Driver Blog: Randy Pobst – Hot Weekend in St. Pete
Photos by Michael Wong
2013 brings my seventh season with K-PAX Racing, five of which have been in the Volvo S60 R-Design. Amazing, how time flies. What’s different about this season is that our deals all got rolling a lot sooner, so the K-PAX team was humming all winter, and we arrived in Florida more ready than we have ever been. This ain’t no off-the-shelf Porsche, this Volvo has been entirely developed in the capable hands of 3R Racing-based K-PAX, in Denver, Colorado. We even did a couple pre-season tests, a real breakthrough for us. “Well, doesn’t everyone?” you might ask, understandably. No, my friends, hardly anyone does. Racing always seems to come down to the last minute. The sport is just built that way. Many new race cars arrive at the first race with precious little test time. “But haven’t you been running the same basic cars all this time?” Well, yes, with variations and improvements that always seem to back up right against the first race, often as a result of supplier issues. Well-meant promises that could not be kept.
We had a fast package last year, often up front, but sometimes mechanically letting us down, so reliability and quality is the primary focus this year. That was a success this weekend, though still not the perfection we seek. My K-PAX teammate Alex Figge came alive in qualifying, and outran me all weekend. I was the king hero in practice, for all that’s worth, but it did not show on the sheets because my transponder was slow to warm to the new season. I’m sure competitors thought it was some sneaky trick, but no, it just worked out that way. Fact is, I was a full second-plus ahead of the entire field in both sessions, running in the fourteens. In qualifying, Alex trumped my hand by flatting the turn 9A kink, where I was lifting, and nabbed MY pole. Okay, so, his pole, now, that is. Congrats. I hate you. Slow down, driving that fast on this walled circuit is dangerous.
The problem with our Volvos is they need all the clean, cool air they can get. Following slows us down. Our Volvos are the only cars with the all- wheel drive advantage in Pirelli World Challenge, but we must carry more weight than our competitors, and way more on the front wheels, as a way to keep us from walking the field in every race. WC Vision and SCCA Pro do a great job with the enormous task of equalizing the miles-wide variety of machines on the grid. Here’s how it goes: We really put the power down at the start and off the tight corners, but we are a little hard on our tires and brakes. It’s a tough competition, and we love it, we plan to win this championship again.
Pirelli World Challenge chose a rolling start in the first race, with Alex and I making up the front row. The idea was to reduce the risk of losing cars in the wild standing start 50-car drag race, since there was another event tomorrow morning. Wise, says me. Alex ran great, slowly leaving me, while I defended as best I could against the continual onslaught of the Ryan Dalziel Entrust Porsche. Brakes and tires got hotter and hotter as I pushed for all I could get from the S60. The traffic was insane when we caught GTS cars, usually in running battles of their own. From turn four, and the way to turn nine, it was almost impossible to pass a decent lower- class competitor. Frustrating and intense, with two-three-four GT beasties breathing down my neck. The Porsche was so close on many occasions that I could not see the hood from the windshield down, yet he never touched me. Bet he wiped the dirt off the rear bumper a few times, man- oh-man, watch the Internet TV at World-challengeTV.com. It was hairy.
Dalziel finally dive-bombed me into turn ten, after I got a good balk in 9a and failed to take the inside soon enough. Fifteen minutes later, the Sofronas Audi R8 did the same thing (those Audis are so cool, btw). Even my brake pedal was smoking. Nobody in racing’s stoppers work harder than our fronts on the K-PAX Volvo, and Cobalt does amazing things with pads of unobtanium to accomplish the miracles they do.