MAY 28, 2010 — With the American Le Mans Series taking a six-week break before its next race at Salt Lake City, this is a good time for teams to look back and assess their performance to date. This is the first of periodic interviews with Dyson Racing principals and drivers to give a more personal look inside the team.
How does a team deal with the range of emotions like Dyson Racing experienced at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this past weekend?
“The hardest thing about racing is keeping things on an even keel. It is such an emotionally-driven sport, but ultimately it comes down to the very unemotional realms of physics and engineering. Like any team sport, you must always concentrate on the positives coming out of any race weekend. Good or bad, there is always something to learn and take away. Realistically, you look at where Dyson Racing was two years ago and where we were with the Mazda program even a year ago, we have made huge strides. If you had asked anyone how competitive they thought we would be this early in the season, I think none of us would have imagined that we would be fighting as hard against Highcroft as we did all day last Saturday. All of us to a man were thrilled to have a car that was a weapon all weekend. We fought a hard race and everyone executed extremely well. This is a sport where you dwell on what is coming – and what is coming for us is the Salt Lake City race. And that is our primary focus right now. You can be sure that everyone is walking around with more spring in their step knowing that we have a car that can take it right to the opposition.”
Where you expecting to win the pole for only the second race of the combined prototype classes?
“I think that Mazda Raceway is a unique track where the drag and horsepower relationship is not as critical as at other tracks. If you look at the results of the past several years at Mazda Raceway, the lighter, higher downforce cars have always done well versus the bigger P1 cars. That is mainly because there are no real straights where drag or horsepower is a limiting factor. We were confident that if the tires worked well (and they did work very well), that we were going to be in the game all weekend. Sure enough, right off the truck, the car was fantastic. It will be interesting to see how things play out between the lighter and heavier cars in Salt Lake City. I think a lighter and smaller car may have an advantage at tighter tracks like Mid-Ohio and Lime Rock, but at tracks like Mosport, Road America and the Petit Le Mans, the P1 cars will have an advantage because of the long straights and their horsepower advantage.”
How does Dyson Racing`s thirty years of experience help to keep things in perspective?
“All of our experience has taught us there are no fairy tales in racing and the world owes you nothing. You have to work hard for everything and rise to the occasion. Yes, we did not get the result we felt we had earned last weekend, and that was disappointing.
But on bright side, as a team, we have not had a weekend like Mazda Raceway since 2005, where we often had the quickest car off the truck and were fastest in every session and in race trim. That is something we have really worked hard on the last couple of years, to try to put ourselves back in that position. The way I look at it, it is only a matter of time before we start winning races again and that is real raison d’être for Dyson Racing.
Our partners – Mazda, BP, AER, Dunlop and Lola, have all rolled up their sleeves this year. We all sense the victories are right around the corner. When you have a situation where you know you are capable of winning, it hurts when you don’t convert it to a result. But you have just that much more confidence for the rest of the year. It is a great feeling to be back at the razor’s edge of the grid.”
How does it feel to be competitive at the top of the field compared to in class?
“I think everyone gets more satisfaction out of overall race wins, which is why I am happy that the American Le Mans Series went back to more of an equivalency formula between the bigger and smaller cars. I think it is more interesting when you have that kind of variety competing for the same prize because you have different threads, different stories to tell. IMSA has done a good job bringing the cars back to racing on even terms. They are going to have to massage it during the course of the year, but it is great to come out knowing that when you have won pole or won a race, you have beaten everybody, and that is what we are shooting for this year.”
What is the team doing over the next six weeks in preparation for Salt Lake City?
“We are going to be continuing some work on our shock absorber development – we have made good gains in matching the dampers to the tires the past few months – and we will be doing some suspension and aero work. Dunlop is looking at tire development plans for the second half of the year, Lola have some very good ideas about how we can extract more performance, and AER is working quite hard. Everyone is flat out to capitialize on this six-week development window of opportunity.
Where is the team with its internal timeline and expectations?
“Our objectives last year were to win races in P2 and be up front, and we achieved that. The objective for this year is to win more races and fight for the championship. We are third right now and a couple race wins away from being in the mix for the title. There are plenty of races left. So we are close to hitting our targets of where we wanted to be this year. I think that everybody is energized in our entire program. Even the days where we have not hit the ball over the fence, we are still getting valuable points. That really gives us confidence because if you can put points in the bank on your bad days and make hay on your good days, that is how you win a championship.”
Does each year have its own personality – for example, can you go back and compare the personality of this year with last?
“I would say that last year was a building year. You can even call last year a rebuilding year as we had just come through a difficult time and we were renewing all of our old technical partnerships for 2009. Like anything else, success does not just happen overnight. We recognize the challenges ahead of us, but we also know that we have great opportunities to deliver this year. My dad, everyone on the team and everybody at Mazda, BP, Lola and AER are 100% committed. This year is an advancing year for us. I think that in some ways 2010 is a bit of renaissance for us this year. We have regained control of our destiny after a few years of external factors preventing us from showing our full potential as a team. ”
How does the performance of this past weekend and winning the pole compare to other poles you have won in the past?
“I was so excited for Guy. He has come close to getting the pole so many times in the past. He had the eye of the tiger all weekend long. No one was going to be able to catch him. We gave him a car and he delivered in spades. I really enjoyed it because he and I have a great relationship and we both have been working so hard together for the past five years. It is nice to have success together and we are looking forward to more of the same the rest of the season. We want to reward the people who have put their faith in us with these kinds of results the rest of the year.”
This was Andy Meyrick’s first time at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. How did he do?
“He did a fabulous job. His first race in America was at Sebring. He did really well there, learned a lot. This was his first sprint race and his pace was outstanding all weekend. Mazda Raceway has never been an easy track to learn. The traffic is always infuriating and the level of composure and maturity that he showed were very professional. His lap times were right there all weekend and he led the race for a number of laps pretty comfortably. What impressed me the most was how he collected himself after his spin and responded and set some fast lap times that kept us in contention. He just put his head down, got on with the job and that is a sign of a true professional. We look forward to having him back in the car at Petit.”
Your thoughts on the future of the Series?
“I am bullish about the prospects of the ALMS. I think it is very well-positioned to do well because it embraces everything that is good and relevant about racing. The series acknowledges the sport’s history while also including all the cutting edge technology of the future. That resonates with the fans, both the folks who follow sportscar racing and also the fans who are tech savvy and have been turned off by the spec racing thrust that seems to have enveloped US racing the past five or ten years. There is a positive feeling in the paddock and the fans are second to none. You go to the races and the stands are full and the paddock is full. I think that is a testament to what the future holds for the series.”
When you are running well, how much harder do you have to work to stay there?
“In almost all types of competition, if you make it look easy, than you are doing a much better job than your competitors. But this sport is not easy, and times like that never last for too long! For the past three or four years, we have been doing everything we can to put ourselves in a position where you have the edge and then have to fight to keep it. Historically, we have been good at staying on top once we get there. All of our partners have worked hard to give us a package to put us back in that position.”
What kind of fan feedback did you get after taking the pole at Mazda Raceway?
“What is so great about the Mazda platform is that the brand has so many dedicated followers. Mazda owners are a very passionate lot and they give us so much support at every event. You also have the fans who love our racecar and the way the Lola looks and the people who like to cheer for the fastest car on the grid. It is great to have the backing of all these groups when you are standing at the top. The view is good and it is energizing to feel the appreciation of the race fans. It is also very humbling because you know how much work it takes to get to that point and how fleeting it can be. I never take it for granted.”