Rob Dyson’s fascination with automobiles and racing started early. When he was 13 he bought a derelict Ford Model A coupe – and slept in it the first night he got it back to the family’s farm in Millbrook, NY. He fixed up that Model A, but it was several years before he could drive it on the highways. After getting his license Rob used it to get to school. And he still owns it today.
Rob’s interest in racing was fired as a teenager while on a 1961 family trip to Indianapolis. “It was a business trip for my dad,” Rob recalled. “A business associate of my dad’s said, ‘Come on boys, I will take you out to the Speedway.’ We got on one of those little buses that goes around the Speedway and he would say ‘this is where Wilbur Shaw use to pit’ and ‘this is where Roger Ward started a wreck’. And you would see these big beautiful facilities – it was really something! It was like nothing I had ever seen in my life before.
The Speedway Museum, where today Dyson is the chairman of the board of directors, made a big impression on him. “They had the Marmon Wasp, which won the first 500, and all these other cars there were part of the history of the Speedway and the race. It was an epiphany. I said, ‘I want to be a part of this.’ The next year we went to the Indy 500 again and stayed at a downtown hotel and there was a souvenir flag stand in our room. I took it home and I still have it on my bookcase.”
Dyson’s interest in racing expanded to include road racing. “It was very interesting to see the different roster of people in the Ferraris, Maseratis, Coopers and Porsches, and later, the Ford GT,” Dyson said. “Plus you had Formula One guys stopping by and doing races and that just added to the mystique. It struck me that a lot of the people in road racing were businessmen who had interests outside of racing. I followed Champ Car racing with all the guys who ran in the 50’s and 60’s – they were full time racers – I couldn’t do what they did, but I always had in the back of my mind that I could do road racing sometime in the future. So when I finished graduate school at Cornell, I said, ‘why don’t I do it for a year see what it is like.’”
“I decided the best way to start was to get a car that was simple to work on and get parts for,” Dyson said. He bought a half-completed Datsun 510 sedan, and working with his friend Pat Smith, completed that first Dyson Racing car. “The first time Pat came over to look at the 510, he said, ‘You better get some sandwiches; we are going to be here for a while.’”
Rob and Pat worked on the car at night, after work. Pat was good at transmissions and Rob was good at fabrication. Except for some body work, they did all their own work. Rob took the car to a Sports Car Club of America Regional race at Watkins Glen – “I thought it would be neat to race at the track where the Formula One guys did” – and came home the winner of his first race. Rob ran SCCA Regionals in the Northeast in 1974 and ’75 and ran his first SCCA National in 1977. That was a real step up, because they were racing against the factory teams of Bob Sharp, Bob Tullius and Joe Huffaker.
Rob remembers racing against Bob Leitzinger, the father of Butch Leitzinger who later drove for Dyson Racing for fifteen years. “Bob was a well-established club racer, who had been racing and winning since the mid-‘60s. So when I showed up running SCCA Nationals, Bob was one of the standards I had to measure myself against. His cars were impeccably prepared.
Rob recalled an important learning experience that took place at Ohio’s Nelson Ledges circuit. “Bob Leitzinger was in the car in front of me. We both used the same engine builder, John Caldwell, and I said to myself, ‘Well Rob, you have the same stuff he’s got. This guy is the standard and you just have to meet it.’ So I put the nose of my car right on his rear bumper and anything Bob Leitzinger did, I did. I just followed him around, lap after lap, emulating his every move. I have mentioned this to Bob a couple of times, of how those laps at Nelsons Ledges taught me more about race car driving, and more about race craft, than anything else before or since. I don’t know how long it lasted, maybe 15 minutes, but it was the most important single experience I had in racing, parking my nose right under the bumper of his car and just going for it.”
“Club racing was an interesting time. It was up all night driving Friday after work, than get two hours of sleep in the truck before they open the gates on Saturday morning, than unload the car and off you went. Then drive all Sunday night so we could be back at work on Monday morning. You did sleep pretty well on Monday night! But that was kind of fun when I look back. I smile when I think about how much we did not know and how much we were learning every weekend. I remember lying underneath my race car, sucking dirt, putting a gear box together in the sand. Or being in the middle of nowhere, working a block and tackle off a tree limb to get an engine in. Or it is the middle of the night, and you are taking an engine out and pulling the bottom end off to check to see if any bearings are gone as a result of an oil pump failing. Here it is midnight in Palm Beach, Florida, 90 degrees and you are a buffet table for the mosquitoes!”
