Randy Pobst sails his K-PAX/3R Racing Porsche to soggy Sebring win Sebring Florida, (March 14, 2008): Randy Pobst, of Gainesville Georgia, and Michael Galati, of Olmstead Ohio, survived dreadful conditions on the rain swept Sebring race...
Randy Pobst sails his K-PAX/3R Racing Porsche to soggy Sebring win
Sebring Florida, (March 14, 2008): Randy Pobst, of Gainesville Georgia, and Michael Galati, of Olmstead Ohio, survived dreadful conditions on the rain swept Sebring race course as Pobst and his No. 1 K-PAX/3R Racing Porsche GT3 went on to win with Galati finishing 3rd in Round One of SCCA Pro Racing's SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Series.
The rain drops started to fall lightly on the 28 car field as they awaited the start of the race but by the time the field left the starting grid behind the pace car on their warm-up lap the rain was intensifying and officials decided to forgo the traditional standing start in lieu of a single file rolling start.
Right at the start Randy Pobst used his years of experience and leapt past pole sitter Brandon Davis' Mustang to take the lead.
"Right at the start how I got past Brandon (Davis) was he had big wheel spin on the big paint stripe (at the start finish line)," Pobst said of his start. "He got on that stripe and got sideways and I missed it and got back by him. And then he hung on behind me though and did a good job."
Michael Galati had moved up to 5th but as the leaders came back down the start finish straight Eric Curran's Corvette hydroplaned straight and hard into the tire barrier bring out the first of many caution periods.
At this point the rain was intensifying and puddles were forming everywhere on the Sebring track and the race for Pobst and Galati took different directions.
"Under that first yellow I had a long discussion with my crew chief Will Moody about what to do about tires because I was leading and it was kind of like an Atlanta dejà vu," said Pobst. "I'm leading; I'm on dry tires, looking at sky. It doesn't look that bad, can we survive like this? And the rain tires aren't that different from the dry tires on the new triple 8 Rs.
"At Sebring the water just puddles up tremendously and the water just sits there so the water is deep and the tires were really challenged. We looked at the weather and decided to change tires. Partially because I felt that the rain tires were really an intermediate tires that would be OK in the dry too."
"In my opinion everyone should have come in," Pobst added.
For Michael Galati he took over the lead but he was expecting the SCCA race officials to red flag the race as they had under identical conditions at Road Atlanta last season so he stayed out. Galati led the race when the course went green again but the conditions were terrible and another crash in turn one necessitated another full course caution.
"This was another race like Road Atlanta," said Galati. "It was the same scenario but they (the SCCA Officials) changed how they handled the race. "I think that they should have gone red to give everybody a chance to change to rain tires and send them back out. They can't change the rules every time out."
"Those two laps we did under green I was just hanging on for my life out there," said Galati of the laps where he led the race. "It was really no fun!"
The race had precious few green flag laps because there were crashes and off course excursions everywhere under the almost impassible conditions but Randy Pobst, his K-PAX Porsche now shod with rain tires moved easily from near last to 4th when the next yellow flew and then went from 4th to first in between the starting line and turn two when the course went green for the final 2 laps.
Meanwhile Michael Galati finally pitted for much needed rain tires and moved up to 3rd where he would finish right behind Andy Pilgrim's Remington Cadillac CTS-V.
"We weren't sure that the rain tires were going to be that much better," said Bob Raub of 3R Racing. "If you look at the grooves in the tires there isn't a big difference between the dry tires and the rain tires which really aren't rain tires at all. They just have deeper tread than the dry tires do.
"Once Randy said they made a big difference we started looking for an opportunity to bring Michael in. We didn't want to bring him in under green because we knew that there would be more cautions."
Galati was quicker than Pilgrim but had to back off due to visibility concerns under the heavy spray and rain.
"I had to back off because Andy (Pilgrim) had no tail lights and I could barely see him," Michael explained. "There was so much spray. I backed completely out because I didn't know if I was going to rear-end Andy. That was how bad the conditions were."
"It was really tricky conditions out there," concluded Galati of this odd race. "We could barely keep up with the pace car. We are lucking we are sitting here (in the podium press interview) and are cars are all in one piece. But there are lots of guys who are going home with their cars disintegrated."
"Having won the race I have a more positive view," said Randy Pobst with a smile. "When you are first you aren't licking anyone's tail. And you don't have to deal with the spray. We changed the tires and went back out at the back and to our great fortune it started raining harder and as I watched that water build up I knew that everyone on dries was in trouble."
"I think what you see here in the three guys sitting on the stand are a little bit experienced," said Pobst. "Personally I like changing conditions. I like the drama of it."
"Our K-PAX and 3R Racing Porsche won today and we have Porsche in the lead for the Manufacturers' Championship and Randy back in the lead for the drivers' title but I am praying for no rain the rest of the year," concluded Jim Haughey of K-PAX Racing after the damp podium celebration. "Mother nature had too much control of this race. We need a dry track so that these cars can actually race and show what they can do. This was a terrible race for the fans."