Dyson Racing is celebrating its thirtieth year in professional sports car racing this year. This is the first in a regular series of memories from past and present Dyson drivers looking back on three decades of top-line racing.
Andy Wallace drove for Dyson Racing from 1995 to 2007. He won both the 1997 and 1999 Daytona 24 Hours with Dyson Racing and is one of the most respected names in sports car racing. He is the only driver to have won all the major endurance races: the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1988), the Daytona 24 Hours, (1990, 1997, and 1999), Sebring 12 Hours (1992, 1993), Petit Le Mans (1999) and the Silverstone 4 Hours (1995, 1996).
Looking back, do you have a best memory from your years at Dyson Racing?
Not so much a single memory, but memories generally. My years at Dyson Racing were some of the best I had in my career. The team always gave the drivers great cars to drive and the best equipment available. The crew worked extremely hard to get things done, but was also great to work with and fun to be around. Between the drivers we had a fantastic balance of respect and generosity with speed and the Will to win. We had so much fun together both at the track and away from it. And are all still good friends to this day. But when the chips were down we were very much Rob Dyson`s (the Governor`s) drivers, and we were there to win races for Dyson racing.
Any funny stories that stands out?
At Watkins Glen in 1996 for the 6 Hours, I had qualified second in the #20 Dyson Racing Riley and Scott that I was sharing with James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger. Ahead was the Momo Ferrari 333SP of Max Papis, and just behind were Didier Theys (Ferrari) and James (on double duty in the #16). I got a blinder of a start and was tucked up under the rear wing of the lead Ferrari going down to the “toe of the boot.” James had dispensed with Theys and was close to me, ready to pounce. I dived inside the Ferrari to make it two wide as we rounded the uphill turn and managed to get ahead. Papis hung on for all he was worth but got squeezed wide on the left allowing James to also nip through on the right. As I crossed the start / finish line in the lead at the end of the opening lap, I hit the radio button and did a “yee haa” to the crew. This was countered by a very calm retort from Crew Chief, Pat Smith: “only another 5 hours 58 minutes to go.” Good point Pat!
Can you name a best race?
This is a difficult one as there were many great races. But perhaps our Daytona 24 Hour victories in 1997 & 1999 stand out because they were such a total team effort and it is such a difficult race to win.
Any other antidotes that come to mind?
Although this particular story happened when I was driving for Don Panoz one year at Daytona, it does have James as the central character. That year my Panoz GT1 car was very fast around the banking and slightly slower on the infield. James` Riley and Scott was the opposite. We could both achieve about the same lap times, so were often chasing each other during the race. On the fateful lap I had caught James on the back straight and was right behind him when there was a full course yellow for an incident. The yellow lights were flashing on the banking as we went into the Bus Stop Chicane, so I just followed James through. As we exited, I saw the green lights come on (strange as the green is usually given at start / finish). Without a second thought I blasted past James and headed off into the distance (or so I thought…). Unknown to me, James had tucked himself right under my rear wing, so close I couldn`t see him in the mirrors. Of course he trusted me implicitly, so he ducked his head down out of the turbulent air coming off the back my car and just waited there on full throttle until, by his best estimate, we were somewhere close to turn one.
Unfortunately for him (and, as it turns out, for me), the race hadn`t gone green at all. Nope, there were definitely double waved yellows at start / finish, and three 911`s getting ever larger through my windscreen. I lifted off to avoid passing them, then immediately felt a bump from behind and then my rear wheels were lifted ever-so-gently off the ground. All this at 185 mph! Of course, it was James, still flat out with his head under the dashboard. When he felt the bump he lifted off, returning my rear wheels to the track, but my car was no longer pointing forwards by now, so I started a massive high speed spin past the pits on the tri-oval in front of all the teams. There was smoke everywhere. Couldn`t see a thing. Pat Smith got on the radio to James shouting “debris on the front straight, debris on the front straight.” Then in a masterful but calm reply, James said, “I AM the debris!”