Mid-Ohio: Dyson Racing preview

Summer Season Starts at Mid-Ohio Dyson Racing Ready as ALMS Swings Into High Gear POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, June 23, 2004 - After a three-month hiatus, the American Le Mans Series begins its prime summer season with the running of the American...

Summer Season Starts at Mid-Ohio
Dyson Racing Ready as ALMS Swings Into High Gear

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, June 23, 2004 - After a three-month hiatus, the American Le Mans Series begins its prime summer season with the running of the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, and the Dyson Racing team is ready to race. The ALMS season opened with the Sebring 12-hour classic in March, the weekend of the vernal equinox, and now runs its second race a few days after the summer solstice.

"We've spent the time between (the season-opener at) Sebring and Mid-Ohio testing and developing our cars," said Randall Kelsey, Dyson Racing team manager. "Our primary competitors raced at Le Mans, two weeks ago, and spent most of the break preparing for that race, shipping their cars back and forth and now they've had to rebuild them after a 24-hour race."

Not that the Dyson team hasn't been busy, according to team principal Rob Dyson. Trading off participation in the world's most famous sportscar endurance race let the team focus on preparing the team's Thetford / Norcold Lolas for the four races that take place in the five week span beginning this weekend.

"Le Mans is a great race," Dyson noted, "and I'm proud to have competed there during my own driving career. And I'm pleased that two of our drivers (Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace) were able to drive there this year. But I'm glad that they were driving for other teams. In the meantime we've been able to test at Mid-Ohio, Mosport and Lime Rock. We're fresh, focused on the task at hand, and ready to go. Our competitors might be a little tired, and now they've got to shift gears and get ready for the heart of the ALMS season. That could be of some advantage to our team.

"Mid-Ohio is important to us," Dyson said. "Our friends at Thetford / Norcold are entertaining a lot of their customers this weekend, and Mid-Ohio is the home track for Goodyear, with whom Dyson Racing has had a strong partnership for over 20 years. We want to do well there."

Kelsey detailed some of the development work that Dyson and its primary technical partners, Goodyear and Advanced Engine Research, have accomplished. "We've done a lot of work with Goodyear on tire development, and we're quite happy with the progress we've made together, both on dry and wet tires. With AER we've worked on developing the paddle-shift system, engine mapping and a number of other details. We had some small problems at Sebring, and this break has given us time to address them, and make substantial improvements."

David & Goliath?

Wallace and James Weaver won at Mid-Ohio for Dyson Racing in 1998, but only one of them can win this time around. Wallace is teamed with Chris Dyson this season in the team's #20 car, while Weaver pairs with Butch Leitzinger in the #16. Last season Weaver and Leitzinger drove their Thetford / Norcold Lola LMP 675 entry to overall victory at the Sonoma, Calif., ALMS event, beating the all-conquering Audi R8s that dominated the larger and faster LMP 900 category.

This year ALMS technical rules combine the old LMP 900 and LMP 675 classes into one category, LMP-1, so the Audis and Lolas race head-to-head. Weaver doesn't think that the team's Lolas should be rated underdogs, though.

"Even last season we were pretty good at matching the Audis for pure speed," Weaver noted. "Where we fell short sometimes was in reliability. The Audis have been refined over several years, while our Lolas were basically new cars. We learned a lot last year, and the break between seasons gave us the chance to more fully develop our cars. I wouldn't call Sebring a test weekend, but coming in front of a three-month break it did give us a chance to see how much progress we'd made over the winter. And now we're ready to start the main part of our season."

Weaver believes that the Thetford / Norcold Lolas will be particularly strong this weekend. "Mid-Ohio suits our cars particularly well. We're strongest in fast corners and under braking, and this is a track that has several fast corners and a couple of places where you brake down from quite high speed. I'll be disappointed if we're not setting the pace."

-dr-

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