The zenith of Rob’s SCCA amateur club-racing came in 1981, when he won a National Championship aboard a Datsun 200 SX, a car he also campaigned the following season.
It was time to move up. In 1983 Rob ran a Pontiac Firebird in IMSA GTO and selected Trans-Am races. By this time it was a crew of three – Pat and two other guys including John Pultz (Boz) who started working for Rob in 1978 after following him into the driveway after a race at Lime Rock Park. Rob had the Firebird built and to be charitable, the car was not at the top of the class. But it was a good learning experience as they ran a mixed schedule of IMSA and Trans Am. The highlights included an astonishing third-place overall at the Elkhart Lake 500-mile IMSA event.
“In 1982 I said to Smitty, I think we ought to move up,” Dyson said. “I thought we were capable at that time. We had a couple more guys hanging out with us, and I thought the Firebird would work. Another guy built it and the car really did not do anything very well, but it taught us a lot. The car was a one-off with everything built by us or by the guy who built it. The car was unique, so we were constantly updating and redoing stuff, usually by ourselves. But finishing third at Elkhart Lake was a highlight. We were running a car that was clearly outclassed and we just outlasted everybody. The long and short of it was that the Firebird was such a diabolical car, that when I got into the Porsche 962, we were able to run quickly right away.”
The top series beckoned. Rob considered buying a March GTP car. Bob Akin, a good friend, said that Porsche was the only way to go: it was a very impressive vehicle backed up by a great organization. Besides, Bob noted, no one collects Marches. So Rob went to Al Holbert to buy a 962. They were sold out, but he said that Bruce Leven was selling chassis #101, the first factory-built customer car, and Rob bought it. (He still has it).
It wasn’t until the eighth round of the 1985 season, at Lime Rock Park, that Rob and his co-driver, Drake Olson, made the team’s first appearance in in the top class of IMSA’s Camel GT series. It was a memorable debut. Earlier Rob had inquired about being part of Goodyear’s free tire program and was told that for the team to be eligible they would need to win the race. And on a day track made particularly challenging by changing weather conditions, that is exactly what they did. Before its truncated season ended, they had added two more wins – Olson and Bobby Rahal at Road America and Olson joined by Price Cobb at Columbus. Olson also won the inaugural Porsche Cup for North America in 1985.
In 1986, Rob ordered a second car, 962/120 and Rob and Price won at Riverside and Sears Point. Price was second in the championship and earned their second Porsche Cup. The team had come to grips with the Porsche 962 platform quickly and had started developing concepts of their own in the latter half of 1985 and early ‘86. Virtually every aspect of the Dyson 962 was modified, including a new high downforce nose and air tunnels under the car designed by the team’s aerodynamicist Dick Yagami.
James Weaver joined the team at the Road Atlanta race in 1987 and he and Price won the race. The team had four more podiums and won at Watkins Glen and Road America. Price was second in the championship, and took the Porsche Cup, the team’s third in a row.
1988 found Dyson Racing and all the other Porsche teams facing changed circumstances. Following a couple of years of development, the factory-supported Nissan Electramotive GTP team hit its stride, scoring eight wins in a row. With all the other Porsche teams shut out, Dyson Racing took the only two Porsche victories that year, tallying a early-season win at Miami and a late-season one at San Antonio that broke Nissan’s win streak.
Looking back over that first four-year phase of Dyson Racing’s GTP history Rob recalled that “I talked to Bob Akin and asked him what the story was on these Porsches – they look pretty slick. Bob said, ‘If you are going to run a car, you have to run a Porsche. They are a bit more expensive, but they have the customer backing and are around at the end. That GTO you are running, first of all it is a lower class car, and you are going to have to build a new car to get it running right, so why don’t you just move up.’ So we worked a deal with Al Holbert to get a 962 from Bruce Leven. I couldn’t believe that I had a Porsche 962 of my own. We ran eight races in 1985 and won two of them.
“Alwin Springer, the Andial Porsche engine guy, was a real help to us. He showed us how the engine worked, and also a lot about chassis set ups, and how to run the car. The other thing was that we were a keen team. Pat Smith was very smart with the basics. We just outworked everybody. We were used to being creative and having to work very hard to make the Firebird work. Smitty and I had the same attitude, even if we were quick, we would try stuff to see if we could go quicker. You don’t know if it is going to work, but if it does, great, if not, you could always put it back to where it was, assuming we did not get too radical and put yourself in the hedge or something!
