Carrera Cup Asia Insights: Wet Weather Conditions
From drizzle to downpour, wet weather changes the name of the game in motorsport, adding a new level of strategy and challenge for drivers and teams. But perhaps the toughest job during rainy days falls in the hands of race officials who have to determine whether the weather conditions are simply too treacherous to carry on. The decision isn’t a simple one, in fact race officials say they take six core factors into account when making the call, including safety of the drivers, safety of the officials, strength, duration and forecast of the storm, condition of and drainage on the track and circuit scheduling.
In 2017, the introduction of the new P2L WET tyre from Porsche Carrera Cup Asia official tyre partner, Michelin, offers drivers a better balance between WET and dry conditions and provides better consistency in lap times. But sometimes, extreme weather makes it impossible for the series to proceed safely.
During an interview in Shanghai, the Carrera Cup Asia Race Director and a Series Steward explained that the two parties pool their expertise before coming to a conclusion.
Not only do they study maps and radars from the meteorology bureaus, they also turn to the locals who run the venue, know the weather patterns in the region, and have an intimate knowledge of the track. Their outlook and decision is ultimately based on a study of how much rainfall is anticipated, for how long, as well as the current conditions of the track.
The director and steward explained that in Asia, many of the tracks were built and developed to accommodate monsoon-type rain where the drainage systems are typically suitable for ridding the circuits of water. But these conditions are always evaluated and discussed in-depth by officials during wet race weekends.
The main priority remains the safety of all participants, and that means considering whether the drivers will be able to maintain control of the car and avoid aquaplaning.
Aquaplaning is when the level of water becomes so deep that, upon contact, the tyres get lifted off the track. “It’s like black ice – you can’t see it. The driver will be looking at a puddle ahead but won’t be able to accurately anticipate the depth, and that’s when the car will start to twitch. Until they hit another, drier spot, they won’t regain traction and total control of the car,” the Race Director said.
If track conditions are suitable, then scheduling still needs be considered. During wet weather, the specific tyres need to be adjusted and checked, and circuit programs, adhered to. Officials try and give drivers at least 60 minutes to prepare, the officials said, but there have been instances where they make the call further in advance, or closer to the start time if patterns are highly predictable, such as a forecasted monsoon, or if they change unexpectedly last minute.
The final step officials might take before they don’t run a race is using the safety car so drivers can still record laps, but in a controlled atmosphere, doing 100 km/h, or whatever speed they deem to be safe. This last tactic is used minimally, and if the weather remains poor, they may ultimately cancel the rest of the race.
The officials explained that, if a race is deemed safe to go on, then the wet conditions change quite a few things about the competition. “It’s automatically going to slow it down. But beyond that, how drivers react also will vary. You can’t control the driver in the rain; some will adapt and try to exercise a bit of caution, some will try and gain an advantage from this gap.”
So in the end, it all comes down to safety and strategy.