FWD vs. RWD in the rain?

A recent comment from an old post sent me down the path of attempting to quantify the difference between FWD and RWD in the rain. How much faster is FWD? A little? A lot? Here’s my first quasi-quantitative attempt at answering that question. I’ve taken a bunch of graphs from SpeedHive from the Lemons Thunderhill event in 2019 where it rained suddenly on Sunday. In the images below, you can see the lap times get slower as a “swell” in the graph. If there’s a big difference between FWD and RWD, the swell for FWD should be much smaller than RWD.

FWD Acura Integra

RWD Mazda Miata

RWD Lotus mongrel

FWD Hyundai Elantra

RWD Mazda Miata

RWD Porsche Boxster

RWD BMW E30

RWD BMW E30

FWD Dodge Neon

RWD BMW E30

RWD Mazda Miata

RWD Toyota Celica

AWD VW Vanagon

FWD VW GTI

FWD Hyundai Accent

RWD Mazda RX-7

I don’t see much difference between the swells of FWD, RWD, or the one case of AWD. This is just a random selection of graphs though, and maybe with a larger selection I’d see the trend. Here’s the last graph showing our Toyota Yaris. Note the Y-axis! We had a 35 minute stop, which has the effect of making our rain laps look better than they were. But of course we did rock in the rain, as evidenced by the video linked below.

3 thoughts on “FWD vs. RWD in the rain?

  1. I’ve been following the conversation – quite interesting. My take-away from it was that while FWD may not be faster at the limit than RWD, its a lot easier to drive FWD closer to the limits in the rain – meaning that a qualifying lap in each may be on par, but an 8/10 lap in the FWD car could be quite a bit faster than an 8/10 lap in the RWD car. Of course, driver stress and concentration levels are harder to measure.

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    1. OK, so now you have me looking for the conversation… My own subjective impression is in agreement with your take away though. FWD is easier in the wet than RWD, but not necessarily faster. Tires, setup, and driver all make a big difference and given a choice between fwd and rwd in the wet I’d take the car with the best tires & setup for the conditions.

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