“When we moved into the GTP class, it was just four guys. We added two more and we had a tight knit six running the Porsche effort. We added guys very carefully, and slowly. We put in a lot of effort to make sure that whoever we brought on was very good at what they did. The team evolved and is still evolving today, very organically.
“I raced with some great drivers in the Porsches. I would have raced even more, but my kids were young and many times I would not go to the races so I could be with my kids. I remember going to a race at Sears Point – I had been traveling all week on business and I arrived at the track with a coat and tie and literally took off my coat and tie, put on a driving suit, and strapped myself into the Porsche.” (Rob won that weekend’s event).
“In 1987, I did two races with A.J. Foyt in his Porsche at Miami and Sebring and after Sebring he said, “Why don’t you come and run the Indy 500 with me. No money, whatever you win, we split 70/30 – 70% goes to the crew and 30% to you.” I called him three days later and asked if he was serious, and A.J. said, ‘Absolutely.’ So I thought about it long and hard: he was at the top of his game, he had all the right equipment. I talked to Leo Mehl, the head of Goodyear racing, and he said you could not ask for a better guy, because in those days, A.J. knew everything there was about running that track. But Leo said, “Rob, all I want to tell you is that anything that happens at the Indianapolis Speedway, happens at over 200 miles per hour.” And I thought about it when I went home and I saw my eight year old boy and my five year old daughter and my businesses were growing and I would have to take three or four weeks off to go there, so I thought about it and said, maybe I better take a pass on it. That was the difference between road racing and all other forms of racing. The guys I would have been running with at the 500 did this full time and I would have been the only part time guy. With everybody else, that was that all they did – prize money meant a new refrigerator; prize money meant they could buy a new house.”
Dyson Racing ran only one IMSA race in 1989 – at Lime Rock Park, the first Dyson race for John Paul Jr, – but other than that, they branched out to run a Champ Car for James Weaver.
It was a short lived experiment as they found themselves on the outside looking in when it came to getting the equipment needed to be competitive. James’s best race finish was an eleventh at Long Beach.
Rob Dyson: “We ran a Lola Indy Car for four races in 1989 and it was a learning experience. It is always good to expose the team to new disciplines. We ran near the top ten in our first race at Long Beach, which in retrospect was more impressive than perhaps it seemed to us at the time. The Chevys had just come in and all the top teams had them and they dominated the year; as the new kids on the block, you could not get those engines for the next season. So we went back to sports car racing in 1990 and started running the Porsches again.”
IMSA (Part 2)
The team had a new 962 at the first race of the season in 1990, the Daytona 24 Hours. Team members called it “Box Stock Betty” because Porsche insisted the team run it without any modifications. But it soon became clear the car needed more downforce so the team bypassed the dictates of the factory and redid the bodywork substantially. Weaver was third in the next race at Miami with Scott Pruett, and ended the season with another podium at Watkins Glen and a memorable win at Tampa. James was sixth in drivers’ points, at the wheel of the only Porsche in the top ten.
James ran ten races in the team’s Porsches in 1991, with his best finish being a fourth at Miami.
The team agreed to sell the venerable 962-148 in late 1992, but before delivering it to the buyer, campaigned it 24 Hours of Daytona at the beginning of 1993, finishing second in GTP in the category’s Daytona swansong. Price Cobb rejoined the team for this effort, along with Elliott Forbes-Robinson, and Rob and James rounded out the roster. It was the only sports car race Dyson Racing ran that year before switching over to an Indy Lights effort for James Weaver for the reminder of the season.
Rob Dyson: “I remember that stock Porsche 962 we ran at Daytona in 1990. It had a small dinosaur painted next to my driver’s name: I was the last of the owner-drivers, hence the dinosaur.
“At the peak of the GTP era, we had three 962 chassis. We also ran then-radical-tailed DR1 variant of the 962. It was a Nigel Stroud design for Richard Lloyd. It had a rising-rate front suspension. We put a lot of work into it but it didn’t work very well on our American tracks. Our tracks were too rough. The suspension was a little tighter and it just didn’t work right. We won a race with it, but it was not the leap forward we thought it would be.
“Because of this and the fact it was an air-cooled car, we sold the DR1 before we went CART racing in 1989. For our IMSA return, we bought chassis number 148, the last all-Weissach-built 962. Any of the ones after 148 had tubs built by Fabcar (David Klym) under a contract with Porsche. We ran the 148 which was originally a Group C car, and put it into IMSA trim.”
