Chris Dyson Shines in First Appearance at Le Mans; Leads American Drivers to Finish
LE MANS, France - The 14 American drivers who participated in the 72nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this past weekend left the Circuit de La Sarthe with mixed emotions and mixed results. But there were quite a few who left France on a happy note.
Chris Dyson was in his first-ever 24 Hours of Le Mans and ended the world's most famous sports car endurance race in seventh place overall, the highest-finishing American driver.
And then there were Clint Field, William Binnie and Rick Sutherland, American drivers who won the LMP2 class for their American team, Intersport Racing. And California's Patrick Long, a winner in the GT class in his first try at Le Mans, for American team Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing.
Dyson, the LMP 675 class champion in the American Le Mans Series last season, drove at Le Mans in the top class in the race, LMP1, in the Racing for Holland Dome-Judd owned by former Formula One driver Jam Lammers. The appearance of the Pleasant Valley, N.Y., driver at Le Mans in the Lammers car was somewhat the second part of a trade agreement, as Lammers drove a car fielded by Dyson Racing earlier this year in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
The Racing for Holland entry ran as high as third overall during the Le Mans event before ultimately finishing seventh. But Dyson was grateful to have been able to experience his first Le Mans in a competitive car.
"Of course I'm sorry that our final finishing position wasn't higher," Dyson said shortly after the race's conclusion. "But it's very satisfying for me, coming as it does just a week after the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, to be the highest placed American here in France. The car was certainly quick enough that we could have worried the Audis, and I have to say that our finishing position was not indicative of the car's or the team's potential. Overall, I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with how everything came out on my first time at Le Mans."
The Le Mans circuit, which is more than eight miles long, is intimidating to many newcomers but Dyson adapted well. "This is a track where you can get a real rhythm going, and that's nice," he said. "Part of the challenge here comes from having several classes racing together. Driving the car isn't physically very demanding, but the closing speeds on the slower cars are very fast, so you have to be quite careful in setting up a pass. As the race goes on there's a lot of gravel and rubber debris on the track, so the groove gets quite narrow. You have to time your passes pretty carefully or you could be out in the marbles and in real trouble."
No American driver has won Le Mans overall since Davy Jones did in 1996.
With Le Mans behind him, Dyson will rejoin the Dyson Racing team as the American Le Mans Series season kicks into high gear with five races in seven weeks, beginning at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course June 27-29. He will co-drive with Andy Wallace in the team's Lola EX257-AER Prototype, while James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger will drive the other team car.
The series will then move to Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., July 2-5 for the first-ever appearance of the series at the historic New England circuit. The event will also be the 50th American Le Mans Series race to be held since the series was formed in 1999.
After a weekend off, the series will move west for back-to-back events at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., July 16-18 and Portland (Ore.) International Raceway July 23-25.
Ticket information for all ALMS events and a complete schedule is available online at www.americanlemans.com.