Hindery, Baron & Lieb
Three Of A Kind At Orbit

The Saturday of the Le Mans Test Weekend was as good a chance as any to catch up with Leo Hindery (middle), Peter Baron (left) and Marc Lieb – three of the perfectionists at Orbit. Rodger Hawley was busying himself elsewhere at the time, while Tim Munday, the fifth of many perfectionists in the team, was working away on the Orbit 911 GT3-RS.

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dailysportscar.comTim Munday was actually completing set-up work on the Porsche, using equipment supplied by Intercomp: Orbit (and some other teams) now carry out their set-up without having conventional wheels fitted. Why is that, Leo Hindery?

“We’ve never come across a floor that was perfectly flat. So we have to create one. This system gives us the perfect measurements. We have to be this precise because we want the set-up to be absolutely right, and because the GT3-RS is so aero sensitive.”

Leo explained that the Le Mans chassis – 692065 – had yet to turn a wheel in anger: “She’s done a lap of the roads around Orbit’s workshop, but until tomorrow, she hasn’t turned a wheel on a circuit. All we’ve done is ship it from Germany to Florida, work on it, then ship it right here.”

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And before anyone else gets in a muddle between the Le Mans and Sebring chassis, the two GT3-RSs are as follows:
2002 car #42 (Sebring) WPOZZZ99 Z2S 692065
2003 car #87 (Le Mans) WPOZZZ99 Z3S 692065

Orbit’s ‘history’ is interesting, as is study of their results in year one (their first full year), 2001. A feeling that the team must have suddenly turned a corner somewhere is born out by the results. For example, two ALMS races entered, qualified 19th at Sebring, 11th at Petit Le Mans. Eight Grand Am races entered, typically qualifying in the mid-teens (in GT) early on in the season, but well into the top ten late in the season. 2002 saw a switch to the full ALMS season (plus Le Mans, their debut in France) plus the opening and closing races of the Grand Am season, and through the bulk of the ALMS events the lead Orbit car was typically qualifying fifth in class.

dailysportscar.comLeo Hindery: “We underestimated how long it would take to come together as a team. By the last quarter of 2001, we’d begun to develop our association with Porsche, we’d learned how to pay attention to our equipment, and we’d developed the personnel on the team. Once we started out on the full ALMS season last year, we realised that you have to treat it as a year round series, not just a season of races. You need to employ the staff even when you’re not racing the cars. Orbit isn’t a team that employs people just to work at weekends. The stability we’ve developed with Michelin and Porsche have also been major factors in the way we’ve developed, of course.”

Peter Baron has been driving for the team since the first events in 2000, and he concurs that the progression in performance really started at the Petit Le Mans in 2001. “That’s where Rodger really began to develop the car, away from just a stock Porsche. The basic car was 47 kg overweight, and that was something that had to be addressed. If you look at our times from Daytona 2001 to Daytona 2002, we gained three seconds a lap.”

So what has been attended to on chassis 692065? “Tim and the crew have spent 1,000 hours working on it since it arrived from Porsche,” says Leo Hindery. “You’ve got to understand that Rodger is an anally retentive perfectionist. Then Tim Munday takes over and asks how we can do this quicker or better. That’s why Orbit have made such progress in such a short period of time.”

There’s also the ‘Porsche driver factor’: Orbit have Marc Lieb on the driving strength for this year. Oddly, he’s the rookie at Le Mans, Leo Hindery and Peter Baron having raced in France last year, with Tony Kester.

That event made quite an impact on the three rookies then, Peter Baron having built a relationship with the fans opposite the Orbit pit by “firing T-shirts at them on the Friday evening, using a rocket launcher outside our garage, in pit-lane.” One experienced observer, not with Orbit, made the point last weekend that the Le Mans organisers don’t realise what an event they have on their hands: it took some Americans to come up with a novel event on Friday last year – expect more of the same next month. “Last year we were getting to know the fans opposite our pit by sight. I expect we’ll see some of them back again for the race.”

Leo Hindery made the interesting observation that “everyone here, at this race, is here because they want to be. The fan in the stand is as committed, in his own way, as Marc Lieb. It’s the same with this team: everyone is here because they’ve chosen to be, they’re all happy in their chosen role, none of them are envious of what we do out on the track, and the competition is between entries in sportscar racing – no team resents any other team.”