The team did use the rest of 1993 to field James Weaver in an Indy Lights car with a best finish of fifth at the fourth race of the year at Detroit.
Rob: “We ran six races in Indy Lights in 1993. It is always educational to run different series but with the emergence of IMSA’s WSC category, we went back to sports cars in 1994.”
World Sports Car, USRRC, ALMS
By 1994, the GTP era had ended and IMSA created the World Sports Car series as its flagship category. The team bought a Spice prototype and put a Ferrari 348 engine in it. The cars were supposed to run with production-based engines, but soon purebred race engines became the norm. Dyson Racing participated in eight of the nine races, not running the 12 Hours of Sebring, with the team’s best finish a third at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Dyson Racing moved to the Ford-powered Riley & Scott chassis in 1995 and began an eight-year run that netted the team 36 wins, including two epic victories (1997 & 1999) at Daytona’s prestigious Rolex 24.
In 1995, Dyson Racing scored nine straight podium finishes, from Road Atlanta to New Orleans, including five wins and a 1-2 finish in the season finale at New Orleans. By a bare two points James Weaver missed winning the drivers’ championship.
Butch Leitzinger was third in the 1996 IMSA World Sports Car Championship. The team garnered seven podiums including a hat trick sweep of the last three events of the season.
The peak of the late-nineties era of Dyson Racing began in 1997; the team took the top three positions in the championship. Butch Leitzinger won the title, followed by Elliott Forbes-Robinson and James Weaver. They started the year with a win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and were on every podium for the season, with five wins out of eleven races.
The following year was equally successful. Butch Leitzinger won his second consecutive IMSA World Sports Car championship. In 1998 Dyson Racing also contested with its Riley & Scott cars the U.S. Road Racing Championship, organized by the Sports Car Club of America under the revived Can Am banner. The team swept the series, with James Weaver taking the title, followed by Leitzinger, Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Dorsey Schroeder.
Don Panoz bought IMSA in 1999, and the American Le Mans Series was created, but the change of ownership did not slow up Dyson Racing. Elliott Forbes-Robinson won the inaugural ALMS Championship and he shared the SCCA’s Can Am Championship with Butch Leitzinger. The team added a second Rolex 24 victory to its record book, besting the Ferrari 333sp and covering a record distance that would not be bettered for nearly two decades.
Rob Dyson, on the nineties: “For 1994, we bought a Spice and adapted the Ferrari 348 engine to it. I called Bob Akin again and said, “Bob, I’ve got a Ferrari engine I’ve got to trick up to run in this Spice.” He replied, “Well, you have to see Ted Wenz.” So we went to Wenz and he and Peter Marcovicci did a phenomenal job of rebuilding the engines, they were great engines. And the fans loved them. They had a great sound to them. The sound was loud and throaty, 8-into-1 exhaust, straight pipes– and it wasn’t like the shrill Ferrari 333SP.
“Bob Riley came on as a consultant during the summer of 1994 and had helped us make the Spice work a little better. He re-fabricated some uprights and some other pieces to make them work better. But he kept on saying, “I don’t want to sell you parts; I want to sell you a car.” So Pat Smith and I went out to Indianapolis late in the season and looked at what Bob had drawn up. As soon as he showed me what he had done, with the separate coils and shocks and the overall packaging, I said, “We will take two.” The aerodynamic concept looked ideal for American circuits. And it was quite innovative and service-friendly. You could literally change all the springs in the pits, in five minutes. And that is what got us into the Riley & Scott Mk. III.”
“The rest of the decade was a thrill for the us. When I look back on it, it was amazing how consistent and front-running we were for the next five seasons. Rules changed but the Riley and Scott Mk. III-Ford was so well-suited for all conditions, and we had such a strong working relationship with Goodyear, and the best drivers, and a lot of consistency with the crew and car preparation, so success came naturally.”
“Winning at Daytona that first time, in ’97, was overwhelming. I had been trying for more than a decade and as a team we had come close before. And the way the race panned out was dramatic. To this day, we have no idea how the engine survived. One of the pistons had cracked very badly and Butch did a superb job nursing the car the to the finish. We had entered two cars in the race, but our #16 entry dropped out early. There were no restrictions on drivers crossing over into other team cars back then, so all three of the other car’s drivers (Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver) took stints in our #20 car that I shared with John Schneider, EFR and John Paul, Jr. So it was a total team effort, and it really set the tone for the success that followed over the course of the next three seasons.”
