A Rainy Day Out: Kurt Molzer meets the McLaren 765LT Spider

When the skies open their floodgates, the Formula 1 season is over again, the McLaren 765LT is wearing semislicks and the weather forecaster really has no idea about life, the only thing that helps is to take courage from the performances of the Formula 1 rain masters. A dry spare shirt and a raw potato don't hurt either.
Text Kurt Molzer
Photo Marko Knab · ramp.pictures

Early December: The rain doesn't want to stop. The water drips from the eyebrows onto the cheekbone, and backwards it runs down the neck. Dog and cat crawled into their last corners. Under the earth the moles drown. But the main thing is that the McLaren has semislicks on it. That is, to put it mildly, rather inconvenient. Semislicks are half racing, half road tyres with a particularly soft rubber compound. Immense grip guaranteed, but almost useless in the rain. With 765 hp plus rear-wheel drive, even more so. On this McLaren, we hear, the rear wheels still spin even on dry surfaces - in fourth gear! Wouldn't it be much wiser, you ask yourself, to draw courage from a few legendary performances by the F1 rain masters for the inevitable boat trip in the 765LT Spider, to let the spray of years gone by spray up again in your mind's eye? No sooner said than done.

Rain Master No. 1: Jackie Stewart

Won the toughest high-water battle in the history of racing – Nürburgring 1968 – with a four-minute (!) lead over Hill and Rindt. The rain washed mud onto the track, visibility was zero because of the fog. But Stewart and his Tyrrell glided through the flood like a submarine with echo sounding.

Rain Master No. 2:Ayrton Senna

In his first year in F1 racing, 1984, he drove into second place in the rain at Monaco in his hopelessly outclassed Toleman-Hart. And he would have won, too, had the race not been abandoned on the last lap. In April 1985, at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Estoril, “The Magic” was finally born. A rain front descended on the Atlantic coast, but Ayrton drove his black Lotus as if the track were dry as a bone. Effortlessly, he lapped the others inside and out, probably wondering if he hadn’t mistakenly entered a Formula 2 race.

From that day on, Prost, Piquet and Rosberg had slight panic attacks every time they heard the name “Senna”. And then there was Donington Park in 1993: Senna’s first lap in the rain is considered one of the best ever driven in Formula 1. He braked later than the others and fought his way from fourth place to the lead in just four kilometers. How was it possible not to lose control of the car in the process? There is no real answer to this question. It is a mystery – much like how migratory birds find their way from northern Europe to South Africa and back without GPS or Google Earth.

Rain Master No. 3: Stefan Bellof

Finished third behind Senna on the 1984 Monte Carlo slip and slide – with 300 hp less in his neck than the drivers of the top teams. In the rain, his talent counted for much more than the Tyrrell’s weak engine power. The experts all agree: Bellof was a driving genius who would have been Germany’s first F1 world champion long before Michael Schumacher – had he survived that accident during the Spa endurance race in 1985. But the experts also agree: There was no surviving that accident (passing in Eau Rouge!)

Under the earth the moles drown. But the main thing is that the McLaren has semislicks on it.

That is, to put it mildly, rather inconvenient.

Rain Master No. 4: Michael Schumacher

It was all doom and gloom at the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix. Only six drivers crossed the finish line in Barcelona that day. Michael Schumacher was first, forty-five seconds ahead of Jean Alesi. Schumacher once explained the appeal of racing in the rain: “All the millions that go into sophisticated aerodynamics no longer play a role. The car slides like it’s on soap. But that’s also the most fun.”

Rain Master No. 5: Sebastian Vettel

On September 14, 2008, a baby-faced twenty-one-year-old races to victory in his Toro Rosso at the Monza aquarium. Germany’s Bild newspaper calls the youngest Grand Prix winner in history “Baby Schumi”. Today, people are asking how four-time champion Vettel could have fallen so low.

Rain Master No. 6:

Max Verstappen. The reigning world champion was already two to three seconds faster than anyone else in the rain when he was in Formula 3. After a race at the Norisring, Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko said, “That’s when I knew that with Max we wouldn’t need to stay in F2, we’d go straight into F1.”

Okay, that's all well and good, but to be honest, that's as far as it goes, the rain gods were all (what a luxury!) on the road with rain tyres. A look out of the window. The blue Englishman was still standing like a wet poodle in front of the house entrance. Another cup of coffee. Caffeine makes you happy and promotes creativity. Wasn't there still some way to get out of this, to elegantly avoid "Mission Impossible"? Isn't it called "ramp - Auto. Culture. Magazine."? Doesn't that per se allow a certain creative leeway, even fool's liberty? How about a lyrical essay without driving a metre? When the caffeine buzz wore off, it immediately became clear: that's not possible at all, Wilhelm Busch for the (very) poor.

So out under the heavenly shower and into the hellish Spider. After it was strapped in and ready to go, (. . .)

→ How Kurt Molzer's adventure in the semi-slick McLaren 765LT Spider continues - and whether the memory of the rain gods of Formula 1 will also provide him with even better driving skills? Read about it in ramp #58 "Hot Wheels".


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