Rob Dyson started racing thirty-nine years ago, starting with a Datsun 510 in the SCCA in 1974. Greg Pickett of Muscle Milk Motorsports has more than four decades of racing history to his credit. Earlier this year they talked about their on-track competition and off-track friendship and the challenges of competing as privateers.
What is it like competing against each other?
I just want everyone to clearly understand that one of the fundamental reasons I am here is because of Rob. When I ended my Trans-Am career and started thinking about other opportunities on what I was going to do to extend my driving career, I gave Rob a call and frankly it was with Rob’s coaching and very sage advice and a great deal he gave me on his previous year’s Lola, that I am here now. He said, “I have a car – I think it is worth about X but we do not need to talk about that right now, but if you are really serious about coming to the ALMS, we would love to have you. You would be very good for the sport, you would be a very good competitor and we would embrace you.”
Rob has meant a lot to me and a lot to my team. They have raised the bar so high for so many years and we really had to stretch to meet it. But we compete in the most friendly way. I must admit that their victory by mere inches at Elkhart Lake last year is one of my most memorable races. And that is for a race that we did not win! But it was so exciting and I was so proud and pleased. We had gotten a little bit ahead of them for a couple races last year, but they came back and never gave up. They are the epitome of sportsmen and I mean that in the most complimentary way. They are one of the most fundamental reasons that Muscle Milk Greg Pickett Racing has evolved in this kind of racing today. It has been a huge pleasure to compete with Rob over the years and I am looking forward to a great season this year.
Greg and I started racing about the same time, and I watched him and viewed him as my hero. All those sentiments that Greg said about me, I agree with him and return them. I have been in this level of sports cars for thirty years and I have seen several car owners that were great competitors, but I have to say, the Muscle Milk guys, Greg and Penny and Mike and all his crew, it is just great competing with them, and that is what we are here for. When Greg came on the scene, I knew that he was going to put forth a great effort, a total effort. And I knew that he was going to deal with it the way that I think we have to in sports car racing, which is a totally different genre than other racing, in that owners drive their cars and that puts a whole different tilt on the competition and the importance of the idea of being a sportsman. It has been great competition. We have had a great deal of fun and Greg is absolutely right about the Elkhart race last year. But the other offset to that was the year before, 2011, was the also the closest finish in IMSA history (up until last year)r and Greg won that one. The first people after the 2011 race that I went over to congratulate were Greg and his crew and the first people who came over to us last year were Greg and his people. I told Greg last year after the Elkhart race that next year we are going to have to ask Elkhart for appearance money!
You both have had manufacturer involvement at various times, but being privateers has defined your teams over the years. How do you maintain your passion for racing competing against factory efforts?
We had a Porsche Spyder which we won with at Sebring back in 2010 which actually was one of Rob’s cars. We had cooperation with the factory. We got a lot of engineering help – and Rob helped us immensely – he gave us two books on set-up. See, that is what goes on here – Rob and I love to compete with each other but we do it in a true old fashioned way and gallant way – we help each other and anything we can do anytime to help Rob and his team, we do that. I think that privateers have been the backbone over the years. Rob and I appreciate and enjoy the competition with the factories. I applaud them and it is great for me and Rob and we both embrace the factories being here. We do not have the resources and we do not have the money they have, but it is someone to compete against and compete against really hard and it adds a different flavor to it. I think it is something we both enjoy the challenge of. We love being a privateer – literally the little guy trying hard. We were very proud of the fact that last year, with a half hour left in the 12 Hours of Sebring, before the fueling problem with our car, we were scaring Audi a little bit. We were on the same lap and we were having a very good race. Rob ended up winning the IMSA part of the race and that was fine with me.
I think that sometimes sanctioning bodies lose track that privateer owners are the bedrock of car racing. I think that the factories are the icing on the cake and maybe a little bit of the whip cream, but the face of sports car racing are privateers, especially privateers that are as committed to doing a professional job as Greg’s team and my team. I would stack both of our teams up against the factories teams except like he said, we do not have the resources or the ultimate budget. The standards they set in preparation are an important part of sports car racing. The key to all of our efforts has always been to run as hard as we can and win as many races as we can. I think the approach that our respective teams take is to roll out the most competitive car we can. I often say to my guys at the beginning of a race weekend that nobody has won the race yet. If our competitors are going to win, they are going to have to get over the finish line after beating us first. That is the way both Greg and I think. We want to compete and we want to compete hard, but at the same time, we want to compete fair and compete clean. That is one of the great things about competing with Greg is that these guys are great on the track. We have had some very close races over the years and we have never had any issues with drivers or the comportment of both teams either in the pits or on the track. We have had the best of factory support in varying degrees and Greg has had varying degrees of factory support as a driver and owner for a number of years in the various series he has been in. That does not change the way we operate and think about our racing. Just because we have more patches on our suits and more decals on our cars, that does not change us and how we deal with the racing. Mainly because we have been in it so long, we have seen manufactures come and manufacturers go but that does not change the way we race. We are not racing any harder because we are affiliated with Honda or Porsche or Mazda, or Chevy when Greg was in Trans-Am. That does not change anything – you are still getting in there and competing absolutely as hard as you can.
You know, I look back and I have been privileged to have raced against some big factories and big names. From my viewpoint, this transition from driving to team ownership, you never know for sure how that is going to work out, but I must say that I took a page out of Rob’s book. I remember asking him about it at the time and he said “you might enjoy it: the camaraderie, getting a team together, organizing it, helping them win and making them competitive, I think you can satisfy lot of your need for competiveness.’ He said give it a try, so I gave it a try. The fact is, I have enjoyed it, we have a modicum amount of success doing it and believe me, our championship last year, and particularly against the Dyson team, was one of the very fond memories of my racing career and no matter what happens here in the future, I hope that Rob and I will be competing against each other somewhere for a long time to come.