52 AUGUST 2019 scca.com
INSIDE SCCA AUTOCROSS
We have control over a lot of things. We can choose our cars, we can select
our tires, and we can meticulously prep our
competition vehicles. We can even show
up early to an event and walk the course a
multitude of times. But there’s one thing we
simply have no control over: the weather.
Weather, as meteorologists know, is
unpredictable; as such, weather has had a
hand in shaping the results of uncountable
autocross competitions though the years.
Sometimes it’s subtle, with a sprinkle on
just part of a run group, or maybe the day
is unseasonably warm or cold. Sometimes
it’s far less subtle, with a downpour halfway
through a run group – and sometimes
that downpour isn’t part of the forecast.
Case in point, a few years ago at the
Tire Rack Solo National Championships,
competitors experienced three deluges in
one day. And, while rain is not that unusual
at that event, the weather forecast only
called for a 10 percent chance of rain.
I’ve competed in many events where I’d
brought only the competition tires that were
on the car; then rain fell in quantity (the San
Diego Solo Championship Tour in 1995 was an
epic example of that). At some events the only
set of tires I had for wet weather were getting
older, and therefore weren’t particularly
effective (for that, another San Diego
Solo Championship Tour comes to mind).
Consequently, I’ve made an effort to have a
reasonable rain option handy ever since.
It turns out, however, that having a fresh
set of rain tires on hand doesn’t make life
easier, as you now need to decide when
to use them. Is it wet enough to make the
swap? Are the conditions drying? When is it
dry enough to switch from wets to regular
competition tires? If you want to get really
serious, perhaps there’s an intermediate
tire option to consider. Then there’s the fact
that even in the Street category there are
setup changes to be made for different tires
and conditions; it’s easy to be left in awe of
those who can make these decisions and
setup changes quickly and successfully.
Meanwhile, truly severe manifestations of
the weather are not vehicle setup concerns,
but they are something to consider. Spring
Nationals in Lincoln, Neb., and National
Solo events in Arkansas often face severe
weather watches and warnings. To that end,
it’s not a bad idea to know where the nearest
tornado shelter is when staying overnight.
Finally, there’s extreme weather on the
road to and from events to consider. Snow is a
frequent hazard for many areas well into April,
and it’s not unheard of to dodge tornadoes
and hail (the latter of which some experienced
leaving this year’s Spring Nationals). In fact, the
entire area from Lincoln to Mineral Wells was
under the highest severe alert a week before
many of us traveled there this year – and,
unfortunately, tornado forecasting isn’t a
whole lot more precise than predicting rain.
So, is there an upside to any of this?
Indeed, there is. It turns out that staying
still is probably no safer than moving,
so no matter what the forecast calls
for, we might as well go racing.
WEATHER, OR NOT
Rain, snow, sleet, hail, and even tornadoes, SCCA autocrossers
have seen it all | WORDS Paul Brown | MAIN IMAGE Rupert Berrington
WHEN IT POURS
While rain is the great
equalizer, it’s also
incredibly difficult to
predict when it will fall.
And in autocross, it often
doesn’t fall equally
for all competitors. But
regardless of whether
you’re in a production-based sedan (LEFT) or
(BELOW), when Mother
Nature attacks, you’re
often forced to make the
best of a bad situation.