You can debate whether or not great drivers are made or born all you want, but you cannot dispute when you come across one, and Randy Pobst is one great driver.
This year he raced in two championships and nearly won them both.
How do you comprehend the difficulty in going from competing in a front wheel drive Mazda 6 Touring Car to competing in a rear wheel drive Porsche 997 GT3 Cup car. He won the GT Cup and would have won the touring Car title if it had not been for a last lap at Road Atlanta where he was needlessly bumped by a competitor. Randy has come in second in that series for the past three years and had won the GT series for the second time.
Randy got his start in autocrossing. He was 19 and went to watch the Indian River Sprots Car Club put on an autocross event. Randy watched two events but the third one he entered his Datsun 510 and beat the class champion.
I had a chance to meet Randy in the spring of 2004 at a track event at Virginia International Raceway where Audi was sponsoring a HPDE (high performance driving experience) weekend and Pobst was campaigning an Audi RS6 that year.
Randy wasn’t driving his race car that day, instead he let drivers sign up and he would jump into their car and drive them around the full course for two laps.
That weekend I had my 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX that I had modified quite a bit. It had the suspension completely revised and the engine was pushing 425 hp at the flywheel. I had been doing well at track events and knew the VIR course pretty well by that time.
I waited my turn as I watched Randy jump into completely different cars, take them out for two laps, and head for another completely different car.
Finally I was going to be next. I had already taken the GSX out and got it warmed up. Now I had to stage myself on the false grid and wait for Randy.
It was different to be sitting in the passenger seat instead of behind the steering wheel and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Pobst. The next thing I knew he had his helmet on and was sitting in the driver’s seat next to me. He was very personable and commented that he had expected to see a twenty year old driving my car instead of a mature guy like me.
I let him know that the brake pedal might be a bit low but the brakes were still fine and that the car had some understeer. He said that understeer was fine and took off, commenting that the car had a lot of power and that the shifter was nice. Then he took turn one smoother and faster with an inside line than I had ever dreamed with a perfect outside line. On we went through turn two and three and he asked me if I had street tires. I told him yes and what kind they were. Then at turn four we hit the apex a little early and fast and he corrected nicely. From there on it was amazing as he zipped through the course and took the climbing “esses” faster than I ever thought possible. Down we went to the turn known as Oak Tree and he pulled away in third gear commenting that maybe it should have been a second gear turn. I agreed telling him that is what I ended up using to get the rotation needed. We blasted up the long hill and down through Roller Coaster and Hog Pen to get to the front straight. Turn one came up faster than I had believed possible and he commented on how much boost I was running which was almost 22 pounds. We took turns smooth and quick yet with a certain level of aggression. This time I could hear Randy cackling with amusement as he took the climbing “esses” even faster. We came around Oak Tree nicely and listened to the sound of the waste gate ricocheting off the concrete wall to the left of the car. Pobst took the Roller Coaster one handing the steering wheel as we were going to pull back into the pits right after Hog Pen curve.
He let me know that he was impressed at how strong the Mitsubishi’s 4G63 was and that if I went to racing tires I would see the understeer disappear. I thank him sincerely for the experience and then he was off to drive another lucky person’s car.
Randy is one class act that can drive the tires off just about anything. If you ever get the opportunity to watch him at a road race don’t pass it up, and if you ever get the chance to have him drive your car a couple of laps at a race track you will have a hard time wiping the smile off your face having had the experience.