Armin Schwarz newsletter 2009-01-14

Full steam ahead and A letter from Yves Morizot Dear partners, sponsors, friends, We're barely two weeks into the New Year and I'm already on my way to the airport. My destination this time: The team headquarters of All German Motorsports in...

Full steam ahead and A letter from Yves Morizot

Dear partners, sponsors, friends,

We're barely two weeks into the New Year and I'm already on my way to the airport. My destination this time: The team headquarters of All German Motorsports in California where we will make the final preparation for the Laughlin Desert Challenge on 23 and 24 January. My friend and team boss Martin Christensen has already prepared our Buggies and completed the first set-up tests. Preparations run as professionally as ever but every single team member is determined to bring as many points as possible home to Ensenada from the first race in 2009. Our retirement in last year's event here cost us valuable points which would have been decisive at the end of last season. We have drawn starting number 104, which means we are the fourth Buggy on the track. Our chances look good.

2009 takes off at full speed

The start of the season means the finish of my short winter break. The days at home with my family in Austria were wonderful. My kids gave me a good run for my money in sledding. I had sore muscles where I never knew had muscles at all. Aside from that I put in some hard work on my endurance fitness. And then a ‘flu knocked me off my feet for a week. I think my body wanted to tell me: "Okay, if you aren't going to take it easy then I'll force you to rest."

Talks prior to the start: How are we going to tackle this one?

I was able to have several talks with my partners and sponsors over the winter weeks. To give a quick summary, they are all on board again for 2009. Taking the current economic situation into account we will compete with a good sense of proportion. But we all agree on one thing: there's no room for scaremongering. In racing too, there is nothing worse than approaching things passively and waiting anxiously for what might come.

We're going full steam ahead. At the moment we are working on several very interesting things. With the help of a top European designer we are looking into the aerodynamics of our buggy. With its endless wheel travel and relatively soft suspension that's quite a challenge.

Aside from the development work and the racing commitments I'm very excited about working with very capable partners on incentive travel programmes to the SCORE races. We've had a huge response from companies and fans, eager to experience such a desert race first hand with the whole works. The Baja 500 is particularly exciting, combining the Pacific and the desert perfectly. The Primm 300 is another very attractive event. You get a heady mix of Las Vegas and spectacular action.

Race fans love it: Pit stop and driver change

And just to keep boredom at bay I climb into the cockpit occasionally in Europe for ice and rally training.

So, that's it from me. But I don't want to finish up today without showing you a letter from my old friend and business partner Yves Morizot. Yves is the founder and owner of Stand 21, a leading manufacturer of race clothing and gear. Yves's letter is a fantastic example of the incredible energy, enthusiasm and the spirit of friendship we enjoy in our highly professional business.

Here we go for 2009 - wish me luck

Best regards,
Armin

***

Yves Morizot: You don't say "No" to a friend

Dear Armin,

When you first asked me to contribute to your newsletter, I answered "OK but let me see the Baja 1000 first. I want to know more about this kind of racing before I talk about my thoughts and feelings here."

The racing world is completely different from the rest of the world, and it is inhabited by completely different people - you won't meet them in the street everyday. They have a lot of passions in common: they love racing, they like to take risks, they like victory, they like technology, they like mechanics. This applies to whatever category of motor sport you can think of, and it doesn't matter if they are professionals or amateur racers.

When our friend Wilfried Eibach (an absolutely outstanding and unique person regarding human relationships) asked me two years ago, if Stand 21 had any interest to work with you and your Californian team in the SCORE series I immediately said "yes". Because you don't say "no" to a friend.

Armin, I knew you since you were young and competing in the German Rally Championship and later in the World Rally Championship. I knew you were a fast and reliable rally driver and that, like Wilfried you were a very loyal person and out of common in human and professional relationships. When I created Stand 21 - that was 38 years ago - there were just a thousand racing drivers around the world. Nowadays, there's an estimate that more than one million racers - 98% of them amateurs - compete in a great variety of motorsport series and championships. From club competition to ice racing, dragsters, rallying, endurance, NASCAR, to Formula 1. There are so many different kinds of racing, that even insiders can't know them all.

