SN: Building a great team requires great people. And hiring great people always means choosing a balance between raw talent and deep experience. I have always leaned toward talent-my approach is hiring people with the strongest basic skills, intelligence, and drive, and then to mold them into a strong unit. I was fortunate in having a great balance in the first group that came onboard. Tommy Sadler, Craig Watkins, and Johannes all had great skill and focus, and enough high-level pro racing experience to keep us oriented. But they had very little history in the way of building and managing a strong team. The choice I made was to take the time and effort to teach that, building on their racing past. As we added people, we made very selective choices from people we knew, adding both great skill without experience-Eric for example-and great skill with world-class experience-Thomas Blam, our chief strategist, comes to mind. I couldn't be more proud of the group we have today.
JvO: I had worked with each person in the founding group earlier in my career. Each was an exceptional talent in his respective field, and over the last six years I think we've grown into a very integrated and efficient group.
ec: Are there evaluations at the end of the season as far as job performance?
SN: Yes. All the key managers have annual goals that we evaluate as the season progresses. They each have one-on-one reviews with me throughout the season, and a team and individual level review at the end of the year. Because of the schedule, the mid-season elements are less regular than in a conventional business, but the basic elements are still there.
JvO: It's a continuous process. At the track, we use every session. What did we learn? What can we do better? Away from the track, we meet regularly to make plans, decisions, and so on.
ec: There usually are two scenarios for a new team. Go with the tested car and pay your dues or get something different right out of the box simply for the publicity. You went with the tested car by choosing Porsche. Were other scenarios considered?
SN: Not really. Porsche was our first choice and remains so. If you want to be competitive over a number of years at this level, you need to be involved with a manufacturer that is as committed to winning as you are. Of course we review our options every season, but Porsche is one of a few companies that has demonstrated its commitment and staying power to race at the top. We couldn't be happier with our working relationship with them.
JvO: Before joining Flying Lizard, I had a relationship with Porsche and knew about its commitment to success and to its customers. With all the other variables in starting a team, it didn't make much sense to go with an untested car or deal with a company that didn't have a long track record in sports car racing.
ec: When did you personally feel that the team crossed that mental threshold of no longer being part of the field and was a major player?
SN: We were surprised to win early, at Mid-Ohio, our second race in the ALMS. And we have always been in the championship hunt. But the threshold you describe is not really part of our thinking. We know that staying in the hunt requires both long-term focus and week-by-week performance. So while we expect to be very tough competitors and to get the most out of the team and the technology, we always ask ourselves what must be done better, and are forever mindful of how close the field is, how big a role luck plays, and how every weekend other teams are doing important things better than we are. Risi Competizione, Farnbacher Loles, Pratt and Miller, Rahal Letterman-they are all capable of winning at any time.