Driver Blog: Randy Pobst – The Agony of Defeat
You punk kids won't remember that line, from the intro of the old hit TV show ABC's Wide World of Sports (see youtube). “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat”, and then some poor schmuck falls on the ski-jump ramp and launches butt-first. Yikes, looked like it hurt. Hate to admit this publicly, but that's pretty much how it felt for the K-PAX Volvo team at Long Beach last weekend. Agony.
I gotta say that us driver guys, teammate Alex Figge and I, are pretty much off the hook, or I sure hope so. ?Course, we always think so at first, until the engineer brings up some data line on computer that shows we messed it all up.
Photo courtesy Michael Wong
We had good speed on the streets here. I was a hero in practice, no sandbags in my car (aside: sometimes Pirelli World Challenge teams hold back a little to keep from getting restricted by the rules guys), then had pole in qualifying, too, for a while. Alex went back out in the #9 Volvo and put two tenths on me, a long time when I knew I'd had a good lap. I decided to stand on what I had. To not go out and skim the walls trying to beat my K- PAX teammate. It was a Volvo one-two grid, and the Manufacturer's Championship is our goal, our mission, our job. Everyone else seemed out of range, then James Sofronas pipped us on the checkered flag lap, taking pole from Alex by a couple hundredths. Rats!
With our K-PAX Volvo all-wheel drive, we rule the starts, and we figured we'd still be the first two cars into turn one and the fountain. We lined up, lights come on, foot-to-floor. Lights go out, drop clutch. I go immediately right to be sure and miss the #14 Audi, which had a weak start at St Pete, and Alex is long gone. Immediately I feel something is wrong. Shift lights are on, we're banging the limiter, but it's hard to shift, real hard. And I'm not feelin' the accel g's. Major wheelspin? Nah; revs, yes, g's, no. Clutch slip. Argh. That never gets better, only worse.
By now, the field is streaming past, but I've got maybe fifty mph, so I'm easier to miss. Bad luck – we broke, good luck- they all missed us. I take the runoff area at turn one, spouting off to my car chief Will Moody about what the Volvo is doing. Or not doing. The clutch won't fully engage, not even close, but won't completely disengage, either. Been there done that. The clutch probably blew, and the pieces are jammed between pressure plate and flywheel. For now.