ELKHART LAKE, WI, JULY 8 — Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing teammates Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Dorsey Schroeder claimed the runner-up spot in today`s exciting and unpredictable Road America 500. Over the course of four and three-quarter hours, the American duo battled through traffic and set a blistering pace despite suffering bodywork damage on two separate occasions. EFR and Schroeder led the majority of the race`s 125 laps but lost out after a late-race caution and pit stop erased the nearly one lap lead they had amassed. EFR was passed by the Ferrari of Doran / Lista pilot Didier Theys with nine laps to go and worked in vain to retake the lead, but in end the 58 year-old veteran had to settle for second place, a scant 1.6 seconds in arrears.
While EFR and Schroeder enjoyed good fortunes throughout today`s 500-miler, the same could not be said for their teammates in the #16 Dyson Riley and Scott. James Weaver started from pole and looked set to check out on the field before he began suffering engine problems at the completion of Lap #2. The Dyson team examined the engine and discovered that a piston had failed, but before calling it a day they decided to give Butch Leitzinger one lap in the car for points. Leitzinger circulated slowly for one tour of the four mile layout before pulling off onto an access road, the Pennsylvanian`s race over after less than thirty miles of competition. “We had a great start and the car was running fine before the engine went off suddenly,” Weaver later noted. “It was totally unexpected. It is too bad, really because I think we had a strong package today.”
Quickly assuming the mantle, Schroeder ran a steady third in his #20 Riley and Scott before passing the reigns to EFR on Lap 21. EFR maintained position behind the Doran /Lista Ferrari and Intersport Lola until Clint Field spun on lap 35 and EFR was up into second. EFR pitted seven laps later and Schroeder took over. Within six laps Schroeder had overtaken the #27 Doran Ferrari of car owner Fredy Lienhard and began to stretch his lead. The Dyson team was ready when Schroeder pitted on lap 64, and EFR was back out again in short order, giving up the lead to Intersport`s Oliver Gavin for all of three laps before Gavin made his routine stop. EFR paced the field for the remainder of his twenty-lap stint and Schroeder resumed the controls in the lead on lap 85. The affable Florida star extended the #20 car`s lead over the Intersport Lola despite having a rather large coming together with an AGT car coming onto the pit straight.
“Dorsey came over the radio and said that he had hit a Camaro pretty hard,” said Team Manager Pat Smith. “Apparently the guy tried to turn into the pits from the left side of the track and Dorsey could not help but hit him. Dorsey was sure that the front end was trashed but it looked okay at the next stop so we did not change anything. After the stint I asked him about the car and he said “Well, other than the wheel being cocked a little left and vibrating a bit, it is okay. This car is a tank!” “I had to chuckle a bit at that one.”
After Schroeder pitted for service and a driver change at the 400 mile point, it looked like it would be a two-horse race between the Dyson team and its season-long rivals Intersport Racing. Intersport was almost a full lap behind and remained on the same lap through quick, well-timed pit service. The Doran car was in fact a lap down, with a revved up Didier Theys behind the wheel. All of the contenders had pitted around the 100 lap point, and it looked like it would come down to fuel consumption– should the race continue to run caution-free. In contrast to the 2000 edition of the Road America 500, this year`s race had been run without interruption. Any strategy went out the window on lap 104, when an SRPII Lola had contact and stalled on course, prompting race officials to bring out the race`s first yellow flag three laps later. The safety car picked up EFR and the Intersport and Doran cars blended into the pack behind him, erasing the #20 car`s lead and setting the stage for a dash to the flag.
After the restart EFR stretched his lead while Gavin and Theys made contact fighting for second place. EFR found himself balked in traffic and Theys cut the lead from 10 seconds to four and then passed EFR for the lead on lap 116. EFR fell back a bit and then made a final charge over the last three laps, taking his ill-handling car to within 2.5 seconds as the cars began their final circuit. Theys managed to take the win, but it was a truly heroic effort on EFR`s part to claim the runner-up spot.
“We really wanted to win this one for Elliott,” Pat Smith said after the race. “He has had some terrible luck this year and it would have been great, but the guys did a great job. It was not a pretty race car out there today but they brought it home.” In light of the Rolex Grand-Am Series point system, Weaver and Leitzinger will in all likelihood maintain a healthy lead in the drivers championship over Intersport Racing`s Jon Field, who finished third in the Road America 500. Three events remain on the Grand-Am schedule:Trois-Rivieres (August 3-5), Watkins Glen (August 8-11), and the Daytona Finale (September 12-17).