Farewell To The Riley & Scott MK III
The Winningest Prototype Of All Time?
the next in a series of items recovered from the DSC archive.
Particular thanks go to Riley and Scott who recognised the article
as being as significant as we did and to Andy Hartwell and Gary
Horrocks for their search through the photographic archives. Finally
a very special vote of thanks to Dr Brian Mitchell, a great friend
to DSC and a faithful archivist for Dyson Racing.
962 and the 333SP might argue against that, but this wasn't
designed or funded by sports car giants
like Porsche and Ferrari. The MK III came from the family owned
firm of Riley & Scott Race Car Engineering. The following
will chronicle this car's incredible career, leading up to what
like its final race next month.
IMSA was introducing
a new prototype sportscar for the 1994 season, the World Sports
Car. Riley & Scott
debuted their design model of the new car during the 1993 season.
This is the first model of
the MK III, shown during 1993. Bill Riley explains: "Narrow
sidepods worked well in the wind tunnel, but the customers thought
it was too far out at the time."
was slow, but midway through the '94 season, Rob Dyson called
on Riley & Scott
to improve the Ferrari / Spice he was currently running. This was
the start of quite a productive
Bill Riley: "We
then sold two cars to Rob. The first car was designed and built
in only four months!" "Bob
(Riley), along with renowned aircraft designer John Roncz, used
Fluid Dynamics to finalize the body and wing design." CFD
basically uses a computer program to simulate a wind tunnel test
on a design. "This
was not common in racing until five years later. I believe that
was one of the reasons for the cars' success."
MK III was delivered to Dyson Racing just before the start
of the 1995 IMSA season opener at Daytona. Although the
new car struggled
in its first two outings, an unbelievable story of success
was about to unfold. In just its third race, the new MK III,
Weaver, not only set the fastest lap but finished first overall – in
an accident-marred event at Atlanta. Ferraris were second and
third, and the whole of the second half of the decade would
effectively be between these two machines in North America.
of podium finishes at every race for the rest of the season,
including wins at Watkins Glen, Sears Point and Mosport. At
the season finalé in
New Orleans, Dyson Racing placed the MK IIIs first & second
For the next
two seasons - and beyond - Dyson would not be alone running the
MK III. Several new teams would
Lee Payne and the R & S factory run two-car team for
Doyle Racing. The result was domination. Doyle Racing, with
started the '96 season with victory at the Rolex 24 Hours
of Daytona (photo) and followed that with another at the
The high speeds at Le Mans didn't suit the R&S as much
as the Ferrari though, and the Triple Crown of '96 looked,
and was, an impossibility.
But back home, the MK III teams would combine to score overall
victories at Texas, Sears Point, Mosport, Dallas and the
The R & S would score a total of nineteen podium finishes
that year, punctuated by sweeping the podium at Dallas and
'96 season ended with Wayne Taylor being crowned IMSA champion.
Bill Riley adds "Winning Daytona and Sebring with the
factory team was the best. Ferrari was not happy about that." It
should be mentioned that the Ferrari 333SP was a formidable
foe and the competition
between the two marques was fierce. Max Papis's now famous
charge in the Doran Ferrari, during the last hours of the
'96 Rolex 24,
was the highlight of this battle. We covered the 333 story
earlier in the year.
In 1997 it
would be Dyson Racing's turn to take the MK III to its second
Rolex 24 victory. A second
although the margin to the winning Andy Evans Ferrari was
less than a minute. However, the MK III was able to finish
second & third
in the 12 hour endurance classic. Just as the year before,
the MK III would continue to be the car to beat. Wayne
soon move across to the Ferrari, and Dyson Racing would
dominate MK lll achievements.
With a total
of twenty podium appearances, wins at Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen,
Sears Point, Las Vegas and Laguna Seca, and a championship
for Dyson's driver Butch Leitzinger, the season was complete.
EFR and James Weaver completed a 1-2-3.
see some changes in sports car racing in North America. IMSA
would now be known
as Professional Sports Car Racing (PSCR)
and a new series, the United States Road Racing Championship
(USRRC), would begin. The factory Doyle team had left the scene,
but several new teams including Intersport, Support Net and
Jim Matthews, would race the MK III. Dyson Racing would enter
MK IIIs in both series, scoring wins in the PSCR events at
Lime Rock, Road Atlanta & Mosport. That, along with four
other podium finishes, would earn Butch Leitzinger a second championship.
