RACING IN THE RAIN
trwo recent Grand Prix races have revived discussion about a problem that is as old as motor-racing : the problem of rain. In the Belgian Grand Prix the conditions were so bad that our lamented Dick Seaman met his death and. Caracciola (the acknowledged Regenmeister), Nuvolari and Meier all skidded off the road. At the Nurburg Ring there was also rain, with the result that Hasse, Villoresi, Brendel and Meier all had extremely lucky escapes when their cars crashed.
It has been suggested that it is not the slippery surface that causes accidents, but the difficulty of seeing through the spray raised by the car which is about to he passed. No one will deny that this is a formidable hazard, but we believe we are correct in saying that both at Spa and at Nurburg the real trouble was that the rain was patchy, so that the drivers could never be sure of a corner having the same degree of slipperiness on successive laps. But here we are not concerned so much with the cause as with the possiblity of finding a remedy, if one is feasible. The view has been stated—and it is one, welmight add, with which we are in entire agree ment—that rain is a risk which should not be left to
the drivers to assess. It is obviously against human nature to expect racing drivers, either individually or collectively, to admit that the conditions are too dangerous for a race to be held. That decision is one that should be made by the organisers. It is here, of course, that we encounter the real crux of the problem. First of all it must be admitted that many races have been held in the past during which heavy rain fell, and in which there were no accidents. That may, of course. have been luck. Then there is the fact that even in the races this year that have
brought this problem into prominence, many drivers managed to stay on the road and finish the race. That is true, but it does not prove that the risk they were running was any the less, nor that it was a risk that they should have been asked to run at all.
No, we do not think that there is any question of rain being an unnecessarily dangerous hazard. The trouble is that there are many different degrees of rain, and that some circuits are more dangerous than others in the rain. Take the first point. In the French Grand Prix at Rheims this year the road was dry at the start, although the sky was cloudy. Ten minutes later a heavy shower fell from a dark cloud, which may or may not have extended to the far side of the course. The conditions were undoubtedly dangerous, hut as the rain was obviously going to be no more than a shower, the organisers could not be expected to flag the cars in. The rain stopped, the road began to dry, and then another shower fell. What were the organisers to do ? If it had been steady rain, with no prospect of a break, they might have been justified in calling off the race, but the point is that a continuous downpour is actually not so dangerous as intermittent rain. It will be seen that the French Grand Prix then, would not have been affected by the regulations proposed by the British Racing Mechanics’ Club that “in the event of rain occurring before the event sufficient to wet the track,’ the event will be
postponed.” What if the rain should hold off until the race has been in progress for a quarter of an hour, and then come down in sheets ? All this may sound like splitting hairs, but it is an attempt to carry the investi gation of the problem beyond general theory into a
statement of the difficulties that lie in the path of its solution.