An Original ASH "Through The Esses" Column
A Marriage Of Racing Families?
© Andrew S. Hartwell

Dyson Racing has been the champion team of the Rolex Series sports car series both years the series has existed.  Their venerable Riley & Scott MKIII cars have been incredibly durable workhorses for this very successful team.  Drivers James Weaver, Elliot Forbes-Robinson, Dorsey Schroeder, Butch Leitzinger and team owner Rob Dyson (and most recently, his son Chris Dyson) have racked up almost as many miles on their two race cars as some people put on their daily drivers.

The R&S MKIII has shown itself to be one amazingly durable and winning racecar. But this year's Rolex 24 Hours served to drive home the point that it was time for a change. Old horses get tired. New horses tend to win races.

But what direction should the team travel as sports car racing moves into an interesting and potentially very different future?  The Daytona Prototypes are coming.  The ALMS is growing.  There are so many choices and decisions to make.

Speculation on the Dyson's next move initially ranged from an Audi R8, to a Dallara, an MG-Lola, and even an R&S MKIIIC.  Dyson even bought one of those hoping the R&S lightning would strike again, but the car just hasn't been all they had hoped.  And the drivers have complained that they simply aren't comfortable in the car.  So, it appears we can scratch the MKIIIC from the list.  An almost new one currently sits in the Dyson shop, no longer quite race-ready because the carbon brakes have been fitted to one of the workhorses for a shot at the ALMS series.

The Audi fell out of favor as the team  consistent winners the last five seasons  felt the Audi engineering team would be too 'hands on' for their tastes.  The Dallara is said to be on the table but engine choice is a concern.  Most recently, wild speculation had Dyson being buyer #2 for an MG-Lola 'customer car'.  But that talk has been toned down by the revelation that no final decision has been made  yet.

But one may be coming.

Pat Smith, longtime Crew Chief for Dyson's race team, has said that, all things being equal, his first choice for a new car would be the Crawford SSC2K.  This was his sentiment before the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, where the 'new and improved' Crawford debuted-again last month.  Now that the car has shown itself to be full of promise  and the blood, sweat and aspirations of its creators, Max Crawford and designer Andy Scriven  Smith's interest may have been significantly heightened.

And then comes this announcement from Grand Am:  "The Dyson Racing Team has entered a Judd-powered Crawford into the Nextel 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, March 2. The Crawford is the same one run by Crawford Racing at the Rolex 24 At Daytona earlier this month. For the Nextel 250, the car will wear the #16 and Goodyear / Bosch / Thetford / Norcold sponsorship and be piloted by champion driver James Weaver and rookie Chris Dyson. "

Very interesting.

The Crawford's and The Dyson's go way back in sportscar racing.  Max Crawford has often served as alternate Crew Chief for the Dyson team at endurance races.  They have a lot of good history together, including test sessions conducted at Sebring earlier that found Dyson Team 'family members' James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Elliot Forbes-Robinson testing the SSC2K, and providing valuable feedback to the Crawford clan.  Feedback that Scriven and Crawford put to good use at Daytona.

It seems that that initial collaboration was rewarding for both 'families' and now, there just might be some sort of 'marriage of convenience' taking place.

Grand Am reports that: "It will be chassis-creator Max Crawford and his crew preparing and running the car for Dyson Racing during the weekend. Dyson crew chief Pat Smith and his staff will remain back in New York to continue rebuilding the team's pair of Riley & Scott MKIIIs."

So we have two families combining forces in a most collaborative and cooperative manner in the hopes that both can succeed as a result.  Pat Smith essentially said again how pleased he is with the car from 'the friend of the family'.  "The Crawford is one of the best cars out there right now, and its good that James will be able to get some more in-depth experience in the Crawford during the Homestead race."

More Experience indeed! The Crawford chassis represents a departure from the tried and true MKIIIs, and the Judd powerplant  which recently dispelled some of the durability issues raised by skeptics with a good showing at the Rolex  is also a new powerplant for Dyson.  But the men behind all this change have the right ability and experience to make something wonderful happen.

And anytime two good families can work together, the neighborhood in which they live improves immediately.  The neighborhoods in which sportscar racing continue to survive could always use a few more good families.

Grand Am: "Although the cooperative racing effort between the two teams is currently for only one race, neither team has dismissed the idea of additional joint projects in the future."

I like the sound of that.
From Issue AR08
Updated: 10/28/2006