The PRO3 Line
The line for the woodshed starts over there…
by Michael Olsen
This past race weekend at Pacific Raceways was a real doozy. Cars were wrecked during the non-points race (seriously?) and still more cars were wrecked during Sunday’s points race. In both cases, the incidents occurred somewhere mid-race and not during the opening lap where most incidents are prone to happen.
There were a few years in the beginning of PRO3 where we started to see a disturbing trend of these same events on track and PRO3 was quickly becoming known collectively as “That Guy” during races. You know “That Guy,” the one who shows up to the wedding reception wearing a Speedo, drinking a Bud Light while smoking a cigar and proceeds to offend, well, nearly everyone–loudly. Yes, there were races where the Stewards were contacting the PRO3 Mafia directly and telling us to “knock it off!” Actually, I believe it was more colorful language of getting our “stuff” together, but those are details not worth highlighting.
And PRO3 listened. We got our “stuff” together and became the shining example of club racing and our numbers exploded. So this weekend’s on-track shenanigans and tomfoolery was a very loud primal scream, snapping us all back to attention. Now, one weekend does not a reputation make (or break), but it can raise eyebrows and at the very least, begs to be addressed.
Each of the racing incidents (which carried fines and penalties, by the way) were the direct result of a series of small miscalculations. Let’s just call it what it was: bad decisions were made and the cars paid the price. We are lucky, VERY lucky that it was only busted sheet metal and complete loss of a few cars rather than broken bones or loss of life. Dramatic there? Yes; intentionally. We race cars. We go fast side-by-side at the limit of traction with the intent to beat the guy next to us. It’s dangerous strapping our soft-bodies into a metal and glass shell that is kept just this side of going out of control. We shouldn’t make it even more dangerous by taking stupid risks.
Steward Bob put it best telling us to not make low-percentage moves. That’s one of those moves most people start of the explanation to the Steward with, “I thought I could…” Yeah, you thought you could pass him right there. You thought you left enough room at corner exit.
We make decisions on the fly in split second increments. As our racing experience increases, we tend to make better split-second decisions. Sometimes, luck intervenes and we all come out okay. Other times, we rely on our talent to make it through. And then sometimes, we run out of talent and luck. This weekend, it seems the grid was short on both.
It happens. It’s racing. Before you go running off to the hills to start decrying the rise of PRO3 back into its previous reputation of being the bad-boy of Conference, take a note of the thousands of clean laps we have had in just the past three years. How many hundreds of races (collectively) have been run clean with only minor incidents or no incidents? Those events far outnumber the single weekend of August 1.
As drivers and car owners in PRO3, you owe it to yourselves and to your fellow competitors and friends to second guess that low-percentage move before you make it. Take everything into context for that move. Recognize that we have a grid that is filled with huge variation in experience and talent levels. For the most part, the grid is filled with drivers who have five-plus years of driving experience and we know we can race them clean side-by-side. There also exist cars that have more performance than what their drivers can handle. We have recent novice upgrades. We have renters from out of our area that we really don’t know. It’s a mixed bag of racers on any given Sunday.
Do you really want to test the mirror skills of someone with limited race experience while passing on the outside of a turn? If you toss that car into a corner and realize that the tires don’t grip like you expected, should you maybe breath the throttle a bit to get the car back under you or do you slide out at track exit, pushing whomever happens to be on your outside? If you are that car on the outside of either example here, do you choose to back out of it even though you have the right to that line? It’s a tough call in that case, but maybe it’s the better call at the time. After the race, choose to take it up with the other guy or possibly the Steward to set things right. There are rules in place to keep us competitive as well as safe on the track–know them.
We all owe it to each other to continue to make good decisions recognizing that we’ve built a solid reputation as being a class that can organize itself for special races outside of Conference. That we can continue to attract new drivers to the class because of the respect we demonstrate our fellow racer–regardless of experience. This is basically a franchise. You are all PRO3 franchise owners. The better the franchise appears to others outside of PRO3, the more desirable it is to come join the fun.
I’ll climb off my soapbox with the following confession: I’ve been there. I’ve made the low-percentage move and I lost in some cases and got lucky in others. In every case, I knew it was a bad move and my competitor knew it was a bad move. But I learned from it and I shared with others my experience to bring them along with me. It was more than just me, it was so many other PRO3 drivers that have done the same and collectively, we have advanced as a group, demonstrating our talents to new drivers and attracting them to the class as well.
Keep up the good stuff; lose the bad stuff.
Welcome New PRO3 Drivers!
All photos courtesy of Doug Berger.