Wet on Slicks crash course – 7 point checklist

As author of the A&D article here at Karting magazine it struck me that in these green and pleasant lands we get our fair share of circuit moisture. Few to no championships provide wet tyres so I thought I would share some of the wet wisdom I have acquired over the years from racing in A&D to help you guys to find some extra speed.

While this will mainly apply to those of you who are of the A&D persuasion, this should also be useful to the MSA guys during a sudden and freak downpour mid race – take note it may just come in handy.

Driving on slick tyres in the wet is a very particular art and is a different skill to being quick in the dry due to the alternate driving techniques used. Here are 7 tips that if you follow should see you be effortlessly fast.

1. Line

Finding the fastest line is probably the single most important thing when you’re driving in the wet on slick tyres. There is typically very little grip so the kart doesn’t really want to speed up, slow down, turn, or do anything really. If you can find a line that either makes the kart work better, or alternatively negate the need to make it work then you will find huge amounts of time.

Experiment with your lines
Experiment with your lines

As a general rule you want to drive in straight lines aiming at where the grip is. Where the grip is be will be different from circuit to circuit, corner to corner, this is where you’ll need to experiment, and watch the quickest drivers. Usually the grip will either be around the outside off the rubber, or on the kerb to hook the kart round or shorten the line.

Straighten the line as much as possible on corner exit
Straighten the line as much as possible on corner exit

Mostly the tighter the corner the wider you’ll want to go, if the corner is less than 90 degrees you’ll usually find its better to get to the apex and use the kerb.

2. Don’t turn too much

When you turn in find little to no front purchase the temptation is to just turn more in an attempt to find some bite from the front end; usually this will hinder you more than help. This is a common habit I see that is probably carried over from driving on treaded wet tyres. On wets there is a jacking effect that can be gained from excess lock being added, however on slicks you have next to no grip so this jacking effect is negligible, and excess steering should be avoided.

On slicks you are much better off smoothly applying lock just before you want to turn and feeling for when the front tyres start sliding. Once you feel the front wheels starting to slide and understeer don’t turn the wheel much more, if at all. Once the kart does start to rotate refer to point 3 and gently apply the throttle.

Often less lock more
Less (lock) is more

If you snap the wheel from straight to full lock paying attention to the outside front tyre, on most karts you will see that it will be pointing almost straight ahead. As you turn, initially the inside and outside wheel will move at the same rate, but the further you turn the less the outside wheel will move, and will eventually stop turning, in many cases eventually it’ll start to move back towards the centre. This is due to the way the track rods are attached to the steering column. As you can imagine this isn’t conducive to making the kart turn effectively. Find out how much lock makes the outside wheel go to the maximum angle, make sure you turn the wheel no further than this while driving.

Notice the angles of the front wheels due to the amount of lock
Notice the differing angles of the front wheels due to the amount of lock, this is too far

3. Using the throttle to turn

Sometimes you will be turing and feel as though the front end may never bite and you’ll be understeering for eternity, luckily there is something you can do that will allow you to rotate the kart quite effectively mid corner.

Once you feel you have reached the apex of the corner (slowest part, may not be the same place as the dry), gently apply the throttle while maintaining steering lock, you will immediately feel the kart rotate. You shouldn’t need to apply much throttle at all to feel this, probably only about 25%, any more than this will probably induce wheelspin anyway. You will quickly get a feel for exactly how much throttle you need, and it will soon become second nature with practise. Once the initial throttle has been applied to rotate the kart, lean back in the seat to get as much weight on the rear wheels as possible and gently increase the throttle as much as the grip will allow, avoiding wheelspin at at all costs (refer to point 4).

4. Avoid wheelspin!

Avoid wheelspin at all costs! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Every wheelspin moment will cost you time, its as simple as that. On slicks the optimal slip angle/percentage is very low, this means you have most grip when the wheels are traveling at very close to the speed of the road, if you’re accelerating with your rear wheels doing near enough 55mph and you’re doing about 20mph you won’t be making much forward progress. Its better to be at less than 100% throttle than keeping it pinned with the rear wheels lit up.