Dyson Racing was one of the founding teams of the Rolex Sports Car Series, winning sixteen races and two drivers’ and two team championships from 2000 through 2002.
Dyson Racing ran its Riley & Scott III in the inaugural year of the Grand American Road Racing Association. James Weaver won the championship, his second with Dyson Racing, winning four of the nine races on the schedule, supplemented with two third places and two fourths. The team also claimed a class victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 Hours in 2000.
Weaver won his second Grand Am championship in a row in 2001, with Butch Leitzinger only twelve points back in second. Dyson Racing won or finished second in all but one of the eleven races.
Chris Dyson, who had made his team debut at the 2001 Watkins Glen 250, finished second in the 2002 drivers’ championship, missing the title by just two points. He won rookie-of-the-year honors while winning five of the season’s ten races, including the Watkins Glen Six Hours. Demonstrating consistency, Chris finished on the podium three more times. James Weaver was third in the championship, Rob Dyson fifth and Butch Leitzinger sixth. Twice Dyson Racing took 1-2 finishes, at Watkins Glen and Daytona.
Rob Dyson: “We ran the Riley & Scotts for eight years. We have not run any other race car as long as we did the Riley & Scotts. We had one chassis that had over 53,000 racing miles on it including the 24 Hours of Daytona win in 1997. The Riley was the most successful car we ran. We won a bunch of championships with it. It was a magnificent car to drive: beautifully balanced, very stout, very forgiving, and an easy car to drive fast.”
All told, from 1995 through 2002 Dyson Racing’s Riley & Scott Mk III cars claimed thirty-six victories, including two overall and two class wins in the Rolex 24.
Rolex Sports Car Series
Dyson Racing returned to the American Le Mans Series in 2001 for a limited program with the experimental Riley and Scott Mk3C—an iteration of the original Mk III that they had campaigned since 1995. The project was not a match for the Audi R8 juggernaut but did yield one podium finish in the American Le Mans Series Mid-Ohio event.
The team regrouped and examined all available options for competing in the American Le Mans Series in the second half of 2001 and early 2002. It concluded that Lola’s novel approach to the new, equivalency-based LMP675 category presented the best opportunity for taking on the dominant Audi program. A deal was struck for one of the Lola-MG EX257’s in spring 2002, and the team took delivery of the car in time to join the ALMS round at Mosport.
The team entered the final four races of the 2002 ALMS schedule, and immediately set to work with Goodyear on a tire development program in preparation for a full-time championship campaign. The early tire and suspension geometry revisions showed encouraging results: the team’s new car excelled at the 2002 Petit Le Mans round, with Weaver qualifying a strong 3rd overall and taking the lead in the early hours of the event.
With four class wins, including the 12 Hours of Sebring and three additional podiums, Chris Dyson won the 2003 LMP675 championship. Dyson Racing made racing history at California’s Infineon Raceway in July, when James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger beat the defending champion Joest Racing Audi R8 and scored the first overall race win in ALMS history for a car in the LMP675 class. Longtime Team Manager Pat Smith retired shortly after celebrating his 60th birthday in June, capping more than a quarter-century of a distinguished tenure dating back to Rob’s early club racing days. Randall Kelsey assumed leadership duties at the team, having started working with the team as a junior mechanic after high school classes in the early nineties. Peter Weston, who had been working on the Lola project as a consultant since late 2002, assumed full-time race engineering duties for both cars.
The LMP900 and LMP675 classes were merged into a single LMP1 class for 2004, and Dyson Racing again entered two Lola EX257-AER for Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson and James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger. Jan Lammers joined Dyson for the two series endurance races, and he and Chris claimed a fine podium at the Petit Le Mans together. James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger placed second in the championship with a win at Mosport and seven podium finishes in nine races.
The 2005 season saw a switch to Michelin tires and consistency in the chassis and driver department. Dyson Racing entered two cars at all ALMS rounds. Weaver and Leitzinger won at Mid-Ohio ahead of Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace– the first ALMS one-two P1-class finish for Dyson Racing. Weaver and Leitzinger then went on to win at Mosport, which also marked Weaver’s 100th career race win. Chris Dyson’s consistent competitiveness garnered him second place in the ALMS championship with six runner-up finishes and a third in the season’s ten races.
