Mid-Ohio Test Is Strong For Dyson Racing
New Tires & Electronics Help Provide Record Speeds
POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, April 22, 2004 -- Dyson Racing today completed a three-day tire test for Goodyear at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Both of the team's Thetford / Norcold Lolas and all four regular team drivers participated in the test, which featured both sunny and soaking wet conditions. During the dry sessions each drivers turned lap times well below the pole-winning standard from the track's most recent American Le Mans Series race in 2002. The ALMS's next race meet, June 25-27, will be held at the challenging Midwestern road circuit.
"The results of the test were very encouraging," said team owner Rob Dyson, who also drove some laps during the final day of the test. "On Tuesday the weather was good and both of the cars were under the time the pole-winning Audi set in 2002. We had cooler weather, which was an advantage, but the Audis and everyone else now race with 10% smaller air restrictors. Overall, I think this was a pretty fair test, and I believe that we'll be very competitive when we come back here in June."
The Audis and the Dyson Lolas previously raced in different classes, but a realignment over the winter now puts both in head-to-head competition for overall race victories in the new LMP1 class.
Team manager Randall Kelsey said the substantial improvements in the Lolas' performance came principally from two areas, tire performance and engine mapping. "Our partners at Goodyear and Advanced Engine Research (AER) have made great progress, as our results here demonstrate. All of our drivers, James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger in the #20 car, and Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson in #16, were pleased with the tires that Goodyear has developed, especially the new rain tires, and with the responsiveness of the engine with the new mapping in the management computer."
The Mid-Ohio test also marked the first extensive trial of the team's new paddle-shift set-up, which allows the driver to upchange gears without taking his hand off the steering wheel or lifting his foot off the throttle. The system, developed by AER over the winter, was tested briefly prior to the season-opening event at Sebring last month, but was not used during the 12-hour race.
Chris Dyson, the 2003 ALMS LMP675 champion, noted that the paddle-shift system complemented the Lola's performance advantages at Mid-Ohio. "Our car is particularly good in high-speed corners and under heavy braking, and Mid-Ohio has lots of fast turns and then a couple of places where you brake hard for a slow corner after a long straight. With the paddle-shift, you can really focus on braking. This system is worth a couple of tenths (of a second) per lap, but its real advantage is in traffic. It gives you more opportunities to get by slower traffic. I think its real advantage will be seen over an entire stint."
Most other front-line teams in the ALMS, including the Audis, adopted paddle-shift mechanisms as early as three years ago. But light weight is the Lola's primary advantage, and the penalty of even ten pounds that a typical paddle-shift mechanism exacts would have been a disadvantage.
The new system developed by AER minimizes the weight disadvantage while providing all of the performance advantages. "We also expect that our reliability will be better with this new system. It essentially eliminates the possibility of a missed shift, and overall is easier on the transmission," said Kelsey. "It would have been tempting to run the paddle-shift at Sebring, but we wanted to do the kind of extensive test we have this week before racing with the system."
Le Mans Pre-Qualifying
Chris Dyson left the track immediately following the conclusion of the test for a red-eye flight to France, where he will be participating this weekend in pre-qualifying for the Le Mans 24-hour race. Dyson will be co-driving with former Le Mans winner Jan Lammers in the "Racing For Holland" Dome-Judd.