Warren Bennis, one of the leading proponents of the belief that people-oriented, democratic-style leaders are the most effective, noted “the successful leader will not have the loudest voice but the readiest ear. Their aptitude may well lie not, not in personal achievement, but in unleashing other people’s talent.”
At Dyson Racing, Michael White has gone from washing race wheels to being team manger. “I see myself more as a support person. One of my favorite sayings is from General Patton who said, ‘Don’t tell a man how to do a job, tell him what you want done and let him surprise you with his ingenuity.”
While Mike’s people skills come naturally, his mechanical ability was more self taught. “From the time I was a little kid, I was always taking things apart. My grandfather was a contractor so he had all kinds of tools and equipment. Invariably, I would be out there with a screw driver working on his equipment. It drove my grandmother crazy because I could take it apart, but of course, could not put it back together. I was one of those kids who at seven years old was looking in the Sears catalog at all the mini bikes, and go karts, day dreaming about having one. The first vehicle I ever had was a Suzuki TM 75 that I bought for 30 bucks. I earned those 30 dollars by selling worms to the focal fisherman at our nearby lake. My mother bought a gross of Styrofoam cups and lids and I went out and sold them at a little road-side stand. That was the first real machine I owned and of course it had to be taken apart and painted and modified.”
Mike grew up near Lime Rock Park. He followed IMSA GTP racing and would be at the track early on Wednesday during race weekends, before any on-track activities, watching the teams set up. The first race car he worked on was an ex-Danny Sullivan March 78B Formula Atlantic car owned by Mike Agnifilo. It was in boxes and he helped put it together in the beginning of 1989. He worked for the local racer through 1994. In October of ’94, he picked up a Skip Barber Race Series flyer at Bridgehampton (the same flyer that was on Jerry Seinfeld’s TV show refrigerator). He worked at Skip Barber for five months when he got the call to work for Rob Dyson and the team he had long admired. He started out cleaning wheels and worked at most every team job including pit set-up, junior mechanic, car chief, data acquisition, gearbox, and damper technician. He managed the Atlantic program in 2004 and ‘05, and became team manager in 2008.
“One of the special things about working for the Dysons is that your abilities are trusted. Rob tells you what he wants to accomplish and he lets you go. He gives you enough rope to pull the wagon in the right direction.
“I consider myself very lucky to be involved in racing. It allows me to be around a group of people that are way smarter than I am. That is an education you don’t get sitting in a classroom. To me, that is one of the most attractive things about being in professional racing: the brilliance of some of the people you get to rub shoulders with.”