With the regulations changing, 2006 brought a change in equipment as Dyson Racing contested the ALMS LMP1 championship with a pair of Lolas, the new B06/10 mated with Advanced Engine Research’s new V8 Turbo. Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver paired in the #16 car, co-driving with Andy Wallace in the endurance races; Guy Smith joined Chris Dyson full-time after two strong showings the previous season at Sebring and Petit Le Mans. James Weaver finished second in the championship and Butch Leitzinger was third. The team managed to record eight race podiums, three poles and two fastest race laps.
At the conclusion of the final race of 2006 at Laguna Seca, and without any fanfare, James Weaver announced privately to the team his retirement from driving. It was a bittersweet moment for the team; James had been there for 20 years and was a driving force of the team’s success. In a moving evening, and with a guest appearance from Pat Smith and Price Cobb, the entire team honored James and his contributions at the season-ending Christmas Party.
Dyson Racing renewed its relationship with Porsche in 2007, running a pair of the German marque’s LMP2-class RS Spyders in the ALMS’s most competitive category. Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace finished third in the LMP2 championship, four points ahead of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith in fourth place. For 2008, the team continued with their Porsche RS Spyders, starting off the season with a second and third at the 12 Hours of Sebring. At year’s end Dyson Racing finished third in the team championship and Marino Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger were fifth in the drivers’ standings followed by Chris Dyson and Guy Smith in sixth place. Michael White, a veteran of the team since the mid-nineties, assumed Team Manager duties in the latter half of 2008, a post he continues to hold to the present day.
For 2009 a successful switch to a pair of BP-sponsored Mazda-Lola Coupes netted Dyson Racing second place in the ALMS team championship. In the drivers’ championship Butch Leitzinger and Marino Franchitti were runners-up, while Chris Dyson and Guy Smith were fourth after electing to race unclassified and develop a new biofuel for the last two rounds of the season. After a memorable class win in front of an appreciative home crowd at Lime Rock, Leitzinger and Franchitti (assisted by Ben Devlin) capped the 2009 season with a class victory at the Petit Le Mans.
For 2010, the team retained Mazda’s factory support but scaled back to a one-car effort for Chris Dyson and Guy Smith. A new collaborative technical partnership was forged with Dunlop Motorsport. Andy Meyrick joined the team for the three endurance races at Sebring, Laguna Seca and the Petit Le Mans. The team showed impressive speed at all circuits, and the highlight of the 2010 season was Dyson and Guy Smith’s overall win at Mid-Ohio in August. It was the first overall ALMS series victory for Mazda, Smith, biofuel IsoButanol, Dunlop tires and Castrol.
The foundation laid in 2009 and 2010 came together in 2011 with a dominant season for Dyson Racing. The team won a total of five championships: Driver’s with Chris Dyson and Guy Smith; Team Championship, Engine Manufacturer with Mazda, the Tire title for Dunlop plus the 2011 Michelin Green X Challenge. The Michael White-led team won twice – at its home track of Lime Rock Park and with Humaid Al Masaood and Steven Kane at Baltimore. The Baltimore win was a one-two finish for the team. The team started from the pole five times in 2011, and in three of those races Dyson Racing swept the front of the grid. The Dyson drivers added four fastest laps and thirteen podium finishes to its record book. Reliability was superb: the team completed all but a handful of the series race laps.
In 2012, Chris Dyson and Guy Smith finished second in the ALMS P1-class Drivers Championship, nine points out of first. The team took second in the Team Championship, five points out, and Mazda took home second place in the Engine Manufacturers’ Championship as did Dunlop in the Tire Manufacturer Championship. Dyson Racing bookended the 2012 season with first place ALMS P1 points at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda, with Chris and Guy taking home the honors in their #16 Mazda-powered Thetford-branded entry. The team was one-two in P1 at Baltimore, Michael Marsal and Eric Lux winning in only the pair’s sixth race with Dyson Racing. The team won at Road America with Guy Smith and Chris Dyson setting a record for the closest-ever overall finish in ALMS history with their 0.083 margin of victory over Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf. Guy also set a track record with his pole at Lime Rock Park, the team’s home track. Chris Dyson celebrated his 100th ALMS start at Baltimore and the team scored its 200th podium at Mid-Ohio in August. The team had a total of seventeen P1 podiums in 2012.
