Chasing The Clouds Away
© Andrew S. Hartwell

Bill Riley, and the rest of the Riley & Scott car building team, has been diligently working to have their new MKIIIC model lift the dark, argentinium colored cloud over their heads.  Riley & Scott were the designers and builders of the first Cadillac racers.  They and the GM brass decided to split up early on in the program, putting the R&S operations in a poor light.  After much modification, the Cadillac's are now getting closer to the Audis, but they are really not ready to catch the silver streaks just yet.
This appeared in All Race Magazine issue # 32,  as one of my "Through The Esses" columns
Riley notes that, "Cadillac has shown improvement.  I haven't been too close to that program since it left here, but the newer car seems to be working well with the Michelin tires."

Bill Riley is the captain of the SS Riley & Scott MKIIIC's voyage to favored status and he, ably assisted by his mates at Dyson Racing, is beginning to see his way through the currents.  Even the Audis had to get through a rough first year before achieving success. The new Riley & Scott MKIIIC must also transcend the bay of beginnings before reaching the sea of success. 
But the sail across the waters is never smooth.

At the most recent ALMS race at Mosport, Dyson's dynamic duo of Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver put their 3C right on the stern of the Viking ships of the Audi fleet.  And, but for a slip of the wheel by first mate Leitzinger, the Dyson vessel could have docked at the podium.

But enough with the nautical references, this is all about a car: a car that suddenly looks to be capable of greatness.  A car that has frustrated the Robinson Racing team - the only other team to own a 3C - with throttle problems tied to brake bias issues.  A car that Rob Dyson wanted ready for Sebring 2001, perhaps too soon a time to launch.  A car that could play a role in bringing some much needed excitement to the ALMS.

And the excitement started at Mosport.

To lift the cloud from their previously very successful name, R&S went back to the drawing board and crafted the new MKIIIC model.  Rob Dyson and George Robinson both knew what the R&S team could do so they didn't hesitate to write a check for a copy of the new car.

But this is only the first season for the car, and it has only been run in two races  Sebring and Mosport.  But at Mosport, it certainly went a long way towards breaking up that overcast sky. But these things take time.

"The Dyson team is running the full Grand Am schedule, so it has been difficult to get the time we need.  But we have been slowly and steadily working on the car and getting the car to where it is all coming together.

One has to wonder what considerations went into the design phase of the new model. "Well, we ran the Cadillac program initially and we soon learned how far off we were, and what we would need to do to gain the time we had lost."

"We worked on getting more downforce in the front primarily.  We spent time in wind tunnels to get that.  The downforce is probably equal to, or more than the competition has right now.

"A few small bits were changed in the rear but nothing substantial.  It really was more of a case of finding the best set up. The things we are working on now are mostly set up issues.  Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver have told me they like the way the car feels and the changes we have made. "

With two initial customers, there had to be some cooperation and coordination to make the first car happen in time to meet customer demands.  "We kind of switched the George Robinson and Rob Dyson chassis around a bit to get a car ready for Dyson to run at Sebring."

That effort pushed back the development of the Robinson car.  But now that improvements have been found, the second car is already benefiting from the wait.  But not before Robinson gave it a shot in Grand Am, attempting to qualify the car in a couple of events, only to find teething problems keeping it in the transporter.

"George's car got delivered back to me and we tested it several times for sticking throttle problems.  The Team is getting ready to put the car back together now.  All the changes we made to the Dyson car were also made to the Robinson car.

"The only real difference between the cars now is the single hoop for the Dyson car and the extended bar for the Robinson car. "  (Dyson is using the 3C in ALMS races while Robinson is still looking to run it in Grand Am, where the single hoop is not legal.)

When asked if he could attribute the improvements found to date to any one person on the development team, Riley quickly commented, "Butch and James. They are driving their ass off!

"Seriously, both of them are really good at giving useful feedback.  And that is helping to move the development along quite a bit.  The entire Dyson team is doing a great job and we are working here in the shop to do what it takes to succeed quickly.

"I feel happy with our progress but I would feel better if we were a second quicker instead of just a second behind.  But the Audis run consistently fast laps. It looks achievable - with some more testing and more work - to reach our goals. I can't wait for Mid Ohio.  I think it will run well there because Dyson has run so many miles there.  I think the Mid Ohio track might be better for our car than for the Audis, because the track is bumpy.  Hopefully we will have a good initial set up and then we can build on that."

The Audis have dominated the ALMS for some time now. Is it the engines in those cars that have allowed them to stay in front?  "I don't think Dyson is at a power disadvantage running with the FORD engine versus a Judd or the Audi.  For the sake of the teams that don't have an Audi-sized budget, the ALMS made some changes in the restrictor rules.  They opened up the size which gave the engines about 20  30 more horsepower.  And besides, turbocharged motors are quite complicated so you really need a pretty large team to work on them. I think with the restrictors, the power curve works out to be about the same.

"The change in restrictor size helps but it is not the only reason why the car has improved."

Compared to the Audi armada, Riley & Scott are navigating the waters in a much smaller craft.  But even the Captain of a dinghy can possess the aspirations and dreams of an Admiral.

"Beating the competition is achievable.  It is a budget issue more than anything else.  Audi has a big budget but they are spending it right.  But I could supply anyone with a new MKIIIC ASAP!  It takes about 2  3 months and costs $450,000 without an engine.

"There is a third team that has already bought a car for the 2002 season. They will be announcing their Program soon.

"You know, you didn't ask me where people can send their deposit!"

Care to join the fledgling R&S fleet mate?
Updated: January 16, 2006