Pondering Portland Dyson Team Faces Unknowns as ALMS Comes to Oregon POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, July 21, 2004 - It's been three years since the American Le Mans Series has visited Portland International Raceway, and five since a Dyson Racing entry has...
Dyson Team Faces Unknowns as ALMS Comes to Oregon
POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, July 21, 2004 - It's been three years since the American Le Mans Series has visited Portland International Raceway, and five since a Dyson Racing entry has taken the green flag there. But Chris Dyson's experience driving a Toyota Formula Atlantic there last month gives him a sense about what the team faces when it's pair of Thetford / Norcold Lolas roll off the trailer later this week at Portland's picturesque racetrack in a park.
"The track has two very long straights, a very slow chicane, and a section of interconnected left-right turns," Dyson said. "This makes the track challenging when setting up the car. You don't want to give up too much speed down the fast straights, but at the same time you'll lose more time in the slower corners so you must find a compromise.
"One of the interesting things about Portland is that it is unusually flat," Dyson noted. "But the racing surface varies a lot in its composition, and that adds to the challenge in setting up the car."
Although Dyson Racing has been America's most successful prototype sportscar racing team over the past two decades, Portland has not historically been a strong track for the team. The best finishes the team has posted came in its first two seasons of prototype racing. In 1985 Drake Olson finished third, a placing matched the next year by Price Cobb.
Still, Dyson is relatively optimistic about the team's chances this year. He points out that with a three-year absence of the Portland track from the prototype sportscar circuit, no one has run the Lola 675 that the Dyson team campaigns on this circuit. "It's definitely a wild card for us," he said. "The Riley & Scott car the team ran at Portland in 1999 was not particularly strong there - we finished sixth - and while we're not sure how the track will suit the Lola, the team's overall consensus is that the layout should be favorable."
Coming off a win last weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., the Audi R8 figures to be strong at this weekend, but Dyson's co-driver, Andy Wallace, knows that the Audi can be beaten at Portland. In the most recent ALMS race at Portland, in 2001, the Dyson team wasn't entered, and Wallace drove the Champion R8 that finished third behind the winning Panoz entry.
"Make no mistake, the Audi is going to be good at Portland," Wallace said. "The Champion team R8 is better developed than ever. But it's not invincible. The Dyson team has had the speed necessary to win at Mid-Ohio and Lime Rock, but small problems got us. In the end, all we can do is focus on our own car, and getting the most out of it."
In addition to the car shared by Dyson and Wallace, Dyson racing has entered an identical Thetford / Norcold Lola for James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger.
Sunday's race will be televised live in its entirety on the Speed Channel at 4 PM EDT.