Dyson Racing was second in the 2013 ALMS team championship as a rotation of drivers during the season produced third-place championship results for Tony Burgess and Chris McMurry, fourth place for Chris Dyson, while Guy Smith secured fifth place in the drivers’ championship. For the second consecutive year Mazda took home second in the P1 engine manufacturer championship.
Reflecting on the progression of equipment in the ALMS over the years, Rob Dyson noted, “The Riley & Scott-Fords eventually reached their competitive limits. The MG Lola prototype was the only real opposition to the wining Audis in the 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans and the LMP675 class looked pretty interesting as a way to win races overall in the ALMS. So we went with the Lola and Chris won the championship in our first full year of competition.
“The Lola was a different animal than the Riley & Scott. The Lola was a very light car, an all carbon-fiber chassis. The aero loading was more, and there were a number of other learning areas we had to master with the Lola.
“We spent a week in Lola’s wind tunnel early in 2003 and that created a whole lot of things for us that made the car run better on our circuits. We had to get the aero characteristics figured out; particularly with the tire program coming on line from Goodyear. We got a handle on the engine and the drivetrain and we got the suspension beefed up and we got that all straightened out. We ran the four-cylinder AER turbo engine, which put out a goodly amount of horsepower, and we were able to take the fight to the Audis at every track for all of 2004 and 2005. Some very memorable battles and the whole time we were pushing the development curve. Those years showed the strength of the team and the really strong working relationships we had with all our technical partners.
“You know, the team is always evolving. 2007 saw us back with Porsche. We ran Porsche 962’s in IMSA GTP from 1985 through 1991, winning a dozen races. Understanding the techniques behind any race car is a challenge. The guys did a great job of unlocking the RS Spyder’s secrets; in a lot of events in 2007 we were legitimately contending for overall wins in our first year of the program, against really deep competition, too. And then in 2009 we started a new chapter with the joining of Dyson Racing and Mazda in partnership, and 2010 saw us further heighten our competitiveness with the switch to Dunlop tires. In 2011 we had our five championships to savor. I have been doing this a long time and have won a number of championships over more than three decades, but these titles were very, very special. And after the ALMS concluded, we moved from there to a two-year association with Bentley, racing their Continental GT3 in the Pirelli World Challenge. We are always growing and taking on new challenges.
“When I look back, I never thought I would reach this level. I thought I would run a little bit and see what it was like out there, see what it was like to be a race car driver. I did not have any goal in mind to win the Indy 500 or Le Mans, or the Daytona 24 Hours or anything like that. I won the first race I ever ran, a Watkins Glen SCCA Regional. I won the race overall and beat everybody. I kept on doing it with no real endgame or specific objectives in mind – I just enjoyed it so much.
“It is unlike any other sport because it has all the challenging things that you want in a competition: racing has the logistics, the team effort, camaraderie, lots of competition, hard work, speed, etc. We take our racing seriously. We are not here just to participate. We have never shown up at a race just to show up. We show up to win the race. We have always wanted to compete, at the highest levels, no matter where we were. And that has remained the same throughout all of our racing history.”
For the 2014 and 2015 seasons Dyson Racing partnered with Bentley Motors to field a pair of the venerated British automaker’s race-prepared Continental GT3 models in the Pirelli World Challenge series. Following the racing program’s announcement on the Bentley display at the New York International Automobile Show in April, 2014, Dyson Racing Team Bentley made its debut in June at Wisconsin’s Road America circuit. At Sonoma Raceway in California in August, Butch Leitzinger took the first Bentley podium as Guy Smith joined the team in the second car.
The team ended the 2014 season at Miller Motorsports Park in September in style, with Smith scoring a race win in his #88 Bentley Continental GT3 and Leitzinger taking the third step of the podium in the sister #08 entry. The team’s win at Miller Motorsports Park gave Bentley its first-ever win outside of Europe, a significant addition to the brand’s heritage. Despite Dyson Racing Team Bentley joining the series mid-season, at year’s end Smith was tied for first in drivers’ fastest race laps and Bentley was second in manufacturers’ fast laps, and third in manufacturer’s poles.
All in all, a successful American debut for the Bentley Continental GT3 and a notable race season for Dyson Racing Team Bentley. As a Follow-up in 2015, Chris Dyson raced full-time and he scored Bentley’s second North American victory with a dominant drive at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. Dyson set fastest lap on three occasions in 2015, started from pole at Road America, and added podiums at Long Beach and Mosport. Guy Smith competed in the last three race weekends of 2015 and added a podium at Miller Motorsports Park.