DYSON-CHAMPION BATTLE SHAPING UP FOR LMP1 TITLES Braselton, Ga. - At the start of the season, Andy Wallace thought this could be the year, when his Dyson Racing squad would supplant Champion Racing and its Audi R8s as LMP1 champions in the ...
DYSON-CHAMPION BATTLE SHAPING UP FOR LMP1 TITLES
Braselton, Ga. - At the start of the season, Andy Wallace thought this could be the year, when his Dyson Racing squad would supplant Champion Racing and its Audi R8s as LMP1 champions in the American Le Mans Series. With four rounds left, it still could happen.
For certain, it's hard to remember when a P1 points battle was this closely contested. After this weekend's Generac 500 at Road America, it may just be a little tighter with just 69 points remaining in the last three events.
Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela, in the No. 2 Champion Audi R8, lead Wallace by 11 points. Chris Dyson is 3 points back of Wallace, his teammate in Dyson Racing's No. 20 Lola. Champion's Marco Werner and JJ Lehto, defending drivers co-champions in the No. 1 Audi, have 87 points and are followed by Dyson's James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger with 85 points.
"We've been very happy with the speed of the car," Wallace said. "We've always had a car that we can fight the Audis with. But the R8 is such an amazing machine in that it keeps going round and round and round."
That's what has put Biela and Pirro in the lead. In addition to victories in the last two ALMS rounds (Infineon and Portland), they have finished on every podium this season. On the flip side is the Lehto/Werner pairing, who have a class-high three victories but also posted a DNF at Portland while finishing off the podium at Mid-Ohio.
"Initially being behind the lead car and trying to catch up, we felt some pressure but not now," said Biela, who won the drivers title with Werner in 2002. "Emanuele and I have been in this situation before so we know to handle the pressure. We had pressure earlier in the year when we first returned and now it is not so much."
As the season has progressed, the entire crew of the No. 2 Champion Audi has grown in confidence. It ranges from the drivers to team managers and crewmen. Pirro is a strong believer in momentum, and it'd be tough to find a team that has more of it than Pirro and Biela's.
"Our target and aim this year was trying to win the championship, and I know that you only win it by leading after the last race," Pirro said. "There are four races to go so we have to do a good job like we have been doing so far. I know by experience that the win only comes at the end of the season, not the beginning. So I feel we are in a more comfortable position as compared to when we were behind."
The performance of the No. 2 car has kept Champion Racing first in the team standings. It is 19 points ahead of Dyson Racing, which is doing a yeoman's job by going toe-to-toe as Champion has fielded two cars this year instead of one as in 2004. If Dyson does have an advantage from previous years, it would have to be the team's past two efforts at Mosport, where Dyson won overall last year and in P2 in 2003 as Weaver won the overall pole.
"It's critical that we do well at each of the next two races," Chris Dyson said. "We know our competition is going to be a straight fight in the next two events. That means both our cars have to perform well. The car has historically been superb at Mosport, and we should be stronger at Road America thanks to our continued development with Michelin."
Incidentally, Michelin already has claimed the P1 tire championship for fifth straight year.
Dyson actually is going for its second ALMS class championship, having won LMP675 in 2003. But this would undoubtedly be the highlight of the Dyson operation, which has been a mainstay in the series since it was founded in 1999.
Nevertheless, Biela and Pirro still see the No. 1 car as the main challengers for the drivers championship lead. Pirro said it boils down to the experience Lehto and Werner possess, along with an Audi R8 that generally is considered the best sports car produced in the past 30 years.
"I do think at the end of the day, it's the No. 1 car that we have to ultimately fight against," Biela said. "We should never underestimate the Dyson cars. The team and drivers are very competitive but I still feel the threat is greater from the No. 1 car."
The Generac 500 at Road America, Round 7 of the 2005 ALMS, is set for 3 p.m. EDT Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel. Qualifying is scheduled for 2:55 p.m. EDT Saturday. American Le Mans Radio, and Live Timing and Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.