What happens if it rains during the Indy 500?

It's a possibility that we never want to consider but which seems very real this year: the Indy 500 could be disrupted by rain. We take stock of the procedures available to race management if Mother Nature decides to play a bad trick on us this Sunday...

Published on 26/05/2024 à 14:10

Michael Duforest

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What happens if it rains during the Indy 500?

© Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

Launched at an average of more than 360 km/h for three hours, the single-seatersIndyCar are not made to ride in the rain, not on ovals anyway! If rain comes during the Indy 500, there is no question of wearing Firestone tires designed for rainy conditions such as on road and urban circuits, it is the yellow flag which neutralizes the race. If the weather is too bad, the race management interrupts the event with a red flag, asking all cars to return to the pitlane.

As in any motor sport, the red flag can put a definitive end to a session. The Indy 500 is therefore no exception, and certain editions in history have been stopped before the 200 laps initially planned. This was last the case in 2007, where Dario Franchitti won his first Indy 500 after 166 laps, and a second red flag due to rain.

Since then, only a very light downpour has disrupted the smooth running of the race in 2016, during the hundredth edition. In view of the latest weather forecasts, 2024 risks being added to the list of Indy 500 where the rain has decided to play a role alongside the 33 drivers entered! The forecast calls for many storms in the Indianapolis area this Sunday, and the chances of them coming over the circuit are increasing.

101, the magic number

Thus, it is a regulation now well known to the teams and drivers which would be binding, if ever we were to experience a wet edition this year. The main point is this: an IndyCar race is considered “official” once the leader has crossed the 50% mark plus one lap. In Indianapolis, that translates to 101 laps completed. The race must therefore be postponed, possibly to the next day, until 101 laps have been reached. But after the 101st passage, the race can no longer be postponed to another day, and it must therefore end on the same day. Which includes the possibility of having to shorten it.

In 1976, Johnny Rutherford won what remains to this day the shortest edition of the Indy 500, winning after 102 laps, or only 255 miles (410 km). Rutherford won on the same day as the start of the event, which remains the most common case when rain comes. But in 1997 for example, we had to wait until Tuesday to see the checkered flag! The rain was too heavy on Sunday, forcing the postponement of the event to Monday. The red flag came out again after 15 laps. The race then continued on Tuesday, with the final 185 loops and a victory for Arie Luyendyk.

A postponement to Monday, not very complex to set up

Monday May 27 is a public holiday in the United States (the Indy 500 is traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend), so postponing the race in the event of bad weather is not a difficult decision for officials, a very large part of the 350 spectators who could return to fill the stands on Monday. American television also has a place in its program schedule to optimally broadcast what remains today the one-day sporting event attracting the most spectators in the world.

All that remains is to know what Mother Nature has in store for us for this 108th edition! The 2019 scenario is still possible. Rain had a 100% chance of falling during the scheduled duration of the event! Finally, no drop came to disrupt the forward march of simon pagenaud, winner that day... Whatever happens, you will be able to live on AUTOhebdo.fr the entire weekend of the Indianapolis 500, including Monday or Tuesday if necessary!

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