SEBRING, FL, MAR. 20, 2004 — The American Le Mans Series season-opening Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring proved a disappointing race for Dyson Racing. Hopes for the team’s first-ever overall win in America’s most prestigious sportscar race were dashed when first the #20 Thetford / Norcold Lola suffered an engine failure in the fourth hour of the race, and its sister car experienced a variety of small but ultimately costly problems that dropped it from contention in the race which was won for the fifth consecutive year by Audi.
“Racing is about winning, and today we didn’t,” said team-owner Rob Dyson. “Now we have 364 days to think about how to win this race next year. The good news is that the cars proved to be fundamentally strong, and we have three months until the next race on the schedule to address the small details that gave us trouble today. I’m optimistic about our chances for a successful season.”
The #20 car, driven by Chris Dyson, Didier de Radigues and Jan Lammers was running in a strong fourth place with Dyson behind the wheel when the engine suddenly and dramatically lost power and the car coasted to a halt out on the course. “I was pretty sure it was dead,” Dyson recalled. “But Rob got on the headset and reminded us to look at all the possibilities that we could fix by the side of the track. That was the right thing to do.”
Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done to get the car going again, as the engine had suffered an internal problem. “It’s a shame because the car was running so well,” Dyson continued. “We were just cruising.” Persistence Pays The other Thetford / Norcold entry, the #16 Dyson Racing Lola driven by James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace, salvaged a fifth-place LMP1-class finish (sixth overall) after a rash of minor problems. The car ran laps quick enough to earn a podium finish, but an alternator lead that suffered debris damage, an exhaust pipe that came adrift and a series of no less than six (fortunately minor) pit fires – attributed to a problem with the dry sump oil tank – cost the car most of the 27 laps it finished behind the overall winner. In the last hours of the race the #16 car was matching lap times of the winning Audi, but was too far behind to be a factor.
“I got tired of coming into the pits so often,” Weaver bantered with team manager Randall Kelsey. “The crew was getting tired of seeing you there,” countered Kelsey.
“Actually, as difficult as this day was, we now have established important benchmarks for what needs to be done,” Kelsey observed. “And I expect that by the time we get to (the next race at) Mid-Ohio in June, we’ll have addressed all of the problems we saw today. None of them are major in nature.”