How doing your best can differ from going all out

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 November, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 November, 1994, 12:00am

IT'S normally a case of 'who dares wins' in the rubber-burning, nerve-singeing world of motorsport.

The publicity people continually trumpet the majestic men in their magnificent machines angle, not forgetting the ever-present element of mortality as the co-driver.

Mix that in with fumes, noise, speed and its bedmate power and add a squeeze or two of testosterone and you have a pretty powerful cocktail that goes by the somewhat suggestive name of 'Grand Prix'.

Anyone who has ever been in Macau when the streets are transformed into a race track or witnessed a Formula One event live will testify to the overpowering nature of the whole zoom scenario and admit to being blown away by the ability and bravery of people who drive so quickly their eyes pop out of their sockets.

But there's much more to motorsport than man and machine. At the end of the day it's purely about selling cars and products which effectively hands control to the sponsors and manufacturers that back the teams.

That mastery manifests itself when championships, not just races, are at stake. There's more prestige and mileage in winning the 'World' or 'Asian' whatever than merely one leg of a series, so team orders come into play.

Driver B, who is faster on the day but has no chance of winning overall, is told to pull over to allow Driver A, his teammate, to take the laurels.

At the RAC Rally in Britain last week, Scotland's Colin McRae was resigned to being cast in the role of Driver B. He was leading the Rally going into the last day but his team was expected to take him aside and tell him to deliver victory to teammate Carlos Sainz so the Spaniard would be assured of the world drivers' crown.

As it was, somebody put a spanner in the works - or more accurately a log on the road - and Sainz was forced out, McRae duly recorded his win, Didier Auriol became champion and lot of embarrassing questions were left unasked.

A similar situation in Macau last weekend did not stop an inquisitive Japanese journalist from directing a few awkward questions towards England's Steve Soper after his second place behind team buddy Joachim Winkelhock in the Guia Race.

Why, the press man wanted to know, did not Soper try that little bit harder to edge past Winkelhock and did the fact that winning both legs of the race gave Winkelhock triumph in the Asia Pacific Touring Car Championship have anything to do with his reluctance? That put Soper in a lather but he maintained that there were no team orders.

A week earlier in Adelaide another team-over-personal-glory conflict was avoided when Michael Schumacher ended Damon Hill's race with that now infamous shunt. If it was not for that, millions of viewers worldwide could well have seen eventual winner Nigel Mansell giving his fellow Williams driver every opportunity to take the chequered flag and the world title.

It's a situation that will, doubtless, arise again in a sport that depends totally on the manufacturers' millions to survive. Fraud, pragmatism, commercial reality, call it what you may, but the fact remains that it's not always the best driver in the best car who dares and wins.