Perhaps the Orbit mechanics are happier in their roles than they would be if they had to carry out some of the business tasks that Leo Hindery has responsibility for. Does high pressure work in the boardroom ever impact upon your racing, Leo? “There was one event when I had to make the decision to take myself out of the driving. I’d been working so hard, under so much pressure, that I didn’t feel competent to go out and drive properly. But normally, it’s a matter of getting in the car and feeling completely detached from weekday worries. That’s where I want to be, in the car, racing.”

Inevitably, much of his year is spent doing other things: he’s the CEO and founder of the Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network, which features heavily on the Porsche’s bodywork, and also has ownership interests in Petty Enterprises. Leo’s book, which he co-authored, is entitled “The Biggest Game Of All: The Inside Strategies, Tactics, And Temperaments That Make Great Dealmakers Great”.

“You ought to read that book,” says Peter Baron. “No, you’ve gotta read that book.”

For Peter, there’s no danger that he won’t be fit to get in a race car. “Oh no, I’m building up to it from the Monday or Tuesday before a race. Everything else stops when there’s a race meeting coming up.”

Peter Baron could have headed into a tennis career, but realised he wasn’t “one of the seven or eight naturally blessed people.” Tennis got him through college though, with degrees in finance and economics, which help him play a role with budgets for the race team. “We can tick and tie to the penny where we spend our money,” he says, “and we can pick and choose where to spend pennies better.” Such as firing t-shirts at the crowd, Peter?

Marc Lieb ambled into the conversation: calm, charming, thoughtful – but terribly quick out on the track. He began his career with the team by taking pole at the Rolex 24, followed that up with second fastest at Sebring – only to be relegated to the back of the grid, not as we initially thought because of a tiny fracture in the rear wing support, which allowed the wing to move, but because the ground clearance was marginally too small. “By the time we went through technical inspection, we had lost about four pounds of pressure on all the tires and it lowered the car to a millimeter off the specified height,” explained Tim Munday at the time. “It's disappointing, but those are the rules and we always abide by them."

Have you been around the Le Mans track Marc? “Yes, I’ve seen most of it. The priority will be to learn the circuit, with all the bends and corners.”

Marc is a self-confessed Bob Wollek fan: “I only just got to know him. I met him two or three times. He was great to listen to.

“The reason why I like driving for Orbit is simple: they are all great people! Everybody knows what he has to do. The car is always well-prepared and if you tell them the car needs different parts or whatever, they make the biggest effort to get them. The other thing is, it is so much fun with the whole team. The atmosphere is great, everybody is so nice. When I first met the team in Daytona at the pretest, I already felt like I had been on the team for three years. They know it is important to have fun, but they also don't forget that it is hard business where you have to be very professional.”

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In testing a day later, Marc Lieb set a very impressive 4:13.141 on his first visit to the eight mile monster of a circuit. “The track was quite easy to learn. I expected it to be a bit harder. It’s a great track. It's like three tracks - down to the Mulsanne Straight, you look at your time and you have already done one minute 30 [seconds], which is a normal lap time, and you still have to go three-quarters of the rest of the lap. it's just amazing. At Mulsanne, the radio isn't working anymore, you're so far away from the pits!"

Third quickest in class on the day – but probably not relevant next month, because Marc didn’t use qualifying tyres. “We’ll hopefully contend for the pole,” says Peter Baron.

We’ll run into this delightful bunch at Scrutineering on June 9 or 10. In the meantime, with the Porsche staying in France, what are Rodger Hawley, Tim Munday and co. going to be doing? No doubt they’ll have plenty to get on with. Orbit Racing doesn’t just go racing: there’s a high performance Porsche parts distributorship, and plenty of work looking after their customers’ road cars.

That should mean a break from the stresses of racing for a month, but once Le Mans week is underway, that will signal the start of the rest of the season – a 24 hour race and eight ALMS races in the space of just four months. For Marc Lieb, there are about 20 races on his schedule this year! Next stop Sicily, for the FIA GT Championship.
MC

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