[August 12, 2019] In the early 1970s, I took my turn to compete in several motorsport races that took place on rarely-traveled public roads in West Texas. The favored name at the time was Rally Sports.1 These were grueling races that tested the limits of the automobile and the driver because of long distances, varying terrain, and non-stop except for gasoline. It was my first introduction to rally leaders and how they made a calling of the sport.
Only a few years later, I would join the U.S. Army and take upon myself to ask for Mechanized Infantry as my calling. Both rally sports and Infantry as professions have much in common. They are both exciting (due to the dangers), unforgettable, and winners are held in high regard by those in the know. To me, it was the thrill of driving against 20 or as much as 40 other drivers in a variety of cars and on-road circuits that could lead anywhere. The goal was to beat the time of your competitors. You had to be good at map reading since there were no GPS devices invented at the time.
Preparation for the race was essential. Usually, there was a team leader who ran the overall operation. That wasn’t me, but my friend Jonnie, who had rally sports running in his blood, had volunteered to do all the coordination and oversee the special preparation for the car. I was the driver and simply loved the rush of air past my helmet and speed of my car; a 1965 Ford Mustang.
None of my relatives knew I was doing this and they would have objected, surely. That’s why I never told them. My maternal grandmother, bigmama, was opposed to any “dangerous” activity of mine, and although I told her a lot about what I was doing, this activity was close-hold. There wasn’t much money in rally sports. The costs exceeded any winnings that we earned on the team. I never played any sport for the money, just for the excitement to be on a winning team.
That is what leadership is about and why Jonnie did what he wanted to do. He was great. He kept us laughing (or crying), pumped-up for the next race, and would occasionally give us a boot in the rear whenever he thought we were behind in our readiness. Jonnie was the kind of man who you would follow anywhere. He was a kind man with a large family. He would do anything for you, just for the asking. Jonnie was a leader, and I am honored to have known him.
Rally is a form of motorsport that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. It is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages. Excerpt taken from Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rallying