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Pobst Position: Situational Awareness
Page: 1 Links
I'd like to share what was going through my mind in a pro race we just won at Homestead, Florida. While racing is a team sport, especially endurance, here are some things a driver can do to improve the odds. I am driving a Honda Civic Si for Compass 360 Racing from Toronto. Reminds me of the old days in CRXs and Preludes with TC Kline. My co-driver is a talented young driver named Christian Miller. My job started with grooming his performance. Christian started the race, and young males have that hormonal urge that makes them want to go flat out (and some special females, too, yes). I worked to give him confidence in his speed, and mine, and to save the car for the all-important last laps. No crashes, smooth accurate shifts, run comfortably and safely near the lead, but do not fight for it. Most importantly, I recognized that the Hondas street brakes were highly stressed on this track. Save the brakes!

As I fretted on pit lane, Christian moved steadily to the lead, but I could tell by his lap times, consistent and not too fast, that he was doing his job, albeit with constant radio reminders. A couple top competitors had trouble early, but a couple dark horses emerged, capitalizing on strong brakes. On my first lap out after the too-long pit stop, the brake pedal felt high and hard, and I knew Christian had done a super job, but we still had a hour and twenty-five to go. Running seventh, I sized up my car's capabilities. We had copious under steer in practice, and we worked hard to minimize it, because in front-drive cars, it only gets worse in the race. The car has to be quick at the end, when it matters, like the last two minutes of a basketball game. One only needs to lead the last lap. However, I'd gone too far and the car was getting loose in a few places. Power was adequate, brakes felt super, and it was quick in the important hairpins, the positive side of loose. I gained positions quickly and soon had it in the lead. However, the brake pedal had lengthened considerably, and I was concerned to see we still had an hour to go! I pumped my crew chief for info. Is anyone catching me? No, but Tom Long in the Mazda MX5 is on your pace, no one else is close. Uh, oh, brakes. Important for those Homestead hairpins. Note: this is all running through my mind as I drive. This is how you finish well. Know your situation and adapt your driving to it. Situational awareness, fighter pilots call it.

A caution period brings the Mazda right up to close range, and he uses those darned brakes to get by on the restart. I size him up. My handling is good, yet too loose in the only fast corner, but I have a clear power advantage in the upper gears. He's killing me on brakes, exacerbated by the fact that I do not want to use mine up. I take him on the straight. Power is easier to exploit, and the finish line is at the end of the longest acceleration run. That's where I'm gonna get him. We repass time and time again, slowing our lap times. My brakes are going, and lapped traffic is close by, so I line up and follow, hanging out to the side to cool the brakes and harass. Brake pedal getting long-long. Any mistake, and I won't be in range at finish. A car dies on the front straight. Crap, if it goes yellow, I'm sunk. Gotta get him now, three to go. The beauty of a power advantage is that going down the inside of the corners makes it very hard to pass. Sure, I feel a little guilty, but by the rules the Mazda is much lighter, and I am not weaving back and forth. Fair play only. Mashing that squishy pedal to the floor, Long still comes up outside me, surprisingly so. Two-wide around the final hairpin, I give him a car-width-and-an-inch. The lightweight MX5 leaps off the corner, but the VTEC Honda does its high-rpm magic, and we take it, as planned, by .129 at the flag.
 
 
 
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