Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Intimidation and La Carrera Panamericana

The definition of intimidation is;

(a) The feeling of discouragement in the face of someones superior fame or wealth or status etc.
(b) The feeling of being intimidated; being made to feel afraid or timid.
(c) Determent: a communication that makes you afraid to try something.

Having spent many years as a team owner and thousands of hours behind the wheel while competing in long endurance races one of the most important lessons I have learned is to NOT allow myself or members of my team to be intimidated by any other team or driver regardless of who they are. If anything it is the teams and drivers with the big reputations that should be intimidated since it is them that has something to prove and not myself or my team.

This year many people discussed their concerns with me regarding so many other teams who had so many years of first hand experience having competed in La Carrera Panamericana numerous times before. Then there were many who where concerned about drivers who are world class or professional drivers not to mention many of which have more cubic dollars invested in their car. Yes, this is a simple case of intimidation at it's finest.

For example everyone knew that former world champion Stig Blomqvist and F1 driver Jan Lammers were running this year and don't forget some of the best La Carrera Panamericana drivers and co-pilots to ever run this event including Doug Mockett and Angelica Fuentes, Lars Stugemo, Jo Ramirez, Richard Clark, Andy Prill just to name a few. Right from the start many teams were intimidated enough that even before the race had begun, were counting down where they thought they could possibly finish instead of aiming for the top or a podium finish.

Just think... had Bill Beilharz, Jorge Pedrero or Doug Mockett allowed themselves to be intimidated by guys like Stig Blomqvist or had Carson Scheller been intimidated by Jan Lammers, more than likely things would have turned out a lot different.

It's very important to understand something that many of the same teams have yet to realize.... this is NOT just another weekend rally thingy were you pay a few bucks for an entry fee, you show up take a few laps around the track while your buddies take a few photos and you go home. Pass someone a little too close and they send you home and you're not asked to return. This is the real thing... a world famous race, one of the most grueling and historical in the world. As a matter of fact, possibly I shouldn't even use that word, "historical" simply because many may interpret it to be a race like one of the "show" events put on for car owners to showcase their cars in front of a crowd during a concourse weekend. This far from being a show and history has proven many times over it is far from a Sunday drive in the country.

But there is good news when it comes to history and especially this years event because in this case we can learn a lot about why we should not be intimidated by anyone team or driver. Not one of the big name drivers won their class nor did any of them finish as high up the winning ladder as many expected they would. When Hershel McGriff won the 1950 La Carrera Panamericana he never won a single stage. Like any good endurance racer he knew taking care of your equipment and having a good feel for exactly how hard you can push it was paramount in finishing at the top. It's also important to know that while passing everyone on the track and standing on the top podium may look very impressive, it is not what the experienced endurance racer is looking for. The single most important world in any sport is "consistency". Drivers who consistently run their race without allowing the intimidation factor to push them beyond their limits and the limits of their car can and will be better for it in the long haul. Do not be impressed by cars or teams that finish high up on the opening days but instead learn to watch those teams/cars that seem to be edging up every day. They are the ones that qualify aways back there. Then each day they seem to be just a little higher up and so on. In the mean time many of those front runners are to be found closer to the bottom or have faded back in the order. Remember, it only takes one bad corner or pushing something too hard ruin your whole race.

So remember... This is not an easy race. There is no reason to be intimidated but there is every reason to be excited because you are racing with some of the finest drivers and teams in the entire world. Learn to watch and learn because if you soak up everything you can you will be getting some of the best racing education there is to be found. Viva Mexico. Besides, knowing you raced with or possibly beat some of the best in the world is worth the price of admission. It's far more rewarding to be an ugly duckling that swims with the swans that to be just another duck leading a flock. Viva La Carrera Panamericana.

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