Successful businesses depend on strong leadership, both at the top of the company and on the ground floor. It’s no different in the motorsports world, with a team like SpeedSource employing the same strategy in order to keep pushing its organization to the next level.
While team owner and founder Sylvain Tremblay has been in command of the South Florida-based team since its inception nearly 20 years ago, the rapid expansion of its staff has resulted in the addition of a few key hires to help steer its factory Mazda prototype program.
One of them has been Link Smith, who joined SpeedSource in late 2013 as its new Director of Race Operations.
“When I came down here last September, we hit it off immediately and I knew what Sylvain was trying to build,” Smith told Sportscar365. “I had the same dreams of how we wanted to run this place and manage the guys and get the cars to where we needed to be.”
Smith, who had come off a successful seven-year stint with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, is no stranger to success, having led the small Texas-based squad to a pair of GRAND-AM Daytona Prototype championships.
His newest challenge has been to help prepare SpeedSource, a proven championship-winning team in the GT ranks, for top-level prototype racing, a task that is not taken lightly given the levels of complexity.
“We have Mazda support but it’s up to us to do the job,” Smith said. “You need a good team behind you. You need a group of guys that really understand what they’re doing and do their job very well.
“You can’t have guys that are wishy-washy and are not mentally in the game of what you’re trying to do. You need to have key players in the right places, good engineers, a good engine program and a good car prep shop.”
With a full-time staff of more than 20 crew, along with up to two dozen more fly-ins on race weekends, Smith has a lot to manage, but has kept a clear focus on the priorities.
“Our schedules are tight and we don’t have a whole lot of time at the race track,” he said. “So if you miss a session because you didn’t do something properly, it hurts you in the long run. Everybody understands where we’re coming from and were we’re going.”
Another recent hire within the camp has been Jeff Braun, who came on board as Competition Director in May.
The veteran engineer, who most recently worked with Level 5 Motorsports, has been brought in to help pool resources and expertise together to keep SpeedSource a well-oiled operation.
“We’re working really hard on implementing specific team procedures on everything from pit stops to race preparation, to what engineering tasks have to be done before each race,” Braun said. “We’re bringing that together, along with the engine department.”
With more than 30 years of industry experience, Braun has been able to introduce new protocols within the team, including its interaction with partners such as Multimatic, which has opened the door for further collaborative efforts in the car’s development.
“We’ve made very steady improvements in performance but I think the biggest gains have come from the internal operations of the team,” he said.
“As Sylvain told me, he wants to get the team to operate like a top prototype team in the world, so when we [complete the car development] we’re ready to win races. We’re trying to make sure we’re ahead of the curve on that.”
Although still early on in its five-year development program with Mazda, the results are already starting to show on the track, with the SKYACTIV-D-powered diesel prototypes not only proving to now be reliable, but also showcasing improved pace.
“As everyone knew in the beginning, we broke a lot of parts, just by running the cars,” Smith said. “There were times where we couldn’t even get out of pit lane and make it into Turn 1.
“We’ve come a long way, if we look back from January. We now know that we can go run and finish races. We’ve got the motivation now because we know it’s coming along and it’s getting better.
“At the end of the day, I think these guys need to be proud of what we’re doing here because it’s something nobody else is trying. When we do have good results and a good run, they should feel proud and happy to be part of this program.”