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Padecky: International event brings us a fresh flavor of racing

SONOMA -- Of all the sporting events, of all the winners you have ever heard, of all the excitement that has gushed forth from victors like so much spring runoff in the Sierras, I'll bet my house that you have never heard what Mehdi Bennani had to say after finishing second in a World Touring Car Championship race Sunday.

"This podium is for the King of Morocco!" Bennani said.

Heck, in fact, I never even heard this at a college frat party in my home state: "This Beer Is For The King Of Florida!"

Bennani, 30, was honored by His Majesty Mohammed VI two weeks ago for being an exemplary sportsman and an exemplary example on never forgetting where that honor came from.

This column is for those who like their motorsports a bit different, a little bit off center, where winners salute kings, where cars don't make pit stops, where a WTCC driver can never drink too much caffeine because a race lasts only 13 laps as it did Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. A WTCC race is perfect for those easily distracted, those instant messagers among us who suffer from silence and lack of movement. A WTCC race is a product of our times in which motion means everything. A pause doesn't refresh; it just makes us anxious. So an all-out sprint for 13 laps fills in every second, every mile, with possibilities ranging from the amusing to the frightful.

"He better have a sponsor put his logo on the bottom of the car (so the fans can see it)," said the race announcer, referring to a car that went sideways, then perpendicular to the ground during the first race.

Yes, motorsports is a sleeping pill if cars never leave the track, always go straight, never bump each other. It's with great pleasure, then, that WTCC promises exactly the opposite because the adrenalin push in the cockpit makes a proper, dignified procession impossible.

"Every lap is like a qualifying lap," said Brit Tom Chilton, who won the first of two WTCC races Sunday.

It is with some disappointment, therefore, that I must report Sunday's two WTCC races fell short of a spectacular spectacle. Tough racing, hard racing, aggressive throttle throughout but, still, the races were nice and tidy for the most part. WTCC won't make it on nice and tidy. It won't make it in this country if it races only once a year in North America and that one time is nice and tidy, as it was here Sunday. World Touring Car is a global sport, very big in Europe, but Americans aren't easily swayed by what the rest of the world loves. See: Soccer for further details.

This weekend's WTCC event at Sonoma Raceway initially was scheduled two weekends ago. But at the start of the season overseas shipping delays of cars forced track officials here to take this weekend two weeks later than originally planned. It was far from ideal: Sunday was the start of the NFL season and the WTCC coincided with a Grand-Am race at Laguna Seca. Motorsports fans, therefore, had options which meant divided revenues for both the Monterey track and this one - if they decided not to watch pro football.


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