It all comes down to this.
Just one race stands between Shepparton V8 driver Garry Jacobson and a Dunlop Series Championship — the Sydney 500 this weekend.
Jacobson, 24, has starred for Prodrive Australia in his breakout season and sits 166 points clear atop of the drivers championship.
Only teammate and friend Jack Le Brocq can take the title from Jacobson, who admitted to nerves leading into the most important race of his career.
‘‘Everyone who competes in professional sport is still human, so it’s normal to have those nerves, but I’ve been using them to get the most out of myself this weekend,’’ Jacobson said.
‘‘I know I’ve got what it takes to handle the pressure this weekend and I’ve had enough time to contemplate, so more than anything I’m just looking forward to getting out there and finishing the job.’’
Whichever racer stands on top of the championship podium this Sunday, Jacobson is sure he and Le Brocq will be gracious in defeat.
‘‘It’s a bit hard when you know each other well and have to fight against each other on the track, but I think we’ve handled it really professionally this season,’’ Jacobson said.
‘‘Prodrive wanted us to race hard but fair and we’ve done that, so it’s tough, but I’m sure whoever wins will be able to shake the other’s hand and say ‘well done’.’’
Jacobson agreed in such a high stakes arena the battle this weekend was as much mental as physical.
‘‘I’ve got a sports psychologist and I’ve had plenty of mentors over the years with Paul Dumbrell and more recently Mark Winterbottom. You learn from them about how to handle tough situations,’’ Jacobson said.
‘‘I’ve also got my engineer David Paterson, who has a reputation as one of the calmest guys you’ll find in the pit lane. People have questioned whether he even has a pulse he’s that calm, so I’m really happy with the people I’ve got around me to keep me focused.’’
A podium finish on Saturday or Sunday will secure the title for Jacobson, who acknowledged his focus was not necessarily crossing the line first.
‘‘The natural instinct of a driver is always to win and I’ll be trying to do the same thing I’ve been doing the past six rounds, which is qualifying well and getting up the front,’’ he said.
‘‘If you can do that, then you’re out of most of the carnage that tends to happen midfield or rear of field.
‘‘There are racing scenarios I’ll be cautious of. If I’m two-wide racing into some tight corners I can assure you I’ll be one of the first to think about backing away.
‘‘My fundamental goal was to win the championship and that will take priority over winning the race this weekend.’’
If Jacobson can finish the job he is expected to secure a berth in the Supercars’ top flight next season, but the young gun said that decision was not a foregone conclusion.
‘‘I’ve been in talks with teams and I think if you’re good enough you certainly will get there, but the politics of the sport can dictate how soon you’ll get there,’’ he said.
‘‘Drivers aren’t just judged on how fast they can go, you have to be a good ambassador for the team and the sponsors who spend millions.
‘‘Speed isn’t always the answer, you need to be able to race well, speak well, conduct yourself well, be smart and not make mistakes.
‘‘This all takes time in order to gain main game factory team trust for young and upcoming talents and this year I’ve gained a lot of trust — not just from my team, but others as well.’’
Create your own success and the dollar bills will follow is an age old proverb in professional sport, and Jacobson is no exception. ‘‘For this last round we’ve quintupled our expected budget thanks to my new manager Paul Maranelli, who has represented me really well,’’ Jacobson said.
‘‘It’s a nice feeling to be financially more secure, but I think it’s important to stay hungry and not just rest on the deal you made last week. You should always try to keep your team, sponsors and fans happy.
‘‘I sleep better at night than I did at the start of the year, but am still just as hungry to succeed.’’
Jacobson hails from a proud racing family and said he had wanted to drive professionally for as long as he could remember.
‘‘I was born into a world where racing was the expectation as soon as you were old enough to get in a go-kart,’’ he said.
‘‘I love being able to drive a car as fast as I can and push the machine to its limits. I like how you can go at speeds up to 200km/h and see what your brain can handle.
‘‘Racing at some of the fastest and most dangerous tracks in the country and getting pole position at the Clipsal 500 and Bathurst were a dream come true.
‘‘I’m doing what I love, but I need to still treat it like a job and appreciate it.
‘‘If I want to continue doing my dream job, I need to put in 100 per cent every day.’’
The budding star takes nothing for granted and nobody is more aware of Jacobson’s support network than the man himself.
‘‘I’ve got two older sisters who alongside my parents are very committed to my career and I’m extremely thankful for their ongoing support because without them this wouldn’t be happening,’’ he said.
It is not just family support that has fuelled Jacobson’s success this season.
‘‘It has been really humbling to see how the community has got behind me this year. I’ve been doing a lot more talks, which I really enjoy, and to have the support of the region has been fantastic,’’ he said.
‘‘There are so many people around Shepparton who are into motor sport and when I get to take a breather and chat to them, it’s awesome to hear their passion for the sport.’’
As his public image grows, Jacobson understands his position in the spotlight.
‘‘I’ve never had to drink that much alcohol to have a good time. I’m a sort of high on life character. Every day I’m just happy to wake up to go,’’ he said.
‘‘I love the responsibility of being in my position, but I’ve never really had to worry about doing something silly because I naturally want to conduct myself, let alone having to worry about sponsors.
‘‘Not everybody is perfect but so far so good. I’ve been pretty good and pretty happy with my social life, touch wood.’’
Jacobson said negotiating the challenges of a race weekend was what he loved most about the sport that is considered among one of the most dangerous in Australia.
‘‘I love the ability to improve and to learn and working with a team of 60 people over the weekend to get the best result possible is what really drives me,’’ he said.
‘‘I understand the dangers but when you’re doing what you love you tend not to worry so much because once the helmet is on and the engine is loud and you’re in a V8 supercar with plus 600 horse power, you don’t have time to think.’’
Jacobson said at the start of the season if you had offered him a 166-point lead going into the final round, he would have grabbed it with both hands.
‘‘I remember walking into Prodrive at the start of the year with sweaty palms waiting to see if I could get an opportunity to race with them, so to pay their faith back has been a great experience for me,’’ he said.
‘‘I’d love to complete the dream season this weekend but you can never predict the future in motor sports because there are so many variables.
‘‘All I can do is try my best to deal with what comes my way.’’