The Unfair Advantage
by Mark Donohue
Excellence - April 2001
The phrases "it's back" or "but wait, there's more" rarely turn out to mean anything good. But in this case, the return of The Unfair Advantage means everything good. This classic telling of the racing career of Mark Donohue was originally published in 1975, just after Donohue's "retirement" from active racing. Beginning with Donohue's initial involvement in racing, it follows the path that took him from his first hillclimb in an unmodified Corvette to his domination of the 1973 Can-Am series with the amazing Porsche 917/30.
First and foremost, the reader gains a real sense of who Donohue was through his direct and honest view of life, racing, and the people involved in motorsports in the sixties and seventies. Also documented is the birth of the engineering approasch to race car development. Donohue, as a graduate of Brown University with a BS in mechanical engineering, brought to his work the insights and analytical approaches of a mechanical engineer. If a race car was not performing as he desired it to. Donohue would think his way through the problem.
Particularly interesting for Porsche aficionados are the chapters relating to Donohue's work with Porsche engineer Helmut Flogl on the 917/30 that eventually put the whole of Can-Am racing on its ear. It becomes clear that Donohue's analytical approach to cars in general, made a very formidible team.
The Unfair Advantage will particularly appeal to readers with amateur racing experience, as Donohue delineates the trials and tribulations that challenge an amateur racer's resolve. Also included is a behind-the-scenes look at Mark Donohue and Roger Penske foibles while racing some of the most important cars of the sixties and seventies. They made the same mistakes we all have, with the same "misfortunes" as a result.
This rereleased Unfair Advantage reinforces the original text with a wealth of new pictures and a chronology, as well as quotes from those who knew Donohue. As the book has been out of print for a long time, it's great that Donohue's sons, Michael and David, took it upon themselves to enusure that this important piece of racing lore is available again for all to enjoy.
If only the ending were different. Knowing that, just after writing the epilogue, Donohue died in a Formula One Penske during a warm-up for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix only emphasizes just how expensive motorsports can be. But at least Donohue left behind this window into some wonderful moments of racing history and two sons with a desire to share it with us again.
?Rick and Betsy Glesner