Thanks to my friend Wilfried, I discovered a new world with the Baja, with people who like adventures, risks, and who are strong personalities and professionals through and through, such as:

Sal Fish who is the President of SCORE. I first met Sal in January 2008 in Laughlin. After half an hour speaking on the departure line, we decided to have an appointment a few days later with Wilfried in a hotel at the Pacific to discuss on driver safety and racing. After a good bottle of wine, a glass of Tequila, and a dinner that lasted six hours (not because of the meal itself but because of the discussions we had!) it was like if we had known each other for 20 years.

First thing we did was to organise a safety seminar in May 2008 at the Eibach Springs hq in Corona for off-road racers, who were joined by some Porsche Club members and NHRA dragster racers. I came especially from France with Stand 21 staff and with the Stand 21 research & development manager. Additionaly I asked the help of my friend, Professor John Melvin (Wayne University, research & development center for Driver Safety for NASCAR), and of Jeff Grange (Emergency Medical Services Director for California Speedway and Baja 1000). We welcomed 60 persons. It was a meeting on driver safety focussing on the technological side of HANS, heat stress, and seat fitting. We had a lively and very friendly discussion before we concluded the enormously fruitful meeting.

During my first Baja 1000 in November I saw Sal again. And again he was reflecting exactly the image I had from him after our previous meetings: a smiling man who had a kind word to each entrant, a man with a friendly and rigorous staff. A permanent presence on the arrival line for no less then 36 hours. Listening and congratulating each participant who crossed the finish line. I also noticed his perfect knowledge, his sense of human relationships, and his passion for Mexico and especially for the Baja California.

The safety for racers is a thing on which we both agree professionally because motor racing is dangerous and it is our duty to reduce the risks at the maximum. And don't forget: at the Baja there are no firemen or medical staff at each corner like there are at the racetracks. Martin Christensen, the team manager, the person who takes care of everything: development and preparation of the car, staff, logistics, infrastructure, relations with some sponsors … But above all he is in charge of the "morale of the troops" either to help them after a rough defeat or enjoy victory with them.

He surprised me with his words before the big race, during the briefing on Thursday at 7:30PM: "We are all happy to be here, to share our passion, and we all aim at victory but above all I want each of you to be careful with accidents on the road and in the race. On Saturday I want to see all of you happy, tired, and I want nobody missing."

When initial problems held up both cars after less than 50 miles in the race, I saw him quietly taking care of the drivers' safety, of the cars, of people's morale. And then after all of this he was ready to take Armin's place in the car to finish the Baja. He had to drive around 200 miles in the desert, through dust and a heavy fog. Martin, you are a great team leader, a real coach, an excellent pilot, and moreover you are a great businessman and a man who loves his family. ... and you, Armin. What can I say after I saw you sad and wounded after your punishing last Baja 1000?

The only thing I know is that after the race on Saturday at 12:00, I saw you with your tired eyes, and you were already thinking about the next Baja 1000! I saw in your eyes that you wanted to win more SCORE races next year with Martin, and that the Baja 1000 is the ultumate challenge for you. And you thought of going home from sunny California to join your family in the snow in Austria.

Armin, this year you won two SCORE races, you were third once, and you had two bad races: Laughlin and Baja 1000. But you are not only a great driver. Thank you for promoting SCORE racing in Europe and especially in Germany through driving, providing TV coverage and using all your network.

We all - my friend Wilfried, you, I - try to build a bridge between American and European racers. This is a great adventure and a promising initiative because many Americans come to European racing to see GT Series, Dakar, Le Mans, etc, and many Europeans go to America to enjoy the SCORE series, the ALMS, the Grand-Am and all the great racing! See you my friend! End January we'll all meet at Laughlin to seek the next challenge. Simply because we love it.

All the best,

Yves

-credit: armin-schwarz.com

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