21st Birthday Poughkeepsie, NY, June 21, 2006 - Twenty-one years ago at Lime Rock, CT, Rob Dyson debuted his Porsche 962 in the International Motorsports Association's GTP race. Even though they were running the...
Poughkeepsie, NY, June 21, 2006 - Twenty-one years ago at Lime Rock, CT, Rob Dyson debuted his Porsche 962 in the International Motorsports Association's GTP race. Even though they were running the older 2.8 liter turbo Porsche engine rather than the new 3.2 variant, Dyson Racing shocked the racing establishment and won the race conclusively. Since then, there have been fifty-two wins, and sixteen driver and team championships. In the two decades since, they have not relinquished their title as America's premier sports car team.
Of the twelve teams that started that Lime Rock race, only one is still competing - Dyson Racing. Since 1985, when Dyson Racing entered the top echelon of sports car racing, countless private teams and a large number of factory teams have come and gone. Race historians have said that Dyson Racing has been a stabilizing and life-saving force in sports car racing the past twenty years.
When Rob first started thinking about making the move from IMSA GTO to GTP, he was thinking of buying a March GTP car. But his good friend Bob Akin recommended the Porsche 962 instead, telling Rob that "it is a very impressive vehicle with a very impressive organization. They are a little more expensive, but they are around at the end. Besides, no one collects Marches." Rob ran various iterations of the 962 for nine years - through Daytona of 1993 where it came in second in GTP, its best finish there. They were the only team able to consistently take the battle to the factory teams from Nissan, Porsche, Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar and Mazda. Dyson Racing won four consecutive Porsche Cups, and had two seconds, a third and fourth in the GTP championship. At the peak of the GTP era, they had three 962's and their drivers included Bobby Rahal, Price Cobb, Johnny Dumfries, Scott Pruet, John Paul Jr., and Drake Olson.
After the GTP era ended, Dyson Racing became a major force in World Sports Cars. 1995 was their first year of running the Ford-powered Riley and Scott chassis and they did not finish off the podium for nine straight races from Road Atlanta to New Orleans, including five wins and a one-two finish at the last race of the season, New Orleans. James Weaver missed winning the championship by two points. All told there were 36 wins with the Riley and Scott, including the 1997 and 1999 Daytona 24 Hours. Drivers' championships were won by Butch Leitzinger in 1997, 1998 and 1999, James Weaver in 1998 (USRRC) and Elliott Forbes-Robinson in 1999 (both the USRRC and American Le Mans Series). In addition to winning the Daytona 24 Hours in 1997, Dyson Racing took the top three positions that year in the championship. The two Daytona wins were accomplished with a car that was eventually retired after more than 53,000 racing miles.
Dyson Racing took their Riley and Scotts to the inaugural year of the Grand American Rolex Series in 2000 and James Weaver won back-to-back championships in 2000 and 2001. Butch Leitzinger was second in the championship in 2001 and the team was either first or second in ten of the eleven races that year. In 2002, his inaugural year, Chris Dyson won five races and missed winning the Rolex Series championship by two points.
The next year, the team ran the full American Le Mans Series with Chris Dyson winning the LMP675 championship driving one of the team's new AER- powered Lola EX257 machines. In 2004, James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger were second in the ALMS LMP1 driver's championship with a win at Mosport and seven podium finishes in nine races. Last year, Chris Dyson finished second in the P1 championship. The team won six poles, never finished off the podium and won at Mid-Ohio and Mosport with the Mid-Ohio win being a team one - two. Dyson Racing was the only team to have beaten the factory Audi R8's in the American Le Mans Series races between 2003 and 2005.
This year, Dyson Racing debuted their two new AER-powered Lola B06/10's at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. The team finished on the LMP1 podium at Sebring and claimed its first 2006 pole position at Houston's Lone Star Grand Prix.
The cars may change over the years, but Dyson Racing's record of longevity is unrivaled. Driver James Weaver has been with Dyson Racing for twenty years, and Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace eleven years apiece. Team personnel are another core asset. In a sport known for high turnover, the team members have been recruited and nurtured from the local area and have been with the organization for a long time. The first team manger, Pat Smith was with Dyson Racing for more than 25 years. The current team manager, Randall Kelsey, has been there twelve years and John Pulz, mechanic/ fabricator on the #16 car started in 1978.
And therein lies the secret of staying on the top in this most ephemeral of sports: people come first. It is a family more than a race team, powered by loyalty and allegiance to a winning tradition. Because in the end, long- term success only comes when horsepower is partnered with people power.