Since taking the step into competition karting this year, I’ve really had to come to grips with driving in wet conditions more often. The fact of the matter is, I need more seat time in the rain to be comfortable, so this weekend I went to my local kart track, PGP Motorsports Park to practice.
I’ve driven PGP in the rain before, but this was the first time that I’ve driven it in the reverse direction, while it was wet. You can see the track direction from the track map that I’ve added here below. Normally, we travel in the counter-clockwise direction. During this weekend, we went clockwise. (So, counting the numbers in reverse.)
Unfortunately, I had the camera facing slightly downwards, which meant that I didn’t get any shots up the track. However, the plus side was that I got a primo-shot of my steering work in the rain, which helped me figure out somethings that I can do to improve my driving. (If you can’t fix it, feature it, right?)
I’ve attached the video. It’s pretty long, so I wouldn’t recommend watching the whole thing, but I kept it unedited so that I could review it again later. The steering was really heavy, so it was hard to hold the kart into the corner. I also had a hard time really getting any front grip out of the kart on turn in, and then it would snap oversteer on the exits of T15,T10,T9, T6 and T1. (So pretty much half of the track).
One of my teammates was able to help me make some changes to my alignment to see if that helped matters, but it was marginal. I really need to learn more about how to make a proper wet setup in the rain, and then I need to just do lap after lap to get more comfortable.
Also, on the topic of comfort, I noticed something more psychological about myself when it comes to driving in the rain. I’ve got seasonal affective disorder, so gray and rainy days can sometimes be a bit of a hamper on my mood.
After the racing was over, I spoke with some of the turn marshals, and what they noticed is that on the track is that at the start of races, I wasn’t as aggressive than I should be. It took me longer to get into the zone where I looked like I was driving more comfortably, than it would on a dry day.
Really thinking about it, I really could empathize with that. When I would start out, I was pretty tentative, almost blasé on the opening laps. It made it harder to really get motivated into a rhythm, because I was too much in my own head.
When I should have been driving like this –
Afterward we left the track, I spent some time with one of my teammates checking out the front of my kart, and in order to learn more about how to set it up properly in wet conditions. We also took apart most of the front end of the kart to see where some of the hesitation that I was feeling on turn in was coming from.
We noticed that the steering column was slightly bent, so it will need to be replaced, as well as made some other setup changes in the hopes of making steering easier.
When I got home, I made sure to write a race report, just so that I can capture all of the things that I’ve learned over the weekend. I try to write the report as soon as I can, just to make sure that I don’t forget about anything. I’ll need to figure out some new ways of mental programming to get myself more in the zone immediately, especially on these gray rainy days.
Racing in the rain is something that I will become better at. Fortunately, the Pacific Northwest is full of them, and with PGP’s Winter Series, I’ll have more of a chance to get more seat time in the wet stuff.