Point of Honor at Sonoma's Infineon Searing Competition Forecast as Dyson Racing Defends POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, July 14, 2004 - The only thing that's likely to be hotter than the track temperature this weekend is the competition between Dyson ...
Point of Honor at Sonoma's Infineon
Searing Competition Forecast as Dyson Racing Defends
POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, July 14, 2004 - The only thing that's likely to be hotter than the track temperature this weekend is the competition between Dyson Racing's Thetford / Norcold Lolas and the ADT Champion Audi team, as the Dyson team defends its 2003 American Le Mans Series overall victory at Sonoma, California's Infineon Raceway.
Last year, when the Dyson team's James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger beat the Audi team handily at Infineon, the Lola was classed below the Audi and there was a sense of "David vs. Goliath" in the winner's circle. But over the winter the International Motor Sports Association rewrote the rules for the ALMS, assigning the Dyson Racing Lolas to the same headlining class as the Audi R8.
"We do seem to come here as the favorites this year," said Weaver, who has been making media appearances in Northern California in advance of this weekend's race. "Last year we were perceived as a middleweight boxer taking on the heavyweight champion; people saw us as underdogs. But we won decisively at Sonoma, and since then people have expected us to win. We had always planned on winning races outright with the Lola. Not just here, but everywhere we race."
Hard work and intensive on-track testing during the series' three-month break between the season-opener at Sebring, Florida in March, and the second race at Mid-Ohio in June gave the Dyson team an overall speed advantage over the defending overall champion Audi. Weaver put the #16 Thetford / Norcold Lola on the pole at Mid-Ohio and then again over the July 4th weekend at Lime Rock, Conn.
If it weren't for plain bad luck, Weaver and Leitzinger might be looking for their third straight victory this weekend. But a broken oil-pump drive at Mid-Ohio knocked the #16 Dyson entry out on the pace lap, and a miscalculation on rain tires early in the race at Lime Rock cost put the car a lap down before Leitzinger could rally and make back all put 1.4 seconds of the Audi's once large lead.
Horses for Courses
Dyson Racing's #20 Thetford / Norcold Lola, driven by Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson, finished second at Mid-Ohio and third at Lime Rock, helping the team stay in the hunt for the 2004 team championship. Dyson notes that while the team's Lolas are more competitive everywhere this year than last, there are still tracks where the Dyson cars will particularly shine. And despite Infineon's well-justified reputation as a challenging circuit, it should be a good one for the Dyson team.
"It's as if this track were designed for our car, or vice-versa," Dyson said. "Although we're now in the same class as the Audi, our cars were built to different sets of technical specifications. The Audi is larger and heavier, with a bigger and more powerful engine. Our Lola has a bit less power, but it's significantly lighter and therefore more nimble. Infineon has fast corners and some places with heavy braking. And that's where the Lola has a real advantage. The Audi may have an advantage at some of the other tracks we'll go to later in the season, but at Sonoma, they're the ones who will need to match our pace."
Leitzinger likes the team's chances at Sonoma, too, but cautions that in the end the race is unlikely to be a runaway. "Last year, we definitely had the car to beat, but the Audi has been developed since then, and I think that it will be a very close race between us this year. The Lola and the Audi have been pretty closely matched at most of the races this year. Some circuits might be slightly better for the Audi, some for the Lola."
But in the end Leitzinger picks the Lola. "Infineon is a nice match for the Lola. The high speed esses returning from the far end of the course are ideally suited to our car. The Lola eats up the high speed curves." He also cautions that the weather may prove a factor again at this race, though rain is unlikely. " The weather for this race is usually very hot and dry. It's very important to keep hydrated before the race."
Team owner Rob Dyson admits his disappointment with the results from Mid-Ohio and Lime Rock. "It's tough to come away from two races we could have won, without winning either of them," he said. "But we win as a team and we lose as a team. This would be a place to put a win up on the board."