LIME ROCK CT, JULY 5, 2004 — Second place, third place and a lot of frustration was what Dyson Racing had to show at the conclusion of the first annual New England Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park. Taking over the pole-winning #16 Thetford / Norcold Lola from James Weaver for the second half of the 2-hour, 45-minute American Le Mans Series race, Butch Leitzinger made a determined charge. But a lengthy yellow near the end of the race blunted his effort and left him 1.4 seconds behind the winning Audi R8 of JJ Lehto and Marco Werner.
“I was disappointed to see the yellow,” said Leitzinger, who was steadily chipping away at the Audi`s lead over the last hour of the race.” And even more disappointed to see how long it took to go green again. I could have caught him otherwise, and with the way traffic was, I think I would have had a shot at getting by him.”
But a couple of its own miscues cost the team as well. A gamble on rain tires shortly after the start of the race turned out to be a bad one when the rain shower ended abruptly, costing Weaver the lead and dropping the #16 car a lap off the pace. “It was my call,” Weaver said afterwards. “I am driving several hundred thousand dollars worth of kit, and it seemed the right thing to do at the time. As it turned out, I was wrong. But hindsight is 20/20.”
Team owner Rob Dyson promised that “from now on we will have access to Dopler radar, so we will know when it starts raining if it is just a shower blowing through or a big rain.”
In the end, a minor problem for the Audi put the #16 car back on the lead lap, but the event that ultimately cost the Dyson team the race occurred when both cars failed to restart promptly following routine pit stops. (ALMS rules require that the engine be shut down during refueling.)
“If we had not had that problem, the #16 car would have been a lap up on the Audi and the yellow would not have mattered,” said Chris Dyson, who paired with Andy Wallace in the #20 Thetford / Norcold Lola to finish third.
According to team manager Randall Kelsey, the issue began to surface last week at Mid-Ohio, following changes in formulation of the ALMS-mandated race fuel. “We did not have any problems with restarting at Sebring or during any of our testing. Our partners at Advanced Engine Research are going to test a sample of the fuel and make whatever adjustments are necessary in our engine management system to take care of the problem.”
And though disappointed with the final result, Leitzinger did note that the second-place finish represented a substantial improvement over the results last week at the ALMS race at Mid-Ohio, where a broken oil-pump drive knocked out the #16 pole-winner car before the green flag. “We were getting some momentum here,” he said, thinking ahead to the next race on the ALMS schedule at Sonoma, Calif. Leitzinger and Weaver won there last year. “We are definitely looking forward to Sonoma,” he said. “It should be another good track for us.”