POUGHKEEPSIE, NY, September 22, 2004 — At a time when races are increasingly set to meet a three-hour television window, the Petit Le Mans, in its seventh annual running already a classic on the sportscar calendar, is a throwback to the days when sportscar races were tests of both speed and endurance – this race is 1,000 miles around the challenging hill-and-dale Road Atlanta circuit. And Chris Dyson could not be happier.
“The longer the race, the better, as far as I am concerned,” said the 2003 American Le Mans Series LMP 675 champion. “I like to drive, and the more time I have in the car, the better. The thing about the Petit Le Mans is that it is short enough that you have to running about as fast as you can all the time. But it iss long enough that it really is an endurance race. I really wish that all of our races were at least six hours.”
Dyson acknowledges that running for ten hours on a track where the corners come up so fast that there is virtually not a moment to relax is a taxing situation for a car and its drivers. But he is confident that he and his teammates are up to the challenge. “Physical fitness is one of our team`s real strengths, so I am not concerned about fatigue being a factor, even if the weather is hot during the afternoon portion of the race. And since our first race in the Lola, which was at the Petit Le Mans two years ago, we have done so much work with the Lola factory to make the car both faster and stronger. I am expecting that our cars will run strong the whole way.
Dyson Racing is running a pair of Thetford / Norcold Lolas in the ALMS series second-longest race of the season. Joining Dyson in the team`s #20 car is Holland`s Jan Lammers, who also partnered Dyson at the Sebring 12-hour and Le Mans 24-hour races. The team`s #16 car will have its regular crew of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, joined for this event by Dyson`s regular co-driver, Andy Wallace.
Lammers, like Wallace a former Le Mans 24-hour winner, drove with the Dyson team at Sebring, while Chris Dyson joined Lammers` Racing For Holland squad as a rookie for the classic French race, where their 7 th place overall finish made Dyson the highest-placed American. Dyson and Lammers are different physically and in age – 26-year-old Dyson is 6`2″ while Lammers is 47 years old and 5`6” – but they make a strong team. “We pretty much like the car set up the same way,” Lammers noted. “And we both go fast and take care of the car. Getting my seat insert right so that I can drive the same car as Chris is our biggest challenge as teammates.”
Looking For A Different Ending
At last year`s Petit Le Mans, the #16 Dyson car qualified on the front row, and then Weaver led the race from the green flag. But six laps later he was in the pits and out of the race. The #20 car saw its share of problems as one of Chris Dyson`s teammates spun and lost several laps. The car was eventually able to restart, and Dyson garnered enough points with a fifth-place class finish to seal his LMP 675 championship.
This year the ALMS upgraded the Dyson team`s cars to the headlining LMP1 class, and among them the Dyson teammates have captured the pole position for five of the seven races run so far, while Weaver and Leitzinger won the race at Canada`s Mosport International Raceway, outside Toronto. Team owner Rob Dyson is looking for a better outcome at Road Atlanta this year than last.
“What has been frustrating about this season so far is that we clearly have the speed to dominate the series,” Dyson said. “But we have been lacking in both reliability and just plain racing luck. The Champion team that has won the other races is a great one, and their Audi R8 is a strong, well-developed and reliable car. Hats off to them on a great season. But our team has made a lot of progress as the season has progressed, and I think we are going to have a great race this weekend.
The green flag falls for the Petit Le Mans at noon on Saturday, September 25, with the checkered flag expected to fall shortly before 10pm. Flag-to-flag coverage is on SpeedTV.