Dyson Racing to skip Le Mans, focus on ALMS
Braselton, GA - Many of the top racing teams in the American Le Mans Series are currently out of the country, preparing to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month in France. Following the running of the race, the teams will hurriedly return their cars, equipment and personnel to North America for the resumption of the ALMS season.
But not Dyson Racing. The June 25-27 ALMS event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will kick off a string of five races in seven weeks for the professional sports car racing series. Having already tested at Mid-Ohio and at Canada's Mosport International Raceway, with more testing planned, Dyson Racing is using the downtime in the ALMS schedule to be as prepared as possible for the run to the ALMS title.
While some of our competitors are preoccupied with getting ready for Le Mans next month, we are focusing on preparing for a series of eight races in 17 weeks, beginning at Mid-Ohio less than two weeks after Le Mans," said team owner Rob Dyson. The team fields a pair of Lola EX257-AER/MG Prototypes in the LMP1 class of the series, with James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger co-driving the #16 car and Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace sharing #20.
"There's no question, Le Mans is the top sports car race in the world, and I cherish my memories of racing there," he said. "We did take a serious look at racing there this year but we decided to pass on it. Ultimately, our series is in North America; it's where our sponsors are and where their customers are. For Dyson Racing, the top priority is to win races and championships here. So, we decided to put our resources into making our cars faster and more reliable for the ALMS."
"While some of our competitors are preoccupied with getting ready for Le Mans next month, we are focusing on preparing for a series of eight races in 17 weeks, beginning at Mid-Ohio less than two weeks after Le Mans," said team owner Rob Dyson. The team fields a pair of Lola EX257-AER/MG Prototypes in the LMP1 class of the series, with James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger co-driving the #16 car and Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace sharing #20.
Last year, the Dyson cars raced in what was then called the LMP 675 class for smaller, less-powerful Prototypes, but the team shocked the sports car racing world by taking the overall race win in the ALMS event at California's Infineon Raceway, as well as multiple overall race pole positions. In doing so, the Dyson cars beat the powerful and fast cars of the LMP 900 class.
The Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans upon which the ALMS is based, and the writer of the rules for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the ALMS, changed the Prototype classifications for 2004. What had been known as the LMP 900 class is now known as LMP1 and includes not only the cars that had been in LMP 900 but also the more sophisticated cars from what had been the LMP 675 class, including the Dyson Lola-MG cars. The remaining cars from the former LMP 675 class are now in the renamed LMP2 class.
"Our team's goal this year is to win the ALMS team and driver championships," said Chris Dyson. "It was very gratifying for me to win the LMP 675 driver championship last year and for Dyson Racing to win the team championship.
But now that the Thetford/Norcold Lolas are competing head-to-head with the Audis and last year's other LMP 900 cars, we have to keep stepping up our program," he said. "We made a lot of progress over the winter, but our experience at Sebring in March (the 2004 ALMS season opener in which both cars had mechanical problems) suggested areas for further progress for the team and our technical partners.
"The 90-day break in the ALMS schedule for Le Mans gives us a terrific opportunity to continue our development program, and it was the team's judgment that we should make the best use we could of those three months."
In its testing sessions, the team has worked on such areas as tire performance and engine mapping. The Mid-Ohio session also marked the team's first extensive test of its new paddle-shift setup, which allows the driver to upshift and downshift gears without taking his hands off the steering wheel or his foot off the throttle. While many other cars in the ALMS have used such a system for several seasons, the Dyson team stayed with a traditional shifter until a paddle system could be developed that would not add weight to the light and nimble Lola-MG.
"Because you learn things in races that you just never do in testing, it's almost as if we have a second winter break," said Randall Kelsey, Dyson Racing team manager. "We've been able to work with our primary technical partners, Goodyear and Advance Engine Research, to continue the development programs we worked on over the winter. Being able to race at Sebring, and compare ourselves directly with the competition has made our tests at Mid-Ohio and Mosport much more productive."
While Dyson Racing will remain in America, Wallace and Chris Dyson will drive for other teams at Le Mans, with Dyson making his debut in the famed event driving for veteran Jam Lammers' Racing for Holland team. Wallace will drive for the factory Zytek team, also in the LMP1 class.
"On a personal level, I want to race at Le Mans," Chris Dyson said. "It's what Indianapolis is for open-wheel racers and Daytona is for stock car drivers. I'm a sports car racer, so I want to compete at Le Mans. For me, this is the best of both worlds; the Dyson team is able to apply all of its resources toward winning the ALMS championship, and I've been invited to drive at Le Mans with a team that will be fully competitive."
American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio will be Round Two of the 2004 season for the ALMS and will include a two-hour, 45-minute timed event on Sunday, June 27. The race will be televised live by CBS Sports in North America and MotorsTV in Europe and will be broadcast live by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web online at www.americanlemans.com.
Ticket information for the Mid-Ohio event is available online at www.americanlemans.com or by calling 1-800-MID-OHIO.