Avoid wheelspin, you'll only go sideways, not forwards
Avoid wheelspin, you’ll only go sideways, not forwards

There is one exception, some longer corners in acceleration zones reward a small four wheel drift which require you to balance the throttle to keep the rear wheels just enough above the speed of the road to allow you to make a smooth arc through the corner. Reg’s Elbow at Rye house, the 2nd part of the Esses at Buckmore are both examples

A small drift in faster corners can be effective
A small drift in faster corners can be effective (and look awesome)

5. Kerbs 

Kerbs are your friends! Use them, abuse them. Kerbs are a very useful tool, they can be used to rotate the kart, hook it round the corner, straightening the line, and make you look like a karting god.

How you use each kerb depends on the specific one you are using as kerbs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Mostly in faster corners you’ll be using it to straighten the line, and in slower corners it’ll be used more to rotate the kart or to pull the kart round acting like a guide rail.

Kerbs are there to be used (and abused)
Kerbs are there to be used (and abused)

If you are struggling to make it to a kerb due to the lack of grip, don’t turn onto it, just aim the kart straight at it early and just coax the kart towards the apex. Its better to go a bit slower and make the line, than over shoot by going a bit too fast.

6. Braking

Similar to acceleration, you want to keep the rear wheels near the speed of the track. Unlike on wets when you can under rotate the rear wheels to get some bite, on slicks once those wheels are locked you won’t be slowing much and you aren’t going to be fully in control, plus it’ll only take a small nudge to send you round into a spin.

For heavy braking zones e.g. Christmas at Whilton, Hairpin 1 at Buckmore, the last corner at Llandow etc. you will often find more grip and control by braking offline to the inside by about a kart width, this will allow you to brake slightly later and have more control on turn in. Trail the brakes right into the corner and release them just as you feel the kart starting to grip, this will aid rotation. Fast rotation mid corner is your goal.

7. Use your bodyweight

You don’t have much grip to play with, so sometimes you have to make some. Using your bodyweight is one way to aid the handling of the kart to your advantage. The more weight on a tyre the more grip it will have, so moving your weight to give a specific tyre more grip can be advantageous.

Just before you brake it can help to push on the steering wheel and straighten your arms which will force your shoulders back and more weight on the rear tyres. As you then enter the corner and turn the steering wheel, lean forward and out to get the weight on the outside front tyre, this will help rotation mid corner. Then once you start to accelerate again, retake the position you were in for braking to help avoid wheelspin.

Sam Spinnael - 'The leaning tower of Belgium' making use of his bodyweight
Sam Spinnael – ‘The leaning tower of Belgium’ making use of his bodyweight

When leaning forward try not to lean so far that it impedes your ability to catch a slide, it’s not a huge advantage to do this so it’s not worth using if you don’t feel in full control, however if you are looking for those final few tenths, it can make a difference.

In Summary

Slow corners

Lean back and brake off line, avoid locking up. Either go wide to find the grip or use the kerb for a shorter distance and fast rotation. Lean forward slightly and only turn the wheel as far as you need to. Come off the brake and gently apply the power to help rotation mid corner. Straighten up nicely and lean back for a clean exit avoiding wheelspin.

Medium speed corners

Gently rub the brakes aiming either at the kerb or outside (which ever is faster), sometimes a nice smooth four wheel drift can help keep the minimum speed up. Get to full power nice and quickly without wheelspin.

Fast corners

In general try not to induce understeer, and use the shortest line that requires the shallowest angle through the corner. If the kerb allows, use this to straighten the line even more and rotate the kart, get to power on or just before the apex and possibly use the throttle to induce a controlled slide on exit, but don’t over do it.

Checklist

  1. Line – drive in straight lines towards the grip
  2. Don’t turn too much – often not as much as you may think
  3. Use the throttle to rotate the kart mid corner
  4. Avoid wheelspin at all costs!
  5. Kerbs – don’t be afraid to get up close and personal, they often have a lot of grip
  6. Braking – keep the wheels rotating, brake deep into the corner, release to for rotation mid-corner
  7. Use your bodyweight – move your weight towards the tyre(s) you want to have more grip
  8. BONUS! Speed comes from driving better, not driving harder – be gentle and precise

I hope this helps some of you guys and girls out there, this should apply to most hire karts including, Club100, DMAX, Sodi’s, plus many more. These techniques should also apply to MSA style karts come a mid race downpour.