AN INTERVIEW WITH DYSON RACING'S BUTCH LEITZINGER Braselton, Ga. - The American Le Mans Series' season opener at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring revealed many things to many teams over its grueling course. What it demonstrated to Dyson ...
AN INTERVIEW WITH DYSON RACING'S BUTCH LEITZINGER
Braselton, Ga. - The American Le Mans Series' season opener at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring revealed many things to many teams over its grueling course. What it demonstrated to Dyson Racing's No. 16 and No. 20 Lola EX257 LMP1 entries could have season-long ramifications.
The Dyson machines have for some time been among the ALMS' fastest, but reliability issues proved the team's undoing on more than one occasion. The No. 16, to be piloted at the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta on April 17 by road-racing experts Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver, conquered Sebring despite spending time off the track when a rock went through its radiator. Reliability, however, was never an issue with the car as it went on to finish third overall.
Leitzinger, an 11-year Dyson Racing member, talked on several topics leading up to the second race in the ALMS' 10-race campaign.
Question: What was the team's reaction to the Lola's performance at Sebring?
Answer: We sailed through Sebring without a mechanical (problem) of any kind, so all of us were pretty happy about that. Now, the rock going through the radiator (resulting in a 35-minute repair), there is nothing you can do about that. That's racing luck. There wasn't any one thing you could blame. In a situation like that, you just take it and move on.
Q: How would you describe the current development of the car?
A: We had a lot of development in the past, but there has been even more of it now. The Lola has always been fast, one of the fastest cars in the ALMS. We've had horrible reliability in the past. We (now) have a serious program in place, and it's made the engine and electrical components much more bulletproof. We have made a lot of progress, and the Michelin tires have been a big help, too. (The Dyson team is another convert to Michelins.) We're now able to double-stint the tires, like the Audis do, and that gives us a big advantage. You see Michelin's tires in every form of racing, and I'm not sure if it's the technology, the compounding or a combination of the two. But Michelin seems to understand tires better than anyone else in the world.
Q: What has the current development program told you about the car?
A: A lot of it is just learning the car, as part of the testing process. You run it, see what breaks, and then address those issues. The difference from the drawing board to reality can sometimes be pretty stark. Engineering looks good on paper, but paper isn't able to take in the (intangibles), the things that happen on the race track. That is why so few cars win right out of the box.
Q: What does coming back to Road Atlanta mean for you?
A: I have been coming here since I was 5 years old. I remember the first time I came here. I was watching just outside the last turn, which is a serious stretch of circuit. The first time I drove here, that turn was intimidating. It's a flat-out 160 mph turn with a pretty large wall right on the outside. With the different classes, there is a lot of passing (going on) through that, and all of your attention has to be focused there. There is little or no margin for error. I've spun off a few times. As soon as you start to lose control, you just try to avoid hitting the wall. And since it's right by pit lane, everyone can see you. Road Atlanta is right up there with the best road courses in the world.