Road America: Dyson Racing preview

Dyson Racing Goes for Double Thetford / Norcold Lolas Looking for 2nd in a Row at Elkhart Lake POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, August 17, 2004 - Earlier this month at Mosport, Dyson Racing became the first team to break Audi's stranglehold on the American...

Dyson Racing Goes for Double
Thetford / Norcold Lolas Looking for 2nd in a Row at Elkhart Lake

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, August 17, 2004 - Earlier this month at Mosport, Dyson Racing became the first team to break Audi's stranglehold on the American Le Mans Series' top class when the #16 Thetford / Norcold Lola of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger swept to a convincing overall victory at the Grand Prix of Toronto at Mosport. Back from Canada, now the Dyson squad is going for a second consecutive victory this weekend when the ALMS series visits one of America's classic road racing circuits, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin's pastoral Road America.

"The win at Mosport was a huge shot in the arm," said team owner Rob Dyson. "We've been so competitive all year, but little things kept hurting us on race day. Now I think we've got momentum going for us. I don't think it'll be easy for us at Elkhart. We had some bad luck last year that I think cost us the race. And the Champion (Audi) team is very good, but I have a good feeling about our chances."

Veteran teams know nothing ever comes easy at the four-mile roller coaster of a track in Wisconsin's rugged Kettle Moraine. With a lap length of precisely four miles, Road America is the longest closed racing circuit in North America, and in addition to two significant uphill runs, features a variety of corners.

And from the perspective of the season-long duel between the Champion Audi R8 team and the pair of Dyson Lolas, that's where it gets interesting. Although the teams compete head-to-head for overall and class victories on the ALMS circuit, the Audi and the Lola are built to different rules formulae - the Audi to one that permits a larger and more powerful engine in a larger, heavier chassis, and the Lola to a set of technical specifications that specifies a smaller engine in a lighter car.

Because the two cars make their speed in different ways, some tracks tend to slightly favor one car or the other. "The Lola is fantastic is fast corners - the faster the better," Mosport winner Weaver said. "And extremely good under braking. On the other hand, the Audi is a bit better in slow corners. Our AER engine has more torque, and the lightweight Lola can accelerate away from the Audi a bit better. The Audi ultimately has more horsepower and can be a bit faster down a straightaway if it is sufficiently long. It's an interesting mix."

From this perspective, Road America is interesting because its great length features an even balance between fast and slow turns and hard and (relatively) easy braking. If the race is as close as expected, spectators watching near the Start/Finish line on the final lap may be holding their breath to see which car comes over the crest of the hill first. The hard uphill will be good for the Dyson Lola, but the corner onto that final straightaway is a slower one, and that may favor the Audi.

"I think that track position is going to be very important," said Dyson team manager Randall Kelsey, who pointed out other specific parts of the track where the Lola and Audi are expected to show their respective strengths. "Our car is just awesome around the carousel and kink sections leading onto the back straight. The kink is one of the fastest you'll ever see on a road course in America, and it could have been made for our Lola. One of the quickest parts of the track is the run downhill to Turn 5, and then at the end of that straight is the slowest turn on the track. Our car will be very good under braking there, but the Audi will be faster down the straight. The question is, if it's near the end of the race and the Audi is leading, will we be able to outbrake them coming down to Turn 5? And if we're leading will the Audi be able to get a good enough run up that straight to pass us before the next blind left-hander at the top of the hill? I think the last few laps of this race are likely to have all the fans at the track standing up and people watching on television at home on the edge of their couches."

Historical Perspective

Last year at Elkhart Lake, Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace, teammates in the #20 Thetford / Norlcold Lola, qualified fifth and were forced to start from the back of the field when the engine refused to fire at the start of the race. The pair battled through the field and ultimately finished second behind the winning Audi R8 of JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert.

Dyson, just back from a fourth-place finish this past weekend at the Silverstone round of Europe's Le Mans Endurance Series, where he drove for the works Zytek team with 2002 British F3 champ Robbie Kerr, recalled last year's race. "In terms of pure speed, our car and the Audi were very closely matched. James lost the pole by less than two-tenths of a second, which is very little in a four-mile, two-minute lap. And Butch led the race until he got tangled with another car and crashed. I think it's going to be a very interesting race again this year. Hopefully, the results will be just a bit different this time around."

-dr-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Rob Dyson , Robbie Kerr , Chris Dyson , JJ Lehto
Teams Dyson Racing