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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis May 17, 2013
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Franchitti: Individuals Win Races, Teams Win Championships
What do buses and racecars have in common? They both rely on teamwork to operate safely and efficiently. Dario Franchitti, four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, the featured speaker at the Closing General Session of APTA’s Bus & Paratransit Conference, talked about this subject.

Ryan J. Larsen, president, IntelliRide Division, Veolia Transportation, sponsor of the session, welcomed the crowd. Then APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and Franchitti chatted about the role of team building, excellence, and performance in contributing to the success of their respective industries.

Referring to a video of Franchitti’s 2007 win at Indy that played at the opening of the session, Melaniphy asked the driver how he celebrates a win with his team.

“My favorite part of winning is not crossing the finish line,” said Franchitti. “It’s pulling into Victory Lane and seeing friends, family, and my team. You realize how hard they work, the hours and sacrifices they’ve had to make. But we’re all living our dream. To share that is special.”

In response to a question about management style, Franchitti replied that team owner Chip Ganassi “puts the right people in the right positions and lets them get on with it. He doesn’t micromanage the team. He lets them do their job.” This, he said, provides the motivation the team members need.

A successful team, Franchitti said, has a certain attitude: “Each person must hold up their own end of the bargain. Nobody want to be that weakling in that chain; you want to operate at a high level at all times.” There’s no better environment than a competition, he said, to get the best out of people.

Melaniphy noted that, in racing, decisions have to be made literally in milliseconds. He asked Franchitti to talk about the pressure this creates for a team and how to handle wins and losses.

Franchitti agreed that “massive amount of the pressure builds” right before a race, and spoke about learning from losses. “We all make mistakes,” he said. “But it’s how you recover that matters. And you know not to make that mistake the next year.”
He emphasized that—whether it be in public transit or in racing—individuals have to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
“You have good days and bad days. But what you do as a leader is what ultimately brings that team back,” he said. “My way is, tell the guys, ‘You’ve won before; I know you can do it again. Go back to what you do best.’ I try to build the guys up again. These guys have the desire to be the best. They are perfectionists. Part of teamwork is making sure the right people are in the right job.”

Melaniphy talked about the importance of logistics in the transportation industry and Franchitti recounted some stories of how bad weather shut down planes that were carrying the racecars, yet the cars made it to the track three hours before the race. He also mentioned one time  team members had to throw out their clothes to make room in their luggage for priceless shock absorbers. “We do whatever it takes,” he said.

Technology plays a critical role in public transportation, and Melaniphy asked Franchitti about its importance in his field. “Safety is always something to keep ahead of,” he added. He related how technology is so refined in his field that “they can tell when I take a drink of water in my car. My weight is checked just as every movement of my wheel is documented. The more details they have, the faster they can make the cars go.”


Dario Franchitti, center, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, pictured with some audience members onstage following his remarks at the Closing General Session.

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