The inimitable Ross Bentley likes to say that every driver, at every level of wheel-to-wheel competition, is a team leader. It follows, therefore, that auto racing is a team sport. In any team sport, a good system beats a great talent at least nine times out of ten, usually more. Michael Schumacher won because he built great teams, not because he could do something behind the wheel that others couldn’t. The same is true of Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR, or of the Audi efforts at LeMans.
When I’ve been drinking, or when I am trying to bore a woman into a state so comatose that she no longer has the will to resist, I like to tell the story of how I once drove from the Solo Nationals in Topeka, KS to Flat Rock, MI nonstop, jumped in my team’s Toyota Supra, and in the course of a three-hour stint promptly took us from third place to winning the 24 Hours of LeMons by 57 laps — the greatest margin of victory in series history, as far as anybody seems to know.
It’s a fun story, if you’re easily amused, and like any other story of endurance racing it’s chock-full of little dramas — the thugs from Car and Driver putting a previously-retired car back on track just to try to hit me, a failure of radio communication, Tony Swan’s mental failure and subsequent wall-smacking after I stepped on his throat with some horrifyingly aggressive but contact-free racing. It was a great victory and I’m still pleased to remember it five years after the fact.
Our team really didn’t win because of anything I did, however. We won because they were planning and executing a strategy while I was still packing up my brother’s RX-8 in Topeka. That strategy won the race, and I keep trying to share it with people… but nobody really wants to listen.
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