Former Champ Car driver and current Grand-Am star Ryan Dalziel stormed to the biggest win of his career so far when he helped Starworks Motorsport to the LMP2 title in the world-famous Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend
The victory – by more than a lap – was a sensational result on the Fort Lauderdale-based team’s debut in the event. Ryan, who lives in Windermere, Florida , had little time to celebrate as he flew back to the States for this weekend’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Road America.
Ryan, originally from Lanarkshire in Scotland, sits just two points off the lead in the championship and will be hoping to add another victory to his amazing Le Mans triumph. He took time out to look back on Le Mans and plan ahead for Road America…
Has it finally sunk in that you have actually won Le Mans at your first real attempt?
It’s getting there for sure. Every day I grow a little more proud of just what we accomplished. I wish I had more time to enjoy it but it’s time to go back to racing.
You are the first Scot to win Daytona 24, a class at the Le Mans 24-Hours and also at the 12 Hours of Sebring. That must be pretty special.
Very special, but it’s hard for me to compare myself to some of the Scottish legends. I still consider Allan McNish as the greatest sports car driver of all time and he is always my benchmark to push harder and achieve more.
Every day I grow a little more proud of just what we accomplished. I wish I had more time to enjoy it but it’s time to go back to racing.
What was it like in the garage after you got back?
There were a lot of tears, followed by hugs then more tears. Literally, there was not a dry eye at Starworks, and we fully deserved it.
How difficult is the track, what are the toughest parts and the best bit?
Le Mans is the most intimidating place I have ever raced at. It is not the most difficult track, but it commands respect, and huge amounts of it. There are parts that are just terrifying and when you see crashes like Anthony Davidson’s, it reminds you how quickly Le Mans can bite you. I think the Porsche Curves are, without doubt, some of the most difficult sequence of corners anywhere in the world. But, with that level of difficulty and fear, it has you holding your breath as you go in and sighing with relief as you exit them every lap. It’s an awesome feeling!
What is the major memory that you will take away from La Sarthe?
It has to be standing on the podium looking down at thousands of fans chanting “Starworks” and seeing every member of our team smiling.
What has the reaction to the win been like, back in the UK and in America?
The reception has been amazing, but very humbling at the same time. I remember after winning Daytona 24 that it wasn’t till I started reading my emails and messages from friends and family that it really hits you, and hits you hard. I started replying on my flight back to the USA on the Monday and the passenger next to me must have thought I was nuts because I cried every ten minutes.
But now you have to turn your mind back to the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. How easy will it be to get back to earth?
Racing has taught me that you are only as good as your last race so we have to keep winning. I want to focus fully on regaining the Rolex points lead at Road America. There will be plenty of time to reflect on Le Mans after the season so, for now, it is business as usual. I think it will give us all a little extra bounce in our step this weekend. We have the confidence because we know that, if we can win at Le Mans, we can win anywhere.
How does driving the Ford Riley Daytona Prototype compare to the LMP2 HPD car?
They are very, very different. There really are no similarities but to me they are equally as challenging and equally as enjoyable to drive. It’s no secret that I have a special place in my heart for Grand-Am and Daytona Prototypes. The Rolex series put my name on the sports car map and I love how rough the racing gets. The LMP2 car however has a sexy vibe that surrounds it. You don’t know whether to drive it or admire it at times.
Road America is another iconic course – what do you like about it and what are the major challenges?
I love Road America. For me, it is one of my top three race tracks in North America, maybe even my favorite. I have had some great success there over the years and a couple of spectacular crashes at the same time, but I am hoping this weekend is a good one for us. Last year we were strong during the race till Max Angelelli took us out, so this year we are hoping for good things.
How do you see Starworks Motorsport’s chances at the race?
Grand-Am know the Ford/Riley package is a little behind the Corvettes and they are working hard at equalizing the cars. They have given us a little more power for our Ford this weekend and I know that will help. I have to give credit to Ed Bennett, Gary Cummings and their staff at Grand-Am for recognizing the issues and continuing to work towards levelling out the playing field. But we have to put our heads down and get on with the things we can control, and that is executing a perfect weekend.
You are just off the lead in the title race, do you aim for championship points or push all out for a win?
We still have to be smart but it’s also getting to the second half of the season and we need to start being more aggressive during the races. I don’t want to win a championship on second places. I want to win a championship and win races.
Leaving Road America with the championship lead and a Le Mans 24 Hour title will make it pretty much a perfect week, wouldn’t it?
It’s already been a perfect week, and almost a perfect season. If someone had told me in January that I would take pole at Daytona, finish second in the race, win the Twelve Hours of Sebring and dominate Le Mans for victory I wouldn’t have believed them. It is still unbelievable when you think about what we have accomplished this year. I couldn’t be happier.