small teams, big achievements
After Newman/Haas Racing lost half its
sponsorship and cut down to one car for
2009, Justin Wilson was out of a ride but
when he heard ace engineer Bill Pappas
was joining Dale Coyne Racing, JWil phoned
the team owner who was still winless
after a quarter century running Indy cars.
This unlikely triumvirate almost won
their first race together in St. Petersburg,
but Watkins Glen saw their latent promise
fulfilled. Wilson qualified on the front row,
and led 49 laps on his way to victory.
“The great thing about our first win was
that it wasn’t a lucky deal at all,” recalls
Coyne. “A lot of teams’ first victories owe
a bit to other people’s problems. But we
dominated that day; the next three cars
behind us belonged to Penske and Ganassi!”
A perfectionist and an engineer by trade,
what Alan Kulwicki achieved in 1992 to
win NASCAR’s Winston Cup may never be
replicated. OK, so he scored only two race
wins that year, but the manner in which he
made his little team into contenders on
every type of track was testament to his
skills both in and out of the racecar. He’d
never been lured to a big team because
he felt sure his Davids could take on and
beat the multi-car Goliaths of the sport. In
his final year on earth, he was proven right.
Three straight Le Mans victoires for
Matra in the early 1970s had
brought pride to French hearts, and
the third-time-lucky win for the
Renault works team in ’ 78 had
interrupted a potential blitz of the
LM24 results sheets by Porsche.
But it was the plucky Jean Rondeau
who became a sensational hero
when he drove a car bearing his
name to victory in 1980. To this day
he remains the only team owner/
driver to accomplish this feat.
Sharing driving duties with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, who’d co-driven
with Didier Pironi in the Renault
victory two years earlier, Rondeau’s
Cosworth-powered M379B finished
two laps ahead of the Porsche of
Jacky Ickx/Reinhold Joest.
END OF A 25-YEAR WAIT
DALE COYNE RACING
HE DID IT HIS WAY
A business partnership with struggling
Frank Williams had brought Walter Wolf
little in the way of Formula 1 results so, as
controlling partner, the Austrian-born
Canadian brought in Peter Warr to replace
Williams as team manager for 1977.
The latter went off to form a squad of his
own with Patrick Head as designer, and in
time it would become one of the greatest
teams F1 has ever seen. Yet it was Wolf
who would find victory lane sooner.
Race engineer Harvey Postlethwaite
became Wolf’s designer and Jody Scheckter
was hired as driver. Over the previous three
FANG-TASTIC FIRST YEAR
WALTER WOLF RACING
years at Tyrrell, Scheckter had become
a driver who knew exactly when to push
and when to consolidate what he had.
However, even he was surprised when he
won his first ever race with Wolf, the WR1
surviving in the insane heat of Argentina.
Backing this up with two more wins
(Monaco and Canada) and six other
podiums, Scheckter finished second in the
championship. But, like Mario Andretti at
Lotus, Jody suffered seven DNFs, handing
the title on a plate to Ferrari’s Niki Lauda.
Still, one-car Wolf Racing had astounded
its more famous rivals in its debut year.
Beating a great like “Awesome Bill from
Dawsonville” Elliot gilded Kulwicki’s title.
The points race was close – 4078-4068!
BETTER THAN AWESOME
the men who made
Wolf a fleetingly
That Kulwicki reached
his goal before a plane
crash took him from us
is some consolation.
Long Beach was one race that got
away for Wolf, but three didn’t…