MONTEREY, CA October 10, 2009 – It was more like two races in one. The first half of the American Le Mans Series’ season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was yellow-filled and disjointed while the second half ran yellow-free and dramatically built to pitched battles settled by less than a second after four hours of racing. It was Guy Smith who helped energize the race. Chris Dyson started the #16 BP Mazda LMP2 from the back of the grid and moved the car up to second overall by the first pit stop when he handed the car over to Smith. The BP sponsored car was second after the second quick pit stop an hour and fifty minutes into the race and Smith hounded the leader, Gil de Ferran in the Acura LMP1 car, never less than a second behind for thirty-five minutes. The battle ended when a back marker hit Smith and the repairs for suspension damage cost him twenty minutes in the pits. “The car was fantastic,” said Smith. “The pit stop was brilliant and I was challenging Gil when I got hit. It was a great battle and shows that we have a great platform for next year.”
Ben Devlin got in the car after the repairs, put his head down, and made up five places, finishing fourteenth overall. The team has run BP’s new biofuel blend with biobutanol the last two races of the season and were not able to run for points since the fuel is not widely available.
The #20 car carried BP’s ARCO brand livery for this 109th race of the American Le Mans Series. The blue and white car of Marino Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger was not able to duplicate its Petit Le Mans win of two weeks ago. While running second in LMP2, Leitzinger’s race ended with mechanical issues on lap 31.
“We would have liked to have ended the season differently for our partners, BP, ARCO, and Mazda, but the #16 car was extremely fast,” commented Dyson. “We came from the last row of the grid and were running second overall by the end of the first stop. Guy maintained that pace and was all over Gil his entire stint. Unfortunately a back marker was not ‘cooperative’ and our time in the pits put us down. Ben Devlin got out there and did a superb job in his stint matching or bettering the leaders his entire run. We are disappointed for Butch and Marino. But very encouraged about the work we have done the past couple of races on the biobutanol which we think it is very promising for next year.”
In their first year with the Mazda Lola package, Dyson Racing finished the eleventh ALMS season second in the P2 Team Championship. Marino Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger were second in the P2 Drivers Championship and with not running for points the past two races, Chris Dyson and Guy Smith were fourth in the P2 Drivers Championship. “We congratulate the Lowe’s Fernandez team on winning the P2 championship and wish Gil de Ferran the best in his retirement as a driver,” said Dyson. “There is no better way to end a career than winning your last race. It has been an honor competing against him.”
Thoughts on the Season
Rob Dyson: “I am very pleased. There were a number of things that were new this year: a new chassis and engine package plus running a coupe – it has been a long time since we have done that. Sebring was a difficult event for us, what with assembling two new cars, getting parts and learning how to make these cars go fast. But the efforts from Lola, AER and Mazda, coupled with the work of our team, produced a car that was faster, more reliable, and more competitive each race. The combined efforts never wavered, the team did a terrific job, and next year looks even better.”
Chris Dyson: “All season long it has been a nicely progressive march forward. We made a large swing in performance compared to the Acura and the Porsche RS Spyder, which was the acknowledged bench mark in P2. Everyone played a part in this, Mazda, Lola, AER, and Michelin. All the drivers did a superb job, and the team has never executed better. We are are back up front again and have been all year, which was our objective and Mazda’s objective. We won races including a very important win at Petit Le Mans. I cannot say enough about the job Lola and the AER guys have done and we would not be here without the support of BP and Mazda. We have a lot of good building blocks for the future.”
Guy Smith: “I think the season has been a good success. We now have a car and engine that is capable of winning races. You look back to Sebring and it seems like an eternity ago. You compare the first couple of races with the last half of the season and it is amazing what we have done to dial in our car. We are getting a lot out of the car and the engine has performed well. With some more hard work, we will be strong for the championship in 2010.”
Marino Franchitti: “I think the whole BP Mazda Dyson team is delighted at how the season has gone. The program came together late but since setting fastest lap at St. Petersburg and leading the most laps at Long Beach, the program has really gelled. At Salt Lake we came close to our first victory and than got it at the next race at Lime Rock and since than we been in contention at each race. To have three poles, three fastest laps and two victories, we could not be happier.”
Ben Devlin: “The season has been quite good. We knew that starting the year with a new car and new engine program was going to be starting on our back foot. Sebring was a learning experience, but with every race we have gone forward. It has been nice to see the car’s potential being developed and coming forward so that at every race we run quicker. It has been good fun and everybody has made me feel welcome on the team.”
Butch Leitzinger: “Going into this year with a new program and a new package, I knew that there was a lot of potential, but I thought it would take longer for it to come together. It was only third race in the season where Guy lead a good bit of the race and from that point on, we never looked back. We were always battling at the sharp end. The wins, fast laps and pole positions really showed how good this team is and how quickly they came to grips with a totally new car.”
Michael White, Team Manager: “The team has responded to every situation. It was a progression race by race, which encouraged everyone. I think one of the proudest moments for the team was Mosport, even though we fell short twelve minutes from the end while leading the race, I still left that race feeling really good about what we had done as a team: no problems during the practice sessions, excellent pit stops, and our race strategy was right on.”