Dayton, Field and their 'Junkyard Dog' win LMP 675 Class at Trois-Rivieres Sunday TROIS-RIVIERES, Que., Aug. 3 - In what was the story of the year thus far in the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season, Duncan Dayton rebounded from ...
Dayton, Field and their 'Junkyard Dog' win LMP 675 Class at Trois-Rivieres Sunday
TROIS-RIVIERES, Que., Aug. 3 - In what was the story of the year thus far in the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season, Duncan Dayton rebounded from a devastating accident last Saturday in Sonoma, Calif., to not only make Sunday's Grand Prix of Trois-Rivieres in Quebec, Canada, but to go on to win the LMP 675 class after starting dead last, enabling the North Salem, N.Y. driver and teammate Jon Field to regain the lead they jointly held in the class's drivers' point standings.
The victory was the culmination of a wild week for the Intersport Racing team, which borrowed a car from Hugh Chamberlain in order to compete here after Dayton was involved in a nasty crash in practice for last weekend's race. Although it was an effort for all the teams to make the trek from California to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec for this weekend's race, the car that ended up in the LMP 675 winners' circle Sunday had to be flown all the way from England. It arrived in Canada on Thursday, and the Intersport mechanics worked all night to get it ready for practice on Friday. The car sported MG green and Intersport red and blue bodywork in addition to its Banana Joe's and Highcroft Racing logos and it definitely was put together in a flash, prompting the team to affectionately christen the car "the Junkyard Dog."
That dog -and the team's - perseverance paid off to make them first in class Sunday, but the outlook certainly wasn't promising Saturday night.
The night before the race Dayton had only had one lap in the car at Trois-Rivieres due to mechanical problems, and that wasn't even at speed. The Lola EX257 AER #37 started dead last in the 32-car field because it wasn't able to make even one qualifying lap Saturday. But Dayton and Field kept on digging all day Sunday, and Dayton even survived being spun out by the eventual overall winner. Despite a hot day and a badly bruised foot from last weekend's crash, the North Salem, N.Y. driver and his teammate, who is from Dublin, Ohio, ended up tenth overall at the end of the three-hour event, eight places and 22 laps ahead of the second-place LMP 675 car.
The icing on Dayton and Field's cake was that the team that had edged ahead of it in the drivers' standings going into this race, Dyson Racing, had mechanical problems with both of its cars Sunday and didn't score any points.
It was the fourth class victory for Dayton in this series and Field's fifth.
Field started the race. Even though it's hard to pass on this street course, he blasted through the competition and advanced from 32nd to ninth overall in just 15 minutes. At the half-hour mark he was sixth overall and second in class, approximately 41 seconds behind class leader Butch Leitzinger.
He kept the pressure up and was fifth overall when the car's fuel light came on, forcing him to pit at 3:20 p.m. That was much earlier than his rivals had to pit and it would result in at least a three-pitstop race for the #37, but Field didn't want to take any chances of running the car dry and perhaps blowing the engine. The warning light turned out to be a false alarm due to a fuel pick-up problem, and Field said the car was actually running great. Dayton got in at that point and drove the rest of the race except for the last 33 minutes, when Field got in for the last stint.
When Dayton got in the car he immediately resumed the impressive drive that Field had started. With Chris Dyson already out with an engine problem, Dayton took the class lead right before 4 p.m. when Leitzinger had electrical problems in the other Dyson entry.
But it still wasn't clear sailing for Dayton. The overall race leader and eventual winner, Frank Biela in an Audi, tagged him in the rear at 4:27 p.m., causing him to spin in turn one. He quickly regrouped and made it back to the pits, where the Intersport team taped up some bodywork and gave him fresh rubber and more fuel. Biela apologized after the race, too.
Dayton didn't lose the class lead despite that altercation. He dropped to 14th overall but moved up to 12th, still in the class lead, when he made his last pit stop and Field got in for the finish. The car didn't start up right away after it was fueled on that stop, causing a few anxious seconds, but it eventually fired and went on to take the checkered in tenth place overall and first in class.
"It was an unbelievable race," Dayton said Sunday night while driving to Montreal. "We went from one extreme to the other. The crew worked tirelessly and we fought it the whole way, and it's a great victory."
"Hugh Chamberlain was nice enough to loan us this car, and it turned out to be a great day for everyone on our team," he added.
"This victory really is a tribute to the Intersport team," he elaborated. "The car didn't arrive until 5 o'clock on Thursday night. The team worked all night and got it done by 9 a.m. Friday. Half the crew is sick now; they were up for 36 hours straight. This car hadn't been run in 18 months, and it was basically in mothballs. Everything had to be gone through on it. I made one lap on Friday, but my first flying lap in it was only this morning."
"It just goes to show you that what goes around, comes around," he continued. "We had bad luck last weekend, and some of our rivals had bad luck this weekend. But I told Jon that if we want to win the championship, we have to be in every race. It's a long season, but I'm really pleased with the end results today."
This race was broadcast live on SPEED channel. The next one will be shown live on NBC at 2 p.m. Eastern time Aug. 17 from Mosport, Ontario. Then it's back to the states and Dayton's home area of Minneapolis, as the circuit travels to Elkhart Lake, Wis.'s Road America on Aug. 24 for a 2 p.m. Eastern time show on SPEED.
"They're both tracks that both Jon and I know well," Dayton added. "We'll try to go on from here. You had to be really careful at Trois-Rivieres, but hopefully we can really tackle both Mosport and Road America all-out."
And how is the foot that was so badly bruised last weekend?
"It's still a little sore, but I had it taped up by the medical staff before the race and that really helped," he said. "Plus, once you get in the car, you forget about things like that. Especially when it's a race like that one," he added happily.