Grand Sports Bobby Sak And Caroline Wright
© Andrew S. Hartwell
It was on the wet and rainy Tuesday before the Lime Rock Grand Am
race weekend that I first met Speedvision World Challenge competitor
Bobby Sak. Members of the media were invited to take a few laps
around the 1.53-mile road course as passengers in either a Porsche
or Corvette. I opted for the Vette, but only after completing my search
for a pair of coveralls that could be stretched, stressed or otherwise
expanded to sufficient dimensions to accommodate my frame. (The search for a helmet big enough to cover my formerly thick-haired expanse of gray matter was equally difficult. Why are so many drivers so small anyway?)
Within just 15 minutes of my first attempt, I was finally inside the very confining space allotted for curious (read: crazy) journalists in search of a thrill. Seat belts secure, we immediately emphasis on immediate left the pits and headed out for Big Bend (turn 1).
Sak took the snarling beast (the car, not the passenger) out to the far side of the turn, avoiding the collected water standing at the turn-in point used in dry conditions. He then took off towards the esses and we were on our way. We did two laps and then came back into the pits where, in just a mere 10 minutes time, I was able to extricate myself from the car.
Great ride. And I soon came to learn that my chauffeur, Bobby Sak, son of Trans Am veteran Don Sak, is a very personable and talented young man. I talked with him, and with Caroline Wright, the teams media representative, former radio personality and occasional driver, shortly after my moment of racer's glory.
Sak competes in the Speedvision GT Championship,
driving a Grand Sport Racing Corvette C5R. Caroline
Wright filled me in on the teams background.
"Terry Lackey is our team manager and Kelly Bradley
owns the team. We are called Grand Sport Racing
and we are based in Hitchcock Texas. The team's
name Grand Sport actually goes back to the origins
of the original Grand Sport Corvettes that ran in the
1960's. You may recall that in 1963 there were five
original cars built by GM specifically for racing. We
have a parallel situation today in that we are racing
two of the twenty Corvette C5R "kit cars" built by GM just to go racing. And the property we own in Texas was formerly owned by John Mecum, the man who owned three of the five original GS Corvettes."
Oilman Mecum used the facility to shake down the cars that would become famous with people like Roger Penske, Jim Hall, AJ Foyt and Augie Pabst doing the driving. "The grounds where this young man Bobby Sak is testing his car, and where we are building a world class road racing facility, is the very same hallowed ground where the original Grand Sport name began."
Sak claims he has yet to hear ghost-like voices from the past tell him when to brake or turn in as he tests at the facility. "I haven't heard voices," Sak told me, "But weird things happen down there. For example, it will rain for 10 minutes and then the track will dry immediately." Wright adds: "The Army Corps of Engineers did a marvelous job with the drainage system!"
Wright explains her role with the team. "My primary job is with media relations for the team." When I jokingly said to Sak that it was Caroline's job to make him look good, she replied, "I do not have to work hard to make him look good. He did an excellent job last year."
Wright too has had some excellent results behind the wheel. "I have been driving since 1992. I started in SCCA Club Racing in showroom stock and then moved into the NEON Challenge Pro Series and then on to a Mustang Cobra for a few years." Wright won the 1998 and 1999 Southeast Division SCCA Touring 2 Divisional Championships, and has a 15th place finish in the 1999 Rolex 24 Hours to her credit.
With so much driving experience behind her, I asked if she ever gave young Sak some racing advice. "Absolutely not! First and foremost, Bobby is a an extraordinarily talented driver and he has been in this field, in this community, for a very long time."
"I have never not been in this community", adds Sak.
Wright continued: "He has not only had the benefit of his father's experience, he has had the benefit of talking to the other drivers who have experience. This is very natural for him."
"What is really interesting is that all the other drivers still think of me as this little kid," said Sak. "So they are still willing to be openly honest with me about the way they go through corners and things like that."
Don Sak was always including young Bobby in his racing activities, and the shared experiences have registered memories upon this young man's heart that he can revisit every time he races. "Dad used to bring me everywhere. I went to every driver meeting he went to, right up until the time I started going to my own driver meetings. He would always take me with him."
"My dad was always ready. I hate feeling rushed so, like him, I try to get ready earlier than I need to be. As far as driving goes, it is harder to learn first hand because you can't get in the car with him. I do try to be as courteous as I can. I try to be a gentleman out there, event though I did push Derek Bell off the track." (In the race prior to Lime Rock.)
Wright adds: "But Bell was busy talking on Speedvision!" (Bell periodically updates the television audience on his participation in the race - from the car - during the race.)
Sak is 22 years old and about to graduate with a Business Management degree from Western Michigan University. "I don't know what I want to be but hopefully racing will be what I'm doing and business will be the fall back. The thing that keeps me going is that a lot of people who are my age have dreams that they have to put on the back burner while they go out and start a career. I can continue on with my dreams, at least until I learn that I am not good enough or not in the right place in the right time. I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones who gets to pursue their dreams."
"I never really thought about driving myself until I was about 10 or 11 years old. And once I wanted to get into a go-kart my dad put me in one and that is really how I got started. I raced karts for three full years and won a championship. At 16 I got into a Mazda RX 7 at a track called Waterford Hills, in Michigan. I started Spec Racer in 1997 and won the regional championship. In '98 I raced in the National Division and finished 3rd in the championships and shared the rookie of the year honors with Mark Dismore Jr. In '99 I ran the Pro Spec Racer series and my fellow drivers voted me Most Improved Driver, which was really cool. Last year I won my first race at Las Vegas and had a great year."
Wright: "In the Spec Racer series, the cars are identical in engine, chassis, tires and there are very few adjustments that can be made so it is considered very much a driver's class. Also the cars are not high horsepower so the driver is required to be very smooth. If you make one little mistake you can easily lose four positions."
Sak: "Not only are the cars identical, but many of the drivers in that series have been driving those cars for years so they know all the ins and outs. What I have noticed is that those drivers get so tuned into driving those cars they find it difficult to drive anything else."
This weekend saw father and son in competition professionally for the first time. "We raced in a spec racer event one time but I never saw him on the track. I finished third and he ended up crashing out on the second or third lap."
To which Wright quickly added: "But that's not going to happen this time!"
Young Bobby managed to stay ahead of his dad in the Lime Rock round of the Speedvision GT race. He drove hard and once again made his dad, and his friend Caroline Wright, proud of him.
John Mecum would be proud too. The Grand Sport name is in good hands.