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Pobst Position: Honor in 2008
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Pobst Position: Honor in 2008
The new 08 season is in full swing now, and I think it's time for another sermon on racing with honor. I've just returned from Virginia International Raceway, where I witnessed the inaugural VW Jetta TDi Cup race. What a great show Volkswagen is putting on, first class. Stop by an event and see the incredible hospitality and paddock structures. The race was won by Mark Pombo, the son of an old friend of mine, Pepe Pombo. Old timers like me will remember him as a very successful club and pro racer 10-20 years ago, often in Nissans, often with some factory support.

I got to know Pepe at Road Atlanta in an International Sedans race, roughly the equivalent of today's SCCA Speed Touring Car, except the cars were not so highly modified and way less money. I was in a BMW for TC Kline. Pepe had a Nissan 240 SX, I think. I had shifted a little too hard at one point, as I recall, yanking off the shift knob and hurling it instantly to the back of the car before I even knew what happened. But anyway& Pepe and I came up the hill out of One running neck-and-neck into Three. I was outside around One, which is inside Two, which is outside Three, which is inside Three A& you get the idea. We both wanted it bad, pushing it hard into every corner, but neither able to gain an advantage. The whole way through the Esses, hard on it and side-by-side. Never a bang, never a bump, not even a touch. We've been fast friends ever since.

Sometimes there is a mystical moment when you come to the realization that the driver you're racing against will do anything in the book to pass you. Except hit you. You realize, amazed, That dude is making a conscious effort to avoid contact. And it happens. Respect. Why? Honor, thats why. He's got your back, not stabbing your back. Many drivers these days have seen Days of Thunder one too many times. That was Hollywood, kids. It ain't supposed to be like that. We gotta take care of each other out there. And here's some great news: not crashing you or your brother-in-racing will greatly improve your race results, especially by year end. No matter what our excuse, the bottom line is the finish. Example: It is very hard to pass another good car that is turning the same lap times you are. You cannot expect to just pop out and outbrake that guy. He's gonna brake as late as he can, too, when he sees you coming. Taking care of each other means attempting passes that are based on some advantage, not just your guts, ego, emotion and hormones. Wait for a mistake or a traffic situation to get you next to him. Study him as you follow, where are you better? Hide it until you need it, then pounce in a surprise attack. She's watching you in her mirrors, do not make your braking advantage in Turn Six very clear once you recognize it. When you do go for it, commit. Go deeply enough that you will either make it stick, or slide past without contact.

Mark and Pepe give me way too much credit for his well executed win. All I did was have dinner with them a couple months ago. It was Mark's talent and Spec Miata experience. Third was another promising young friend from the Spec Miata ranks, Jimmy Underhill. Mark sat fourth on the grid. Before the race, I advised, Fourth is a good points finish for the championship, don't be in a big hurry to win. Afterwards, Mark told me wide-eyed of being run into the grass twice, and wild driving moves ahead. No surprise, thirty sixteen-to-twenty-four year-olds racing for as much as $350,000. But pretty soon, they took themselves out, and Mark came through for the win. The Jetta TDi series is to be commended for its emphasis on driver development, with professional coaching a regular part of every weekend. I shall watch with interest as these young threats, uh, I mean, talents, progress. Race with honor, Drivers, hard and clean.
Originally printed in Sportscar July 2008
 
 
 
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