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Testing notes, photos from Road Atlanta

May 27, 2003

Dyson Racing teammates Butch Leitzinger (left) and Chris Dyson discuss Road Atlanta setups. Dyson set the fastest lap of the day in Tuesday's test session.

The #20 Dyson Racing Lola-MG was the fastest car of the day in Tuesday's American Le Mans Series test at Road Atlanta.

The Dyson Racing crew makes adjustments to its Lola-MG Prototype during Tuesday's American Le Mans Series testing session at Road Atlanta.

The Essex Racing Lola-Millington Prototype (front) leads the ACEMCO Ferrari 360 Modena through Road Atlanta's "S" turns during Tuesday's American Le Mans Series testing session.

Some young race fans check out Dyson Racing's paddock area during the lunch break at Tuesday's American Le Mans Series test session at Road Atlanta. Testing will continue Wednesday and is open to the public at no charge.

The Team Olive Garden Ferrari 550 Maranello approaches Turn 10 at Road Atlanta during Tuesday's American Le Mans Series testing session.

The Orbit Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS goes through its paces at Road Atlanta during Tuesday's American Le Mans Series test session.
ALMS/Rick Dole

With the American Le Mans Series set to return to action in a month, nine teams from the series took the opportunity Tuesday to shake down their cars in the first of two days of open testing at Road Atlanta, with a surprising fastest driver of the day.

Chris Dyson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in his first full season of American Le Mans Series competition, turned the day’s fastest lap with a time of 1:12.495 in the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG Prototype. The 24-year-old driver posted the speed midway through the morning session and it was not topped the rest of the day.

The American Le Mans Series started its season with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March, but will not race again until the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta June 27-29. The gap in the schedule is due to the series practice of scheduling around the 24 Hours of Le Mans, allowing teams that want to participate in the French racing classic the opportunity to do so. And while 21 teams that compete on the series have already shipped their cars and equipment to France, many of the teams that are not running Le Mans were at Road Atlanta on Tuesday.

“It’s been wonderful to have this test here,” said Butch Leitzinger, another driver for Dyson Racing. “For the teams not going to Le Mans, it’s been a huge gap, and we all needed to get out and do some running. And with the next race being here, it’s a huge advantage to us to test here.”

Tuesday’s testing was run under sunny skies with mild temperatures in the mid-70s. The two Dyson machines, which compete in the LMP 675 class, are expected to be among the contenders for the overall win in the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta.

“We’ve made tons of changes on the car and it is handling very well,” said Leitzinger, of State College, Pa., who will co-drive with James Weaver of England in the #16 Dyson entry. “With the new engine restrictors, it’s hurt our straight-line speed some, and we’re trying some things with the aerodynamics of the car to try and compensate for that. This is a difficult track to try and make up time on because you are flat out in so many places around it, so you need that straight-line speed.”

The #20 Dyson entry, co-driven by Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace of England, was the car that set the day’s fastest time. The lap by Dyson was slower than the LMP 675 class track record of 1:11.883 set last October by Weaver in qualifying for the Petit Le Mans, the season-ending race for the ALMS.

“This might not be the year for new lap records here,” said Leitzinger. “Again because of the engine restrictors. But I could be wrong; there are a lot of good race teams that will be here next month and you never know what might happen.”

Another driver happy with the testing session was Shane Lewis of Jupiter, Fla., co-driving the ACEMCO Motorsports Ferrari 360 Modena with Cass Whitehead of Gainesville, Ga. Lewis joined the team just prior to the Sebring race when another driver became ill. Lewis impressed the team owner enough that he was hired to drive for the rest of the season.

“Having this time to test with the team is great,” said Lewis. “And this is one of the best facilities for testing. The combination of the good weather, good temperatures, and a low-key atmosphere for two days is just what we needed. We all get to work together and get to know one another in this environment. These guys are committed to winning.”

NOTES: Road Atlanta announced on Tuesday that Chevrolet will be the title sponsor of the June 27-29 event, the event to be known as the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta …. Testing will continue on Wednesday and is free to the public …. Two single-car, no-contact spins were the only incidents of the day on Tuesday. Leo Hindery spun his Porsche 911 GT3 RS in turn 12 during the morning, while Weaver spun his Lola-MG in turn three near the end of the day …. Female driver Melanie Paterson, who will co-drive with Jason Workman in the Road Atlanta event next month, will be on hand Wednesday for testing in the Essex Racing Lola …. The Carsport America Dodge Viper missed part of the morning session after losing a hose ….

Tuesday’s testing speeds summary, showing drivers, hometowns or countries, type car (class) and lap time:

  1. Chris Dyson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Andy Wallace, England; Lola EX257-MG (LMP 675), 1:12.495.

  2. James Weaver, England, and Butch Leitzinger, State College, Pa.; Lola EX257-MG (LMP 675), 1:12.698.

  3. Emanuele Naspetti, Italy, and Mimmo Schiattarella, Italy; Ferrari 550 Maranello (GTS), 1:20.000.

  4. Tom Weickardt, Whitefish Bay, Wis.; Aaron Pouolito, Canada, and Jean Philippe Belloc, France; Dodge Viper GTS-R (GTS), 1:20.945.

  5. Jason Workman, Flowery Branch, Ga., and James Gue, Roswell, Ga.; Lola B2K40-Millington (LMP 675), 1:24.865.

  6. David Murry, Cumming, Ga., and Justin Jackson, Buford, Ga.; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:25.964.

  7. Leo Hindery, New York, N.Y., and Peter Baron, Deerfield Beach, Fla.; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:26.943.

  8. Shane Lewis, Jupiter, Fla., and Cass Whitehead, Gainesville, Ga.; Ferrari 360 Modena (GT), 1:27.587.

  9. Joe Policastro, Latrobe, Pa., and Jay Policastro, Latrobe, Pa.; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:28.954.

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