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Pobst Position: Driver’s Seat
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Here's the state of Pirelli World Challenge GT from where I sit, in the K-PAX Volvo S60 R-Design. The biggest issue of the last year for this team has been the reliability of these ground-bound Space Shuttles. Unlike street Volvos, which are world-renowned for their durability. The Volvo Club of America has rewards and pins for mileage milestones: 100, 200, 500,000 miles. We only need to go about 80. But with double the boost being crammed into that little 2.5 liter inline five cylinder, and more than twice the power coming of that stock crankshaft, it's a challenge! The good, no, great, news? My #6 Volvo ran beautifully in both of the last two races, Miller Motorsports Park (Salt Lake City), and the Long Beach Grand Prix. Fifth and second, with a pole qualifier. That's more like it. K-PAX is still working to get the less-cooperative #9 Volvo of Alex Figge to play nice all the time, just like Alex (wink, wink).

The recent races have left these impressions of the State of Competition. The TruSpeed Porsche is the fastest car in the class right now, with the CRP Corvette a close second. The Cadillacs and the K-PAX Volvos seem to be closely matched, and dependent upon who has the setup for the track that particular weekend. The CRP Nissan GT-Rs are still on a steep learning curve, not very quick yet, and that is probably why Mike Skeen is in the Corvette again this weekend. We at K-PAX certainly understand how that process works, having gone through teething pains with our very special Volvos when we first brought them out, and continuing to develop them as we go along. The Ferrari of David Welch got a little horsepower adjustment from SCCA Pro, and it made a b-b-b-big difference, as I watched him pass both Caddys on the way to turn one on the start at MIller. It is really sick getting held up by a Ferrari in a Volvo sport sedan. It's a sign of how far the Volvo S60 has come. I spent the whole race staring at the back of that F-430 at Miller working on ways to get past. At least I had a nice view, Ferraris are sexy, curvaceous cars, even in back, no? Our Volvos excel at the start, benefitting from all-wheel drive from the standing starts of Pirelli World Challenge. Alex and/or I have been able to qualify them well several times, but on a long run in the races, we seem to be a little harder on tires and brakes than much of our competition. K-PAX is constantly working to improve, and I hope to profit from that effort here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Competitively, our Volvos have actually suffered from the move to the excellent Pirelli racing slicks at the beginning of last year. Why? More traction, less all-wheel drive advantage. Makes sense, yes? And that great grip causes the brakes to work harder, and due to our mandated weight and forward weight bias, it is pushing our front brakes to the limit. Our K-PAX engineers are tossing and turning at night trying to figure ways to get rid of more heat, and making steady progress. We have some more new setups here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca that I am excited to try out.

We had a really strong run here at MRLS last year, qualifying on pole and leading most of it. This should translate to 2012, too. I am optimistic. Laguna has several tight, slow corners, and is generally a low grip track, and these elements can serve to help K-PAX. We really rip out of the Corkscrew, and the last corner, turn eleven. We are joined again by the Touring Car class, which adds automotive dodgeball to the on-track fun and games. These smaller sport compacts have 250 or so horsepower, but are still passed constantly by our 500-plus HP GT cars, and 350-400 HP GTS carts. It is alternately slalom-passing fun, and don't-cut-me-off fear; always a thrill. There are constant traffic dramas. Great fun to watch, nerve-wracking to actually participate in. Last year, I was leading near the end of the race, and Mike Skeen in the CRP Corvette was on my tail as we caught a GTS Mustang coming out of turn nine, a fast downhill left. I went right to get the inside into ten, but had to wait just a moment for the Mustang to bear left. Skeen shot far left, a bold outside move. We blew both doors off the Mustang, splitting it, and Skeen made it work, into the lead. We had to settle for second, still my best finish in a tough, lean year. I was satisfied, all things considered. K-PAX had done a great job with the Volvo.

K-PAX Racing comes back to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on a wave of optimism. We've got new parts and plans for the engines, and we're ready to put those issues behind us. This has been a good track for us in the past, usually running up front. We have more new ideas for the brakes and handling, the development never stops. In racing, if you are sitting still, you are going backwards, and K-PAX Racing is on the move!
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