SEBRING, FL, MAR. 14 — Dyson Racing will be competing at the 12 Hours of Sebring for the eighth time this weekend and remains in search of its first victory in the famed Florida enduro. Since its debut in the event in 1987, the Poughkeepsie, New York-based group has finished on the podium four times, with two of the closest runner-up finishes in the event`s history.
Price Cobb and Vern Schuppan ran strongly in the team`s maiden appearance, qualifying third and running in the top three before their Porsche 962 suffered brake failure early in the contest. Cobb returned in the Dyson Porsche in 1988, and along with James Weaver looked like the race winner before experiencing gearbox problems in the race`s last hours. Cobb and Weaver went on to finish third that year, eleven laps down to the overall winner.
The team was prepared to compete in the 1990 event after a year spent in CART, but Scott Pruett suffered horrible leg injuries while testing a Champ car and a suitable replacement could not be found to partner James Weaver on such short notice. Weaver would return in 1994 and netted a class victory (second overall) piloting the Auto Toy Store Spice. In 1995 the Dyson team rolled out its Riley and Scott mk3 Ford and qualified fifth. Running in the top five early in the day, the car was side-lined with transmission problems late in the afternoon. The team essentially treated the race as a test session for their new mount. The next year, after Weaver had gone on to finish second in the 1995 IMSA championship with five wins, Dyson brought two cars to Sebring. After the #16 car was felled by gearbox woes, Weaver and Butch Leitzinger moved over to help the #20 team of Rob Dyson, Andy Wallace, and John Paul, Jr. Battling a car that was without power steering from late afternoon on, the group brought the #20 R&S home in fifth place.
The 1997 race was run under the cloud of the death of Charles H. Dyson, the team principal`s father. Both the #16 R&S Ford, driven by Weaver, Wallace, and Leitzinger, and the #20, piloted by Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Paul, Jr., and John Schnieder, were on a mission for victory. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Despite their noblest efforts, the lead car`s challenge was undermined by pace car improprieties and the team had to settle for second overall; the #20 car finished fifth following an incident with a slower car at the race`s halfway point. The team returned to the 12 Hours in 1998 with two cars. The lead car of James Weaver lost an engine early in the event, and he moved over to aid the #20 Riley and Scott. Along with E.F.R. and Leitzinger the car finished third in World Sports Car and tenth overall.
Dyson Racing last competed at Sebring in 1999. Running toe to toe with the factory BMW LMRs, Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson kept their #20 R&S Ford in the top three all day. Just as he had in the three prior years, Weaver moved over to relieve the #20 pilots after his car retired. Driving like a man possessed in the race`s final hour, the English star cut the lead BMW`s lead from over a lap to less than a minute with just moments to go. It was a thrilling charge but it was one that came up just short, and the team took its second runner-up in three years.
This year the team looks forward to further development of its updated Riley and Scott mk3C Ford, which the team received just last week. Drivers Weaver, Leitzinger, and E.F.R. will once again lead the charge. “Sebring is the one big American sports car event we have not won,” said team owner Rob Dyson. “We are really looking forward to returning there again and while we have got a totally new car, we think we can be competitive. I am hoping for the best.7quot The Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring will be aired live in its entirety on the Speedvision Network.