A lot of kart drivers will try to avoid wet weather at all costs due to how tricky the conditions can be. As a long-time owner and driver of many go-karts, I’ve picked up on a lot of helpful tips and techniques on the subject, so don’t go anywhere!
So, what’s the best tip for driving in wet weather? The best piece of advice I can give is not snatch at the steering; a common instinct to try and keep traction. It has a counter-effective result on your driving and can lead to accidents.
As with anything in the realms of go-karting, there’s a lot more to the story than just one piece of advice to remember. First and foremost, I’ll go over the necessary steps you need to take in order to prep your kart for wet weather, and then look at more vital techniques!
Before Track Time
Above any tip or technique I can give about the actual driving of the kart, the way you prepare your kart for a wet weather race is of paramount importance. Well, your kart and yourself, of course!
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I’ve been part of many wet weather races; whether they were predicted or spontaneous developments. Every race I was part of meant that I could improve my preparation and now, I wouldn’t go to any track without all of my wet weather gear! Even if the forecast is for blue skies and fluffy clouds, you never know when you’ll need to drop everything and get set for a downpour on track.
So that you don’t have to suffer as I have over the years for being woefully underprepared, here’s a checklist of everything you’ll need to prepare for wet weather races:
- Wet Tires: Pretty self-explanatory, honestly. Slick tires that we use for dry races can’t get traction on a wet track, so wet tires with their tread and displacement make them the only option for achieving grip. Without them, you’ll be spinning in place or crashing on most corners! Always carry a pair or two with you when going to races.
- Overalls: Have you ever been soaking wet in a go-kart race suit without the ability to get dry? I have, and it’s not fun and/or comfortable! In wet weather races, you won’t only have to compete with the rain; you’ll be encountering spray from the backs of your opponents’ karts, too! In short, if you don’t have a pair of wet weather overalls to put on, you’ll be soaked to the skin in no time flat. It’s uncomfortable and miserable and you just won’t be racing at your best, so don’t chance it.
- Boots: Alright, so you’ve got a pair of kart racing boots. Chances are, they aren’t exactly waterproof and you’ll soon end up with sodden socks complemented by freezing cold feet. If you’ve invested in every other bit of gear for karting, I’d really urge you to splash out an extra $50 or so for wet weather racing shoes. You can get them from almost any kart gear brand and they might be called ‘cold weather boots’ or ‘all-weather boots’, but the purpose is the same. They’re waterproofed for maximum comfort and grippy soles to make sure your feet aren’t slipping everywhere on the pedals. Trust me, it happens!
- Wet Weather Visor: Most SNELL-approved helmets have to meet pretty rigorous standards when it comes to how their visors de-mist. The last thing you need in already-poor visibility is a visor that gets clouded over from condensation! Make sure to open the vents on your helmet to its highest capacity, and invest in a special wet weather visor to fit the headgear. Its main difference is how quickly it disperses water from the surface, and it makes a huge improvement to your visibility.
What’s Different About Wet Weather, Exactly?
A very good question! It’s one thing to be told that you need to make adjustments and take special precautions for wet weather, and another thing entirely to understand why it’s important.
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The biggest difference is how rubber interacts with water. Go-kart tires are, of course, made out of rubber due to the grip it can afford on asphalt surfaces. And with the tires actually acting as part of the ‘suspension’ mechanisms of the kart, they have to be pretty sturdy besides. Grip, springiness and sturdiness all contributed to the reason why rubber was chosen as the main compound.
However, when water meets rubber, all of that grip and placement of wide tires on a track is flipped on its head. A go-kart track and any racing track, for that matter, has rubber laid on it where the racing line is located, and this whole area around the track is rendered useless when rain falls. It becomes slippery and undrivable!
Whereas in dry weather you want wide, flat tires for more contact with the road, in the wet you actually need as little complete contact as possible. This is where the deep, specialized tire treads on wet weather tires come in. Those grooves and the tread displace standing water, so you don’t actually need a wide point of contact anymore.
And, most importantly, wet weather tires aren’t made of pure rubber; AKA, the natural nemesis of water. Instead, they’re made of a rubber compound. They keep the springy composition of rubber without the ‘sticky’, pliable substance that’ll make you aquaplane everywhere on a wet track.
Driving in the Wet: Tips & Techniques
I’ve gone over the necessary checklist of steps you need to take while off the track and coupled that with why wet weather is so different, so let’s look at the reason why you’re all probably here: tips and techniques for driving in the wet!
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This list of essential info will be your go-to guide to remember, so make sure to bookmark this article and refer back to it whenever you’ve got a wet weather race coming up. Or, you know, to brush up on your knowledge in general!
A lot of drivers don’t get much practice in the rain and don’t think much about needing to drive differently, so by following these tips, you’ll have a big edge on the competition.
Without any further ado, here are the most important tips and techniques I recommend for driving in wet weather:
- Seek the New Racing Line: When rain pours down, the previous racing line with its rubber-laid visibility will be more harm than good to follow. I can’t give you a definitive answer for where the new racing line will be when the track is wet, so that falls down to practice and some trial and error! Try to follow faster drivers to learn the new line, and otherwise stay off the rubbered-in line and you’ll do great.
- Steer Like You Mean It! A lot of people assume that strong steering inputs will be a detriment in the rain, what with how easily skids can happen. However, once you’ve found traction in your kart, don’t hesitate and take your turns with positive steering inputs! All that means is to keep your steering smooth and consistent, not snatching or incrementally adding/reducing lock.
- Throttle = Turn? Another strange-sounding technique, but this actually applies to normal kart driving, also. Wet weather takes away all normal traction and the rear axle will want to lock, so some feathering on the gas will help direct your kart where you want it to go in tight corners.
- Never, Ever Wheelspin: Once you’ve found your new racing line and start to gain confidence in the wet, it’s easy to fall back into dry track habits. This’ll cause wheelspin and you’ll lose so much race time!! You won’t be using flat-out throttle in the wet, simply because you’ll risk losing traction if there’s standing water on the track surface. Try to restrain your leaden foot and you’ll be faster overall.
- Don’t Miss the Point! As with the racing line, all of the regular braking points/zones will be different when there’s water on the track. Steer clear of the rubbered-in track areas and brake with slow, purposeful pressure. Lift slowly, and use a feathering of the throttle to help direct the kart while you steer. Too much or too little braking is extra catastrophic in wet weather, so get plenty of practice!
- Curbing Power: More so than in the dry, using curbs in the wet is a valuable technique to steady the kart and guarantee a steady line through corners. The best technique using curbs is called ‘hooking’, and it involves dropping your inside wheels overtop of the curb and using this anchor point to pull the kart around. This is best for tight corners like hairpins where grip is harder to come by.
Above all, the best tool in your kit to combat wet weather on the track is practice. Diving too deep to begin with will only end in tears, and it’s always best to be on the more cautious side while you build confidence in rainy weather.
Rather than avoid wet days at the track, try to attend as many scheduled races that’ll be rained on as possible! Even if you aren’t driving, observing and learning will give you a huge advantage with this tricky weather condition.
Remember your proper gear, look after your kart, and put as many tips/ techniques into practice as you can! You’ll have the hang of it in no time.