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Pobst Position: Heroine
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Pobst Position: Heroine
I'm reading "A Life at Full Throttle", the recently released autobiography of a hard-core, busted-knuckles and drive-all-night SCCA racer who made it to Indy and NASCAR, Janet Guthrie. I am so moved that tears constantly well up in my eyes. Not tears of sadness, but of empathy and respect, of shared experiences. Remembrances of pushing the machine shop to get the head finished, then assembling the engine in the garage 'til 2AM and driving straight to Savannah for the first practice, only to spin off in the very first corner, screwing up the alignment. Of hard-headed crew chiefs and angels of mercy. Sponsor pressure and crew guys that would die for you. Of striving like Sisyphus, groaning and sweating to push that massive boulder up that daunting incline, only to slip and watch it roll back, again and again.

Janet is a racer, and Janet is a lady. With this perspective I am also familiar, from years of racing with my former wife Linda Pobst, and in GT Porsches with Kim Hiskey, winning pro races with both. Janet faced a raging torrent of resentment and ridicule from some teams, fans, and motorsports media when she had the courage, the talent, and the guts to step across the gender line painted across the entrance to the pits, where no woman was allowed at Indy or in NASCAR for any reason whatsoever. Imagine that, Danica! Amazing to me, and not that long ago, kids. SCCA, and sports car racing in general, are to be commended for being more available to women participants, even way back then.

Janet grew up racing in SCCA, in a Jaguar XK 140 that she maintained herself (you cannot begin to imagine the work, Honda boyz), and a Toyota that she built with all the heart and soul, sweat and dollars she had, all the while holding down a real job in aerospace. I admire this foolishness so much. I was a similar fool, far less heroic, and without the job (thanks, Linda).

When all looked lost, she got a big break and carried it through with flying colors, in a pressure cooker of unimaginable proportions. Janet recognizes that racing took her to a higher mental state, above that pressure, away from normal life, to a level of focus so clear and exhilarating. That feeling is why many of us choose to do this. Her words describe my feelings so well. She is an engineer, and I'm all PR and social, but in the car, we're very similar. The world goes away, and it is only the here and now.

She describes racing in words that resonate deep within me: "ferocity without malice". Ferocious is the intensity of the effort and the competition, without malice is with honor, to work to do no harm.

Racing, for me, has become "...the satisfaction of bettering your competitors in an environment that posed certain hazards, while at the same time being responsible for their well-being." Thank you, Janet.

Race with honor. To hit a fair and competitive racer and gain a position by it is oh, so easy and oh, so wrong. It does not matter if he was already loose. It does not matter if there is no mark your bumper. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (I didn't make that up). Make the world a better place.

SCCA'ers, you will love "Janet Guthrie, A Life at Full Throttle", published by Sport Classic Books, $24.95, I do. Hint: go to janetguthrie.com, click "contact us", and get the autographed version.
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