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Wets or slicks?

LIME ROCK — Early Friday morning, July 8, before the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) qualifiers, the rain came down. “Rain is the great equalizer,” said Rick Roso, media liaison at Lime Rock Park. The race takes place rain or shine, but Roso said rain helps certain drivers stand out. Some drivers are particularly adept at handling the challenges that a wet track throws at them. It can radically change the final results for a race, as drivers who might have been expected to be the top finishers take a figurative back seat to drivers who might not do as well under normal conditions but who excel in the wet. Bad weather forces teams to focus on strategy on the track and in the pit. Some teams will “soften” their car. Softening a car involves adjusting parts such as the springs, shocks and sway bars to make the car easier to control on a wet track. Another decision the team must make is whether to use their “slicks” or their “wets.” The slicks are tires with no tread and are used on dry tracks. Wets have tread and are used to get better traction in poor conditions. All of these decisions must be made prior to the start of the race. It’s a different story when the weather isn’t bad as the cars leave the pit and then the driver finds himself racing unexpectedly on a wet track. The driver must use a different part of the track when it is wet. Typically, the driver follows the dry line, which is the smoothest course through the track. The wet line is used when the track has water on it. Drivers use the combination of their tires, suspension and the wet line to get the most amount of traction on a wet track.The rain also has a big impact on ticket sales. A bad forecast can be just as damaging as bad weather. Roso estimated that about 80 percent of fans buy their tickets online for major events such as the American LeMans Series,which was held last weekend. If the weather forecast is bad, gate sales are lower. The rain doesn’t matter to Brian Kost, a devoted fan from Vermont who has been coming to Lime Rock Park for 25 years. After a four-hour drive he arrived on Wednesday to secure a prime camping location. According to Skip Barber, owner of Lime Rock Park, the rain “doesn’t change what you do when you get here, it’s whether you get here.”

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