Editorial

Richard Lyons looking at Champ Car for his next challenge
 
by Mark Cipolloni

 December 10, 2005

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Richard Lyons

26-year-old Richard Lyons from Ireland has been beating up on the competition in Japan for the last five years, winning  the Japanese GT championships four years in a row and both Formula Nippon and Japanese GT in 2004.

But, the 2004 Formula Nippon and Japanese GT champion from Hillsborough, Ireland is ready to quit the Far East and move on after five years of living and racing on the other side of the world.

"I really want to get out of Japan as I feel I've done my time here," he is reported as saying following the final race of the 2005 Super GT series.

Now the 26-year-old is looking to a future in Europe or America or even Australia.

"I'm eager to move on to the next step in my career," he said. "It could be back in Europe but that always involves a lot of sponsorship money so I'm also looking closely at what is happening in America, especially with Champ Car which seems to be getting stronger again.  "He said he was also looking at the Australian V8 saloon car championship which has already attracted another young British driver, James Courtney.

After driving 550 HP open wheel cars and NASCAR's Japanese equivalent GT cars, his aim is to land a full-time Champ Car ride in 2006. 

The first step will be a test with the Rocketsports team starting Monday in Sebring.

We had been following the rumors that Lyons might test a Champ Car since last November, but they never materialized until now.

"I really need a new goal and a new challenge and I'm going to focus on getting into Champ Car next year," said Lyon.

"After driving 550 HP cars it was getting a bit normal, I could just put my foot down and it didn't surprise me anymore and I was ready for the next challenge," Lyons told Autoracing1.com.  "As I was telling my Dad, I hope a Champ Car puts me back in my seat."

But why leave Japan after being so popular and so successful?


Nissan President Carlos Ghosn with Richard Lyons

"The Japanese people were very nice, but being from Ireland,  Japan wasn't where I wanted to spend my whole life."

How did a young lad from Ireland with no sponsorship end up in Japan?

"It was OK racing in Europe when I was real young, but once it got up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to race in the junior formula I could not afford it.

"I have no major sponsors, but I'm going into this test with an open mind.  It's the team's chance to get to know me and for me to know them.   If I can do a good job we're hoping that the team or I can sell me to potential sponsors."


Richard Lyons' Nissan is as sophisticated as an F1 car

Toyota, Honda and Nissan go head-to-head in Japan just like Chevy-Ford and Dodge duke it out in the USA in NASCAR.  The only difference is that the Japanese version of NASCAR is very high-tech and sophisticated, whereas NASCAR is as dumbed-down back woods as one can get.  But both are successful in their own right.  The high-tech Japanese version appeals to the more educated Japanese fan, whereas the dumbed-down American version appeals to a different crowd.

"Formula Nippon and Japanese GT are both professional series like NASCAR.  I didn't have to bring money to drive.  The drivers get rides based on talent, not bringing money.  I was able to win my ride in Japan based on talent at a proper test.

"The Formula Nippon car is over 200 pounds lighter than a Champ Car so the power-to-weight ratio is similar to Formula Nippon.  Formula Nippon is about as popular in Japan as Champ Car is in America.  GT is like NASCAR here.  The races are all on live TV and the drivers are national heroes."

We'll be watching his test next week in Sebring with great interest, to see if Lyons has what it takes to make the step up to one of the hardest forms of motorsports in the world - Champ Car.

History

Lyons made his motorsports debut racing karts in 1988, at only nine years old. In 1996, at the age of 17, he was promoted to Formula Ford. That same year, he also competed in the Formula Vauxhall Winter Series and was crowned the champion. The next two years the talented Irishman spent racing in the Formula Vauxhall Junior Series, where he finished as the runner-up in the 1998 season. Lyons moved on to the Formula Palmer-Audi Series the following year and finished second in the points standings. In 2000, he continued running in the Formula Palmer-Audi Series in addition to running in the Formula Renault 2000 Series.


Richard Lyons in his title-winning Nissan Japanese GT car

His career was limited to single-seaters through 2000, and then he set his sights on Japan and the Formula Nippon Championship for 2001. That same year, he participated in his first endurance race, the Suzuka 1000km in a McLaren F1GTR. From 2002 through 2005, Lyons continued competing in the Formula Nippon Championship, while adding racing in the Japanese GT Series to his resume. 2004 was a big year, one that changed Lyons name to Champion, not just in one of the series, but both.

Record

1988 Debut in Racing Kart at the age of 9
1996 Formula Ford Championship, Formula Vauxhall Winter Series (Series Champion)
1997 Formula Vauxhall Junior Championship
1998 Formula Vauxhall Junior Championship (Finished:2nd), Opel EFDA Winter Series (Finished :3rd)
1999 Formula Palmer Audi (Series Ranking:2nd)
2000 Formula Renault 2000 Championship, European Formula Audi Championship
2001 Japanese Championship Formula Nippon
2002 Japanese Championship Formula Nippon (Series Ranking:10th)
2003 Japanese Championship Formula Nippon (Series Ranking:6th, Win1)
2004 Japanese Championship Formula Nippon (Series Champion, Win2)  

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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