WATKINS GLEN, NY, MAY 20 — James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger looked set for victory in the Watkins Glen Six Hours before late-race engine woes forced them to slow down and settle for second place.
In an event remarkable for its close racing and lengthy caution periods, Dyson`s Anglo-American duo fought hard with their #16 Thetford / Norcold Riley and Scott Ford. For the first four hours, the team was deadlocked in a fascinating duel with the Lola of Intersport Racing`s Jon Field and Oliver Gavin. Both teams had been caught out by Friday`s rainy qualifying and started the event in 21st and 19th positions, respectively. Slashing through the field, Weaver and Field were soon engaged in an all-out dogfight over the entirety of their first stint. Leitzinger replaced Weaver when the Englishman pitted for the second time, and immediately began stretching a slight lead over Gavin, who had relieved Field.
The gaps would never last very long, as the yellow flags started flying with alarming regularity. But the battle never calmed, for every restart, it seemed, was marked by a renewed fight for the lead. The Doran / Lista Ferrari Judd entered the mix, and for a while, it looked like the race would come down to pit strategy. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Coming through the uphill esses as the race neared two- thirds completion, Field`s Lola tangled with a slower car and the damage was extensive enough to end Intersport`s afternoon. Weaver had by this time relieved Leitzinger and soon was scrapping with Mauro Baldi for the lead. The Englishman`s engine began to bog down a bit and he slowed to a pace that could not challenge a healthy Doran car. The team continued to service the car but with an hour remaining it became a matter of survival more than anything else. Thankfully for the team and their championship hopes, Weaver finished second to the Doran team.
“The car just was not as good as I would have liked today,” Weaver remarked. “We had engine problems all day and the car`s setup just was not right. We tried switching around our tire compounds during the race and it helped a little, but the car felt like it was skating. Thankfully the team did a great job during our pit stops and we were able to get a decent result. We are really looking forward to Lime Rock next weekend.”
The #20 Thetford / Norcold Dyson crew had a troubled afternoon Saturday. Andy Wallace had set pole in Friday`s atrocious conditions and led the first ten laps of the Six Hour event. Afflicted by a loose condition, Wallace pitted early and the car improved, but only slightly. The English star handed the mount off to Rob Dyson at his second stop, and the team boss immediately found that the car was unusually darty on every section of the course. Relieving Dyson after an hour and fifteen minutes, Elliott Forbes- Robinson tried a different tire setup and it made a slight gain. But the 58 year-old North Carolinian soon found himself with an overheating engine, the result of a failed gasket on the water pump. Fully realizing that any competitive run was out of the question, the crew managed to repair the problem and Dyson set off for a few very slow laps before parking the car with drivetrain issues. All three of the #20 car`s drivers had complained of oversteer and it emerged that there was something amiss in the differential.
“Well, it was a frustrating day for our car,” Dyson remarked. “We were really looking forward to a good result after Andy put it on pole. But other than Andy`s first few laps of the race, none of us were even close to our best practice times in the race. The car was loose and we think it was a rear end problem. We will get it taken care of in time for Lime Rock.”
The team will be heading directly to Lime Rock, where they will set up for Tuesday`s press / test day at the picturesque Connecticut circuit. The Memorial Day event is the team`s “home event” and James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger won there last year.