Forget Your Fancy Race Car. You Need A FWD Hatchback For Rain Domination

Your fancy-schmancy Caterham, TVR or even Miata won't do you any good when the heavens open up and the clouds take a big wet dump all over your race track. You need something with more traction. An engine over the drive wheels, perhaps. You need a front-wheel-drive hatch.

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Welcome to Onboard of the Week, a feature where we spend that pesky time between race...*sigh* seasons looking at awesome footage from inside the car.

I've been passed in the Porsche 944 by a Solara before in the rain. I will admit this. There's no shame in it. The Solara even had a "Wine-O" theme given the vehicle's tendency to be purchased by cougars. It's just a fact that Solara that guy had better traction, and I have a tail-happy doughnut machine on a good day.

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So, when Charlie Bird shows qualifies 38th in the dry at the Classic Sports Car Club's Spa Summer Classic, it's understandable. He's brought a Renault Mégane R26 to a race where competitors bring featherlight Caterhams. The R26 may be quite the hot hatch, but it's still a vastly heavier, front-wheel-drive race car.

I'll let Charlie explain for himself what happens after Spa gets soaking wet for the race:

The background to the race is as follows. The Classic Sports Car Club organise various meetings around the UK for various different cars from Tin Tops to Caterhams and GTs. Once a year, there is the annual pilgrimage to Spa Francorchamps where all the championships are all brought together for two 40 minute races (track time is expensive and not everyone is able to get to Spa so it makes sense to do this).

I raced with my father (driver change mid race) in my Renault Megane R26 that I usually race in the Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship. There was practice and qualifying in the sunshine, and naturally the Caterhams and GTs were near the sharp end and we qualified 38th out of 68 cars, which maybe was a tad underperforming the car, but with such a short qualifying session the day before, it was literally a case of each driver completing 3 laps to qualify.

For the first race however, the heavens absolutely opened. I'd driven Spa a couple of times on track days but never in the rain, and I think many drivers were in a similar situation. No-one knew the track conditions, and I had done very little running in the Megane in the rain (it was a new car for me at the start of 2014).

The video below is the first three and a half laps or so in torrential rain. In this video, I manage to get from 38th to 4th in just these first 10 minutes or so and we later went on to finish 2nd. Was an unbelievable race, best weekend of my life, and I hope you enjoy this video in a monsoon as much as I did race in it. Favourite moment has to be overtaking the white TVR Tuscan around the outside of Blanchimont on the first lap, was mega!

You want to pass Tuscans in the rain? Embarrass lightweight kit cars? Force owners of more conventional race cars to question everything they know about life itself?

Get a Renault Mégane R26.

Have an awesome onboard video to share? Drop me a line at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com or post it in the comments below.

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(H/T Charlie Bird)

**Correction: the video is actually the first two and a half laps, not three and a half as initially said in Charlie's description. That makes it even more impressive, though. That's a whole lot of passes in only two and a half laps.

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DISCUSSION

Traction? Half the time i'm hearing the front wheels spinning up.

This is a case of being better (braver) than the opposition. Given the circumstances (lack of track knowledge), i'd be quite confident in saying it's the second option. There's a reason FWD is limited to less powerful cars when it comes to HP numbers - it's traction limited, much MUCH more so than RWD (weight transfer and all).

The other reason comes from the industry, FWD drivetrains are much more compact and cheaper, there's more room in the cabin, more room in the boot, the rear suspension can be cheaper, etc. That's why Mercedes makes RWD cars but for the A class (and now the B class, the CLA, the GLA, which is 4wd, but has an FWD platform). And is also the reason BMW has gone the FWD route as well.

Since a Miata has to be first and foremost fun, it needs to be a great driver's car, Mazda kept the rear drive platform.

I think some critical thinking would be in order with articles like these...