Daytona 24 Hour

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL, FEB. 3 — Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing`s two-car assault on the 40th Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona fell victim to myriad transmission and engine problems, with both cars retiring around the race`s halfway mark.

Starting fifth on the grid, the #16 Dyson machine of James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Oliver Gavin briefly ran as high as second before encountering a faulty power steering unit in the race`s second hour. After rejoining more than ten laps later, the Anglo-American trio began marching up the order before the gearbox began to overheat. Eventually, the team replaced the entire gearbox unit, and when Weaver returned to the race, the team was more than one hundred laps down to the leaders. Leitzinger drove a double stint before handing off to Dyson and Daytona rookie Gavin. The Englishman discovered further problems with the drivetrain, and the car was retired just after midnight.

Oliver Gavin thoroughly enjoyed his first outing with the Dyson team, though he was disappointed with the result. “I had a fantastic time with the guys, but it was a struggle from the start, really. The Riley and Scott is a very good car, but much different than the Lola (which he drove last year). You have got to drive the car very hard to get it up on its toes, as James would say.”

Weaver, who came two hours short of scoring a crushing victory in 2001, could not disguise his disappointment with this year`s result. “It is such a difficult event. We had problems from the start, and when we changed the gearbox the setup was quite a bit off. There`s nothing quite like driving around at night after a long layoff, but unfortunately it was not to be this year.”

Butch Leitzinger echoed the Englishman`s sentiments. “The guys did such a good job getting the car together, it is a shame. When we had to change gearboxes there was not much point in pushing too hard, and the setup was way off with the different pickup points.”

The sister #20 car fared slightly better during the race, but fell victim to a blown engine just after 2:15 AM Sunday. The all-American tandem of Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Rob Dyson, Chris Dyson and Dorsey Schroeder briefly led and ran in the top four during the first three hours before losing seven laps to replace a component failure in the gear linkage during the fourth hour. The team gradually reduced the gap to the leaders and moved back into the top ten for the next several hours. Elliott Forbes-Robinson was running a consistent stint in the seventh hour when fifth gear failed. EFR ducked into the pits, and the team lost nearly twenty laps replacing the faulty components. The car ran flawlessly for the next few hours and the team again found itself in the top ten. Chris Dyson was in the first half of a double stint when the water temperature began to rise. After a brief pitstop, the car returned to action, only to lose the engine in speedway Turn 3.

“That is just this race,” remarked two-time winner Elliott Forbes-Robinson. “The guys were doing such a great job. Randall Kelsey and all of them, they did a stop where we changed brake pads during a yellow and did not lose a lap! It was just awesome. The car was just so good today, it is too bad we did not make it.”

Rob Dyson, who was making his sixteenth Daytona 24 Hour start, was alongside his son, who was making his first. “It is too bad,” Dyson said. “I really wanted to be around at the end. It is such a great event, always filled with so much emotion. We were just running our pace and keeping the car out of trouble. The crew did such a great job, I am proud of all of them.”

Dorsey Schroeder, making his first Daytona appearance with Dyson since 1999, said “It is nice to be back running with the Dyson team. Randall Kelsey and the boys did a fantastic job.”

“It was a true privilege to come and run with the team,” Chris Dyson said. “The car was really perfect all race. I had a terrific time running with some of these guys out there, and I learned a lot. It was a wonderful experience, but it is just too bad we did not make it all the way.”

And now, the future. The team will be evaluating its options in coming weeks on the direction of 2002. Stay tuned.

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