Despite being separated by more than a thousand miles while driving in the final races of two different championships, Mark and Mat Pombo of Duluth again proved their great driving skills last weekend.
Younger brother, Mark, was racing locally at Road Atlanta in a diesel-powered sedan in the VW TDI Cup race prior to the Petit Le Mans, and Mat was at Road America in Wisconsin driving his Mazda Miata in the SCCA National Championships.
Even though he finished third in the championship this year and last year, Mark Pombo has been considered by many to be the best driver on the VW TDI Cup Series (which consists of the best young amateur drivers from Canada, Mexico, and the USA under 26 years of age) both years. He won the inaugural race last year at Virginia International Raceway, has been on the pole for qualifying, or set the fastest lap in most of the races during the two years.
Also, he completely ran away from the rest of the field by a large margin earlier this year at Mosport, Canada, in a driving rainstorm. Therefore, it was fitting that the rains came down hard again at Road Atlanta this past weekend. Despite the terrible conditions, Mark took the lead before the end of the first lap and literally drove away from the other competitors to easily win his final race in the VW TDI Series. He also set the fastest lap in the process.
"There's something about racing in the rain that really works well for me because the two races I've won this year have been on a wet track," said Mark Pombo. "This win is really bittersweet because if it weren't for a couple of bad breaks, I could have won the championship. However, I think it's pretty neat that I won the first race for the series last year and my final race this year. I'll be too old to race in the Jetta TDI Cup again, so it's great to be able to go out on top."
Less than an hour after Mark's victory at Road Atlanta, his older brother, Mat, who is an orthopaedic surgeon from Gwinnett County, strapped into his Miata at Road America Raceway in Elkhart Lake, Wis., along with 40 other drivers from all over the USA. After more than a week of testing and qualifying, Mat had turned the second-fastest time of the week to be on the front row.
Because these cars are so much alike in power and handling, the first few laps of the race were wild, but finally four cars pulled away from the others. These four competitors (three from the Southeast) swapped the lead numerous times. In the end, eventual winner, Steven Gorriaran, got a sizable lead on the others as did second-place finisher, Jim Drago, which left Atlanta racers Mat Pombo and Todd Lamb to battle for third place on the podium.
"My plan at the beginning was to fall behind one of these people and use the draft," Mat Pombo said. "I knew on the last lap I had to get around Todd, so when he messed up a little bit in Turn Six, we stayed side by side through eight. It was lots of fun, but I edged him out at the end for third place and turned the fastest lap in the process."
Though the Pombo brothers and their father, Pepe, have brought many championships to Gwinnett County over the years in SCCA and NASCAR Legends, this was one of their best weekends of racing ever.