SBRS: Hugh Plumb interview

Skip Barber Racing School Instructor Hugh Plumb currently runs in the Speedvision Touring Car Championship. A former competitor in SCCA World Challenge series, where he took his first win in only his third race, Hugh went on to score two ...

Skip Barber Racing School Instructor Hugh Plumb currently runs in the Speedvision Touring Car Championship. A former competitor in SCCA World Challenge series, where he took his first win in only his third race, Hugh went on to score two Manufacturer's titles in 1999, one in Speedvision's World Challenge and one in the Motorola Cup. Plumb, an accomplished motorcycle racer early in his career, also races in the Formula Dodge Regional Championship series.

The competitiveness he brings to the track comes naturally. His mother is a successful equestrian in international competition, including the 1968 Olympics. His father is also a noted equestrian, and holds the distinction of having competed in more Olympics than any rider in history. His brother Matt is has completed his second year in the Barber Dodge Pro Series taking a win in Vancouver and finishing fourth in the championship.

Hugh Plumb recently spoke with Skip Barber News about where he has come from and how far he intends to go.

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Skip Barber News [SBN]: You started your racing career in motorcycles before transitioning to cars. What benefit, if any, did this background have for your current career?

Hugh Plumb [HP]: Road racing motorcycles definitely has had an impact on my step towards racing cars. I think the biggest help in starting out in other forms of racing is understanding the dynamics of whatever you are driving, whether it be two wheels or four. Racing motorcycles is similar to racing cars, except stepping over the boundaries on two wheels happens a lot faster than four. Because racing motorcycles tends to be very aggressive and the speeds are often faster both in a straight line and cornering, it taught me how to be extremely race savvy and to think quickly. Those skills transfer to any type of racing.

SBN: You've been very successful in the Speedvision World Challenge over the past two years. Where do you go from here? What are your career goals?

HP: My career objectives are to compete in the highest form of professional motor sports possible. I'm aiming at closed wheel racing, since you need to start really young today in open wheel. I intend to compete in a competitive Grand Am ride for 2001, and may also race in World Challenge's GT class. I'll be testing a Lola SRII in the next month or so, and will also test a truck in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series. In the next couple of years I'd like to be racing in a good car in the American Le Mans Series.

SBN: What race event or accomplishment has given you the most confidence as a driver?

HP: If I had to pinpoint something which has given me confidence as a driver, I would pick a couple of races which were mentally and physically difficult. Doing well in them gave me real satisfaction. One was last year's Grand Prix of Michigan. I started on the front row, and on the first lap my teammate (who started beside me) was hit from behind and never made the first corner. That forced me off the track as well, and the whole field passed before I was able to rejoin, in dead last position. I was passing at least two cars a lap until the track went a full course yellow. At the green I was able to take second place from my teammate. This may have been the hardest I have had to work for a second place, but after starting dead last it was definitely a confidence booster.

Another gratifying and confidence building race was this year's Sears Point event. Coming into this race I had a second place at Charlotte, a DNF at Mosport after being in second place with about ten laps to go and a DNF at Lime Rock while leading with only one lap to go. After lots of testing, Realtime Racing, the Acura team I drive for, I was able to fix the mechanical problem that we were experiencing. I started in the front row at Sears Point, and passed my teammate after a few laps for first place, a position I never gave up. A win like this is always sweeter after not finishing two races in a row.

SBN: What driving skills do you work on the most? Which are the most personally challenging?

HP: I try working on being as precise as possible from the beginning of the weekend till the end. Sometimes it is very easy to get caught up in dealing with the competitors in practice, but I try to focus on my car and making it better, instead of just driving around. Qualifying has always been the most challenging for me given the added expectations to do well in a short amount of time (only 15 minutes in the Speedvision World Challenge).

SBN: What do you feel is your strongest skill as a driver?

HP: I think giving my crew good feedback about the car is a real strength. There's usually not much time, which makes it that much more important. Calculating for race day conditions and trying to make the car work in the later part of the race is just as important as setting up for qualifying, and accurate feedback from the driver is vital to success here.

SBN: You come from an athletic family (your parents are noted equestrians, your brother Matt is a racer). How has this contributed to your success on the track? Does this type of family background mean added pressure?

HP: I definitely was raised in an athletic family and as one of three boys it was more of a game of survival. Not a day went by that we weren't at each other's throats. This led to each of us being athletes, whether we realized it or not. My brothers and I have always pushed each other in athletics all our lives, and my parents were always there to encourage this. Now with my brother Matt and I both racing and my brother Charlie a noted equestrian, who also has done a little racing, we are always encouraging and supporting each other. This type of family background really does mean added pressure, but in a very positive way.

SBN: What advice would you give an aspiring racer just starting out on a career? What information would have helped you most when you started your career?

HP: I would tell an aspiring racer to get started as soon as possible in karts or something similar, to get as much seat time and to learn car control and racecraft. It's good to learn the basics in a car that's not easy to drive, something with high horsepower relative to the amount of weight. I don't think a new driver should own his own car; you end up spending more money and time tinkering than you do getting valuable seat time. Also, listen to those who have been there before, whether in open- or closed-wheel cars. Listen not only to their instruction on the track but their off track experiences as well. Learning what has worked for someone else can be valuable.

-Andrew Torres

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About this article
Series Other open wheel , PWC
Drivers Skip Barber , Hugh Plumb