Road America: Dyson Racing race report

Dyson Team "Exhausted" at Road America Broken Exhaust Headers KO Both Thetford / Norcold Lolas ELKHART LAKE, WI, August 22, 2004 -- Butch Leitzinger's pole-winning Thetford / Norcold Lola led handily for the first hour of the Road America 500.

Dyson Team "Exhausted" at Road America
Broken Exhaust Headers KO Both Thetford / Norcold Lolas

ELKHART LAKE, WI, August 22, 2004 -- Butch Leitzinger's pole-winning Thetford / Norcold Lola led handily for the first hour of the Road America 500. But then what looked to be shaping up as a classic American Le Mans Series battle between Dyson Racing and the Champion Audi of JJ Lehto and Marco Werner petered out early when both Dyson entries dropped out of the race with broken exhaust headers.

"We have to take the whole engine out of the car to replace the exhaust system," said team owner Rob Dyson. "The race would have been over before we could have gotten the cars back on the track."

The AER engines in the Dyson Lolas are turbocharged, so any break in the exhaust system in front of the turbo causes a severe loss of power.

The exact cause of the problem has yet to be determined, but according to Dyson the two leading candidates are mechanical interference between the suspension's lower control arm when the fuel tank is full and the car is running at low ride height, or pressure pulses from newly developed pit lane speed control software. "We'll have to go over the data that we've downloaded from the cars to make a final determination. This is really disappointing, because our cars were so strong here."

Indeed, the #16 Dyson car of Leitzinger and James Weaver, winner of the most recent ALMS race at Mosport, Canada, had dominated practice and qualifying, setting the fast time in each session. And the second Dyson entry, piloted by Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace, filled out the front row of the race. "Unfortunately, they give out the winner's trophy at the end of the race," Chris Dyson noted.

It was Dyson's car that was first felled by the exhaust malady, though Dyson was already fighting severe handling problems, caused when the #20 Thetford / Norcold car was hit by another car and suffered a broken rear anti-roll bar. "After that, it had so much understeer that it was just a pig."

Dyson soldiered on in the ill-handling car, but 25 minutes into the race the engine lost turbo boost and he pitted. Initial examination revealed a broken flange on the turbo pop-off valve, and the team quickly repaired that problem. Unfortunately, there was also a break further up the system, and that one was terminal.

At the front of the field, Leitzinger led the Audi by several seconds despite experiencing handling problems of his own. "The car was not handling all that well," Leitzinger said. "It was understeering going in (to the corner) and oversteering coming out. It was pretty uncomfortable."

The team was prepared to make adjustments in tire pressure, which Leitzinger was confident would have dealt with the problem. But after the refueling and tire change was complete, the car stalled twice as Leitzinger attempted to leave the pits. "I don't know what that was about," Leitznger called out on the radio. By the end of pit lane he did. The exhaust header on the #16 car was broken, too. The next lap it was retired.

With the Dyson cars gone from the competition, the Lehto/Werner Audi cruised on to victory.

"We'll get to the bottom of this problem," Rob Dyson said. "The next race is the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in September. We'll be looking to win there."

-dr-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Rob Dyson , Marco Werner , Chris Dyson , JJ Lehto
Teams Dyson Racing , HART