Wets, Drys, and Can’t We Decide?

Posted on June 10, 2013

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J.P. Hutchinson winning Micro-Max after gambling on Wet's. (courtesy canadiankartingnews.com)

J.P. Hutchinson winning Mini-Max after gambling on Wet’s.
(courtesy canadiankartingnews.com)

Who Should Decide What Tires You Run?

By: Rob Oakman

In the opening ECKC race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park last weekend the weather was less than cooperative. It changed regularly from rain to dry throughout the day. During the finals several classes were forced to try and do the impossible. They had to predict the weather. In the Micro-max class most choose to enter the track on slicks but a few, the gamblers, choose wets. Soon after the green dropped, so did the rain. The few racers that had chosen rains quickly took off from the field and dominated. After the checkered dropped a few voices suggested that the race should have been stopped to allow all the competitors to change to wets because of fairness, better competition, safety, and other…reasons. And all of them are wrong.

This idea that Officials should interfere in the “wets vs drys” decision has gone on for a very long time now, Regional Karting in Ontario has required that all racers run on slick tires unless the race is declared “Wet” By the Race Officials. Once declared “Wet” teams on the grid (And in their pit, Obviously) are given 15 minutes to change over to a “Wet” set-up and wet tires. This is accepted as “The way things are done”, But Why?

The arguments go that it saves money, makes for more even competition, makes things more fair, and makes the races safer. This is all B.S.

First, Weather you choose to run wets or the Officials choose for you, you need to have a set of wets to put on your chassis at a moments notice no matter what. And should you use them and burn them up, it doesn’t matter if it was your choice or an Officials. You still have to pay for it. There is no money to be saved by leaving it up to someone else. Period.

Second, safety. Safety is in the hands of the drivers at all times. It is up to them to operate their machine in a safe manner. Now, if you didn’t already know the most dangerous time a racer will be on track is on a clear, sunny, cool, dry day when speeds are at their highest, engine power at its premium, traction maxed,  and racers are the closest to the edge. Any mistake, breakage, or collision and someone or something is going to get hurt. In the event of a sudden down pour speeds instantly drop. Racers are more likely to spin, yes, but any subsequent impact is far less dangerous than during any dry session because they are so much slower. And if the racers are on slicks at the time than speeds drop even further. Danger is not truly an issue if drivers race in the rain on slicks. Don’t believe me? Go out and watch the amateur arrive-and-drive Wallys the next time it rains. They race, rain or shine, on slicks. If they can do it safely, why can’t you, Pro Racer? Expecting the Officials to give you a do-over because you chose wrong is just silly.

Third, competition. To be competitive you must earn your place. No one can “Make” you competitive. That means you have to bring all of your skill and best judgement to bare at all times. Any mistake on or off track can, and likely will, cost you a race. So why is choosing what tires you compete with any different than your track width, seat angle, or gearing? Invoking the weather Gods to grant you clairvoyance enough to forecast the weather for you race is just part of the sport. Waiting for the Officials to decide for you should never ever be a thing. For a racer it is excruciating waiting for an Official decision because, until the decision is made, you can’t do anything. The whole exercise is equally excruciating for an Official. More often than not they will simply call a wet race at the slightest hint of rain because they don’t want to get it wrong and be blamed by everyone who does badly if it does rain. This in itself should tell you it should not be their call. It is the responsibility of the racer to be prepared to race, not the Officials. There are times the Officials have waited too long and I’m sure you can imagine how many happy parents were in the pits that day.

Fourth, what about fairness? If you happen to choose the right tire to go out on is it “Fair” for the racers that didn’t to get a do-over. Why not restart races for people that get the gearing wrong, jetting, or any other kind of set-up. The only fair thing to do is make your choice and do the best you can with it. You know, like a professional would.

Lastly, understand that the Officials have more than enough to concern themselves with than play weatherman. It should be completely up to the racers, at all times, what tires they decide to race on because choosing your set-up is just part of racing. Getting it wrong is something that happens to all of us eventually, and getting it right can be the boost of confidence that a moderate team and racer need to break into the winner circle, and into being a contender.

I know some of you think it should still be up to the Officials. You are wrong. Grow a pair (Girl balls count here) and make a decision. Weather is one of the great equalizers {Sorry for the cliché}. No matter how little experience you have, and how much the team next door does, you are both just as likely to be right or wrong when you have to decide what the weather is going to do next. So make a decision. Come on. I dare you. What are you, Chicken!?!?

If you have any questions or comments feel free to send them along below and follow OakmanOnRacing.

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Posted in: Editorial