Laguna Seca also would be won by a MK III, but this race would
go to a new challenger to North America, the BMW powered Rafanelli
team. Over in the USRRC, Dyson Racing would take first place
in four of the series' five events and James Weaver would become
the new series first champion.
Also in 1998
several European teams selected the MK III to
compete in the FIA Sports Car Championships, then known as
Sports Racing Series. It took until the final race of the
season at Kylami in the hands of the Solution F race team for
MK III to see victory lane. But throughout the season, Solution
F along with Target 24 and Rafanelli, took the MK III to
of nine podium finishes including a 2nd through 5th place
sweep at the famous Nurburgring.
1999 the Rafanelli team took their R & S and headed across
the Atlantic for the ALMS. The Target 24 team stayed
and was able score three podium finishes with their MK III
even though they faced an overwhelming contingent of very capable
Ferrari 333SP teams that year. 2000 saw three more podium
finishes for the MK III highlighted by a first place at Monza,
pit stop rule in this series favoured the 333s – and
engine reliability in some of the MKllls was a major handicap.
enjoyed considerable success with their Judd V10-powered
car though, including that Monza win.
in North America, 1999 began with the USRRC once again sanctioning
Rolex 24 hours
and Dyson Racing
victory lane. That would be the third win in four years
for the R & S chassis in this grueling event.
It would be
an abbreviated season for the USRRC, as they would call it quits
after just the third race of the season. More
important than the death of the USRRC would be the birth
Le Mans Series. The first race for the new series would be
the classic 12 Hours of Sebring, boasting one of the largest
fields in a long time. There were a total of eleven R & S
MK IIIs, including new entries from George Robinson and Tom
Volk. Even against factory efforts from Panoz, Audi and the
Le Mans winning BMW LMRs, the MK III held its own. Team Rafanelli,
now using a Judd V-10 and some very interesting bodywork modifications,
was able to qualify second overall and set the fastest lap.
In the end, one of the BMWs beat the R & S of Dyson Racing
- by less than 10 seconds for one the race's closest finishes
Road Atlanta was the next race and Rafanelli again showed off
his new combination of Judd power with the R & S chassis.
They were able to set the fastest lap and secure the overall
victory. But the real story of the year was Dyson Racing's
Elliott Forbes-Robinson. He parlayed consistent driving and
of the MK III into the ALMS drivers' championship. EFR, with
driving assist from Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver, and
the mechanical genius of crew chief Pat Smith, placed their
in the top four in five events, never placing below sixth.
R & S
consistency and expert preparation won out against faster machinery.
Riley & Scott's commitment to the new LMP program
for Cadillac, the updates needed to keep the MK III competitive
in the 2000 ALMS would not come. Although in the newest series,
the Grand American Road Racing Association, the MK III would
get new life. The Dyson and Robinson Racing teams would combine
to put the R & S on the top of the podium six times. James
Weaver would win the drivers' championship and Riley & Scott
would win the constructors' championship for the Grand Am inaugural
2001, the long awaited updated version, the MK III C, made
its debut in
the ALMS. Meanwhile in the Grand Am the original
MK III was still the car to beat. Dyson Racing scored five
wins, James Weaver repeated as drivers' champion and Riley & Scott
was again the manufacturers' champion.
now 2002 and the ageless MK III is into its eighth season
of racing. Because
of the upcoming rule changes in Grand Am,
this would probably be the last Rolex 24 for the MK III. Unfortunately
mechanical troubles hit both of Dyson's cars and neither was
able to finish the race. Dyson would continue with the MK III
in selected races in both series. Although not as competitive
as it once was in the ALMS, the MK III finished a very respectable
fourth at Sebring. Ironically its fourth place finish was one
spot behind its own replacement, the "C", entered by
Jim Matthews – a car that Dyson Racing chose to sample
and then spurn. They'd previously chosen to abandon the Reynard
for their MK llls too. The Grand Am series saw the MK III in
victory lane four times, beating out the much newer Dallara chassis.
upcoming Grand Am finalé at Daytona looks to be the
swansong for this venerable racecar.
its eight year career the MK III has taken on all comers.
Aside from a few very well-funded
factory efforts, the MK III
has defeated and outlasted every other prototype introduced
during its career.
Riley tells us a great story to sum up this racecar. "I
was at a race in 2000 with the Cadillacs, when an Audi engineer
walked up to me, handed me a piece of paper, said 'great car'
and walked off. The paper turned out to be a report from a wind
tunnel test that Audi had conducted on a MK III that they must
have borrowed from a European team."
Great car, we concur.