight on. Applying a small amount of throttle in the middle of slow hairpin turns will help the kart rotate towards the exit and point you in the direction you want to go. You must be very sensitive, however, as even slightly too much throttle will result in a spin.
4. Avoid wheelspin
Following on from the above, once the kart has rotated and you are in the exit phase of the corner, it's critical that wheel spin is avoided. You've worked hard to find grip, but that will count for nothing if the power of the engine then goes into spinning the rear wheel rather than propelling you along the track. If the rear wheels loose traction, it takes a few tenths for grip to be regained – precious time in which you could be driving forwards. Use as much throttle as you can without breaking traction.
5. Brake 'off the rubber'
The ‘rubbered in’ dry racing line is very slippery and the most amount of rubber is laid down at heavy braking zones. This leaves them feeling like you're driving on ice. For maximum braking performance, position yourself at least one kart width in from the outside of the track to find more grip. When braking, avoid locking the rear wheels – it’s the same principle as wheelspin, but in reverse. Gradually release pressure from the brake pedal all the way to the apex to keep weight on the front tyres. This will help with front grip and reduce understeer.
6. Use the kerbs
Kerbs can be used to help the kart around the corner in the wet. There are two main kerb riding techniques. The first is ‘hooking’ the inside wheels of the kart to pull it around the corner. This is most commonly used in low/medium speed corners. The aim is to drop your inside front wheel inside the kerb and allow it to pull the kart around. You will be able to feel the increase in grip if you do it correctly.
The second technique is to shorten or straighten the line you take. This technique is mainly used in higher speed corners. The aim is to maintain as straight of a line through the corner so that you can carry and maintain a high minimum speed. Trail the brakes all the way onto the kerb to keep force on the front tyres. Once on the kerb, gradually but promptly apply the throttle to accelerate away. Don't allow the kart to slide – make it as though you're on train tracks through the corner.
7. Be patient
Driving in the wet takes a lot of time to master, through hours of practice. Different techniques will work better, corner to corner, track to track, so make the most of any time you have driving in the wet. Remember the fastest drivers are the ones that have had the most practice in these conditions, so try and learn from them. Pushing too hard will only slow you down and make you more frustrated. Going faster in the wet is about driving better, not harder, so don't go beyond your kart’s limits.
- Find the optimal line
- Steer positively
- Use the throttle to help turn the car
- Avoid wheelspin
- Brake 'off the rubber'
- Use the kerbs
- Be patient
Mastering a track in the wet is one of the most satisfying things a racing driver can do, and following these seven tips will help you on your way to being unbeatable in tricky conditions.