LEXINGTON, OH, AUG. 25 — Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing claimed its first podium of the 2001 American Le Mans Series season in today`s Mid-Ohio Grand Prix. Pilots James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, who had almost no pre-race practice after their Riley and Scott mk3C Lincoln had been sidelined with electrical problems, drove steadily and utilized the Dyson team`s expert pit work to remain in touch with the leaders all day. In the race`s dying moments, James Weaver caught the second placed works Audi of Rinaldo Capello and spun while attempting to overtake the Joest pilot. “I had to go for it,” the Englishman beamed after the race. “It was great fun out there today, I love having a good scrap like that! Third is great considering the week we had.”
Weaver started the Mid-Ohio event from seventh position on the grid and enjoyed a spirited fight with the Champion Audi of Andy Wallace, ending up fifth overall by the first round of pit stops. Butch Leitzinger took over from Weaver for the race`s middle stint, and benefitted from the miscues of the frontrunning cars to move up as high as third. Weaver resumed the controls for the race`s final segment, and ran a stirring second after a series of full-course cautions. For a while, it looked as if the other contenders would have to pit for fuel, but the length of the caution periods eliminated that wild card element. Weaver was passed by Capello with twenty minutes remaining and kept up with him. The Englishman caught the Italian Audi driver with four laps remaining and unfortunately could not complete the move to retake second position.
“Goodyear has really done a fine job with their tires,” Weaver said after the race. “And I have got to thank the boys for working so hard the past few weeks. If we can keep working on the new car and continue to fine tune the engine management, we will be right up there.”
Third place was tonic for the Dyson team, who showed this weekend that last weekend`s fifth place in the Mosport A.L.M.S. event was no fluke. On Thursday, the team`s new Riley and Scott suffered a faulty computer which prevented the car from starting. The team lost a whole day`s testing waiting for a replacement component to be shipped to the circuit, and, but for one hardship lap, the team went into Qualifying with no practice data. The result was a fitting conclusion to a grueling month for the Poughkeepsie, New York-based Dyson team. With four races on successive weekends, August yielded wins at Trois-Rivieres and Watkins Glen in addition to the past two strong finishes in American Le Mans Series events. Team boss Rob Dyson, who was in attendance at Mid-Ohio, praised his group. “The guys did a phenomenal job,” Dyson said. “Butch and James did a great job out there, and the pit work was excellent, really solid. We have got a lot of work to do with our car but the guys are doing their best. They put in a lot of hours the past couple weeks and I am proud of them. Pat (Smith) called another good race and everything seemed to fall into place. We are looking forward to better things in the future.”
Dyson team members have a passion for racing that extends beyond major endurance events. After the race, while Rob Dyson helped his son Chris tune his Spec Racer Ford for Sunday`s S.C.C.A. National event at Mid-Ohio, Team Manager Pat Smith was heading directly to nearby Attica Raceway Park with his son Link to watch the 410 Sprint Car shootout. “It is great racing,” Smith says with a smile. “Incredibly close, and very exciting to watch when they turn in to a corner flat-out.”
Indeed. And a great weekend of running in the American Le Mans Series for James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger, and the entire Dyson Racing team. The team will now enjoy Labor Day weekend recouperating at home in Poughkeepsie before getting ready for their next race, the Daytona Finale on September 15-16.