POUGHKEEPSIE, NY August 28, 2012 – Chris Dyson will join an elite group at this weekend`s Baltimore Sports Car Challenge as he celebrates his 100th race in the American Le Mans Series. His first ALMS race was the 50th anniversary 12 Hours of Sebring, March 16, 2002. He won his first ALMS Championship the following year, the 2003 ALMS P2 championship with four wins including the class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring. He and Guy Smith are the reigning P1 champions and are coming off a record-setting win two weeks ago at the Road America Road Race Showcase.
What is the strongest memory from your first race?
“It would be how much driving I did! We had a few issues with the car, and the stints ended up being disjointed. Being the youngest guy, I ended up spending something like five hours in the car, and on a really hot day. Not that I was complaining though, because it was Sebring and I was loving it. It was a special day because it was the 50th anniversary running of the 12 Hours of Sebring, and I was driving with my dad. Also, Dorsey Schroeder had told us that week that it was his last race, so it was pretty special to give him a hug after his last stint in the car.”
Your thoughts on that Sebring car?
“The Riley and Scott Mk3 was a great car. In a lot of ways, it was a throwback to an earlier era of auto racing with very little electronic controls, a gated five-speed gearbox and brute power. It had terrific handling and was very forgiving. On the Goodyear tires you could really drive it aggressively. In IMSA trim, the car`s aero strengths were reduced greatly because we had to run small end plates and a small restrictor for compliance, so the pace versus the Audis and other top prototypes wasn`t quite there. Still, it was a perfect prototype to learn the art of racing in the ALMS.”
Your emotions when you won your first championship?
“I recall being relieved more than anything else, for a few reasons. We had lost the Rolex championship my rookie year in prototypes by two points, and for all of 2003 we focused on execution and staying out of trouble. Thankfully, we had reliability all year and we scored well just about every weekend. Then my co-driver had a big crash early in the last race at the Petit Le Mans, and we all feared that our championship hopes were gone. We were able to get the car back together and I remember not even thinking about the championship again until nightfall hit. I ended up doing a few marathon stints that afternoon, and by the end I was really, really tired. It didn`t really set in that we`d won the championship until after the banquet a few days later.”
Your best race?
“I would say that it`s a toss-up between Portland 2004 and Mid-Ohio 2010. Both were events that for me were head-to-head battles with guys I really rated for my entire stint. Picking the best one is like picking a favorite child — very difficult!”
“Before last weekend, I would have said sitting on pole and winning the IMSA race overall at Lime Rock in 2011, because it was something I`d always dreamed about doing as a boy. Being in Victory Lane with my parents was very, very special that day. But I think over time, the win at Road America will be a memory we will look back on with equal fondness, because it was simply an incredible race to win, and such an emotional fight to the end with my favorite competitors”.
What competitors stand out when you look back?
“I was always hugely impressed with Gil de Ferran. He was in my opinion, the gold standard of anyone I ever competed against, outside of my own teammates. Gil was fast, brave and always clean to race against. A great guy outside of the car, too. Guys like JJ, Klaus, Lucas, Diaz, Timo, Pagenaud and David Brabham have all been terrific guys to go racing with because you know they`re always going to be on it, and they`re always going to do something interesting on track, but not try anything crazy or stupid. And if you`re up front, chances are those guys will be there, too. So those guys become the standouts in my mind.”
Your favorite car during the last 100 races?
“It`s a toss-up between the 2005 Lola-AER, the 2006 Lola-AER and the 2010 Lola-Mazda. All three were exceptionally well-balanced, with great power and could be driven aggressively. On the day, they were a joy to drive.”
Thoughts on some of your teammates during this period?
“Wow. I have been really blessed in this regard. There`s so much I could say but I`ll save it for my book! Suffice it to say that all fifty or so drivers who have driven for the team — and I have shared weekends with nearly all of them — have been a great and positive influence on my life and on my driving.”
How has sports car racing changed during this period?
“Thankfully, it is still fundamentally the same. Every year the ACO rules come out and there is some silly and often incomprehensible tweak, and IMSA finds the right balance, saves the day, and we end up having great races and a helluva lot of fun. We have less power relative to weight now than we did between 2002 and 2010, and one way or another I firmly believe we need to get back to those levels, with more downforce. Prototype cars need to continue to be mind-blowing, bad-ass creations, in my opinion.”
Where do you see sports car racing going for the next 100 races?
“It is going to be interesting. If I stayed at my current pace, that would take another ten years! We`ll just have to wait and see what happens. When you`re focused on the next race, you don`t really think too far ahead or too far into the past. Racing has a unique way of keeping us in the moment.”
What lessons do you take away from the past 100 races?
“You can always get better in every respect. The crew never stops working hard and our families make huge sacrifices so we can pursue this never-ending obsession with performance. In this game, you have to wake up every day wanting to win because your competition is doing the same thing. And always take time to appreciate the fact that we get to do what we do, and soak in the positive energy of every event.”
How has the ALMS changed during this period?
“The events everywhere continue to draw strong crowds and it has never ceased to amaze me how much the fans connect the past to the present. The series has such tremendous heritage going back to the early 70`s, and the cars continue to be the coolest in all of racing. The one constant has been new cars and exciting diversity and technologies, and very good racing through the field. There have been ebbs and flows depending on the economy, but at the end of the day, it is still a great paddock and it has been a real honor to compete for 100 events here.”
And how has Dyson Racing evolved over these 100 races?
“Our engineering strength has grown tremendously and organizationally we have evolved and our team`s management and execution under Mike White is the strongest and most cohesive we have ever had. We are more prepared now than we have ever been for growing the business and taking on new projects, and that excites me and my dad tremendously. And we are still very much a family team in pretty much every respect, and we are always looking forward to the next frontier. It has been a great run and I am so thankful for all of it.”