Number 261: The Great Teams Issue

Probably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan succinctly conveyed the hard work and hardline attitude it takes to succeed in any sport.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” he said. “I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Almost all the greatest teams in the history of auto racing could relate to that, as we delve into in the June 2014 issue of RACER magazine, The Great Teams Issue. Following Jody Scheckter’s 1979 Formula 1 World Championship, it took Ferrari until 2000 to clinch another drivers’ title, Michael Schumacher’s fifth season with the team. From the formation of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 1990, it took four years to score the first victory, and two more years to make a serious run at the CART Indy car title – which was successful. And how about John Force Racing? We think of Force’s 16 Funny Car titles and JFR’s 18 as a team – but it took eight years from his NHRA debut until his first win (in 1987) and a further three years before he became champion for the first time.

There are many ways to define a great team, and one of them surely is the ability to disprove the theory that it’s harder to stay on top than to get there. Then there’s the cliché that’s also a truism – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. As Red Bull Racing – undeniably a great team – is proving right now, great drivers, great cars and great strategies aren’t enough to overcome the deficit of a down-on-power engine. And think how many titles have been lost by one pitlane mishap, one poor strategy, one driver error, one piece of bad luck.

A great team has to collectively do what a great driver individually does: repeatedly go faster than anyone else, while minimizing the number of errors and minimizing the effect of those errors. Or to quote the sage Mr. Jordan once more: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

Watch The Great Teams Issue Video