ZYTEK GOING FOR WINS, CUSTOMERS IN FINAL TWO ALMS ROUNDS Braselton, Ga. - "The Force" was strong with them at Mid-Ohio, and now Tom Chilton, Hayanari Shimoda and the rest of Zytek engineering hope the sequels are as good as the original. The...
ZYTEK GOING FOR WINS, CUSTOMERS IN FINAL TWO ALMS ROUNDS
Braselton, Ga. - "The Force" was strong with them at Mid-Ohio, and now Tom Chilton, Hayanari Shimoda and the rest of Zytek engineering hope the sequels are as good as the original. The world will see when the No. 15 Zytek 04S takes on Champion Racing and Dyson Racing, plus all other comers at this weekend's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The "Star Wars" liveried entry will race in the 1,000-mile/10-hour enduro at Road Atlanta, then head west with the rest of the American Le Mans Series for the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in two weeks.
"We were very pleased the car was received so well at Mid-Ohio. Given some fortune on our side, maybe we could have won the race," team manager Trevor Foster said of the car's fourth-place finish in May. "We were always looking to find a budget to come back at PLM. Other than Le Mans, it's the next biggest thing."
Shimoda wowed the crowd by putting the Zytek on the pole position and posting the race's fast lap. The 20-year-old Japanese star and Chilton, a 21-year-old British Touring Car veteran, both said they are eager to return to the U.S. and tackle two of the country's best-known tracks.
"Out of all the circuits in the ALMS, these last two suit our car best," Chilton said. "The circuit at Mid-Ohio was quite dramatic, but I think (Road Atlanta) is even more dramatic. It's much like a roller coaster in some spots. We may be slower than the Audis on the long straights, but we'll be better in the corners because our car is lighter."
The team's Mid-Ohio debut not only opened the eyes of those watching on the track and CBS Sports' network broadcast, but apparently also potential buyers, as well.
Foster said he has a number of meetings lined up over the next couple of weeks while the team is in the States. Those talks were made possible by a recent ruling by IMSA that extended the life of all LMP cars that were homologated under the 2003 LMP900/675 specs through Dec. 31, 2006.
The bulletin also extended the eligibility of hybrid cars that conform to the ACO's rules in the ALMS through the end of 2007. Those cars are currently eligible in ACO competition until the end of 2006. The hybrid regulations provide a mechanism for 2003 specification cars to convert their aerodynamic package to match the 2005 specifications.
"The whole object of running the car for Zytek is to broaden the view of the opinion of Zytek as a chassis manufacturer. Part of that is sharing what we offer on the circuit," Foster said. "America is just as big a market as Europe, and we are looking to establish the Zytek brand.
"We've had several inquiries about the car, both of selling it or running a works team in America," Foster added. "Nothing yet is concrete. There is a very good chance that it could race in America next year, and we'd like to see it. There would be a substantial support package with the car if it ends up racing in America."
Foster also said Zytek is developing a new car for 2006, it's a possibility that it may run select ALMS events next season, depending of course on the budget.
"We're a long way down the road with a new design. Hopefully we could run it in America next year if we can find the budget," Foster said. "It is a big effort for us to come because we're having to fly everything over and then back to Europe. It's a lot of work, but we think it's worth it."
Who knows? Perhaps then "The Force" will be with us . always.
Petit Le Mans is the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series. The annual 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. EDT Saturday at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage. Qualifying is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EDT Friday. American Le Mans Series Radio, and IMSA Living and Timing Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.