Andy Wallace’s 03
From Oschersleben to Le Mans - & 24 Atlantic Crossings (Part 1)

As explained already, we aimed to keep up with Andy’s season as it happened, but he was so busy – remember the eight races in eight weeks? – that there simply wasn’t time during the season.

So having already covered Le Mans and the Chevy GP, here’s an Andy Wallace view of part of the rest of the season. We’ll bring you the rest of his year in part 2, once he’s got the latest round of DP testing out of the way.

Rather than go through four months of racing in sequence, we’ve mixed it up – so Andy begins with those two ‘wins from the back’, at Mosport and Road America.

Mosport James and I filled the front row, the second time this year (after Sears Point) that we managed to keep the Audis out of it.

Mosport is a really good track for the Dyson cars: the fast corners, the reasonably high grip surface – and our Goodyears were superb. Chris and I were looking forward to a really good race, and in the first few laps of the warm up, the car was nigh on perfect. And then…..

The left-handed Turn 4 at Mosport is taken at 160 mph, flat out. As you turn left you’re diving down into the dip, and at the bottom you stand on the brakes, then go down to second as you pop up the other side to take the sharp right-hander. At Turn 4 you’re fighting against the G-loading to get your foot across to the brake pedal, and sometimes you only get two-thirds of your foot onto it, but that’s enough.

The problem I had was that when I got to the brake pedal… it wasn’t there! For some reason the pedal just went straight to the floor. With part of my foot over the throttle, that one went down too, and things were now getting out of hand in a hurry! I managed to pump the brake pedal a couple of times and got some decent pressure up, but by this time I was running out of room and disaster was imminent.

As I came up the rise, there was no way I was going to take the corner. I was pressing so hard; the line pressure in the brakes went up to 1700 pounds, against a normal figure of 6-700. I was doing my best – but by now, at the top of the rise, the weight was coming off the car, and I was heading for the wall. I managed to lose 65 of the 160 mph, but that still left me flying over the gravel and into the wall at 95 mph…OUCH!

The car went straight in, but fortunately the tyre wall was tied down well so I didn’t dive under it – that can get really nasty.

So I was left staring at a car with the nose and crash box destroyed, both front corners bent back – it wasn’t looking good. At that moment I was sure that our meeting was over, but once the car was back in the paddock, the legendary Dyson Racing Crew rolled-up their sleeves and got stuck in.

dailysportscar.comThey did a brilliant job to get the car ready. We missed the pit lane closing by about five or six minutes … so Chris had to start from there, but we were in the race.

We decided that he should just stay out of trouble and pick off the cars one by one. When he handed the car to me we were in fourth or fifth place. That was quite a recovery: Chris actually drove a blinder, and the car was amazingly good. I took over at the stop and was able to build on what he’d already achieved.

Towards the end we were up to 2nd place! Olivier Beretta was chasing me in the Panoz, and was closing slightly, depending on traffic. We were both going at it as hard as we could, but just before the end Olivier slid off the road in traffic and that gave me a clear run to the flag. So 2nd overall and 1st in class. Thanks to everyone’s effort and determination; a fantastic result.

Good old Mosport – one of the best tracks in the world. It’s got four high-speed corners, and I love it. Have I said that before?

Road America
One week later, and would you believe that it happened almost the same way?

We’d had a handling imbalance throughout practice and qualifying, but the guys sorted it out before the race. We qualified fifth, and after Mosport, it was natural for Chris to start.

But when he pressed the button for the pace lap, it wouldn’t fire up, so he had to start from pit lane again. During the race the car fired up perfectly at both pit stops - as the crew watched anxiously. After the race, would you believe it just wouldn’t start again! Just one of those days when things are going for you, I suppose.

Butch took the lead at the start with a masterful piece of driving, but was out after half an hour, when he was tapped from behind at the end of the back straight. Chris drove another blinder, and by the time I got in the car things were looking up again. I pedalled like mad and we did it again. 2nd overall and 1st in class.

I had the ‘pleasure’ of watching the race for the GTS lead unfold over the last lap or so. I didn’t know it was for the lead at first though – but it was obvious they were racing together! I expected to pass Jan Magnussen as we crossed the line to start the final lap, and as we came up the slope, he was on the left-to-middle. … so I used the tow and went to pass on the right. Next thing I knew, there was a huge red thing in front of me! We were over by the wall and there were stones and rubbish being fired at me from a metre in front. I decided to back out of it!

I saw Magnussen wave at me, in his mirror I suppose, which I took to mean something like ‘this is going to get rough, stay behind me’ – except not that polite. I had the best seat in the house as Magnussen made a do or die lunge at the Corvette at the first corner. He’d obviously been sizing this move up for a few laps, and somehow scraped by – and then Johnny O’Connell spent the rest of the lap trying to get him back. It was brilliant stuff, they didn’t make real contact at all, but both of them were hard at it all the way round.

Consecutive races, consecutive wins – and both on great tracks. I was in the middle of a great run of circuits, because I’d raced at Donington before Mosport, and then it was Spa after Road America.

Laguna Seca
Not really our weekend! It’s a very smooth track surface, with no grip.

At the start of the Saturday morning session it was freezing! Laguna Seca has a very low grip surface at the best of times, but when the ambient temperature is low, it’s like driving on ice for the first few laps until the tyres get warm. Butch went out in the number 16 car, and I went out about 5 seconds after him in the number 20. I gently accelerated up the pit lane and out onto the track. I carefully opened the throttle, the turbo spooled up and I got massive “chain reaction type” wheel spin. The car suddenly snapped sideways to the left. I managed to catch it and bring it back under control, but it certainly got my undivided attention! Then the first time I touched the brakes I almost spun like a top! Wow! What was I doing wrong? I gathered it all up and carried on even more carefully. At least I was 100% awake by now… I had a few more “moments” over the next half a lap and was beginning to think I’d forgotten how to drive, it was so bad. Then up ahead there were yellow flags. To my relief and amusement there was one Butch Leitzinger making his way out of the gravel trap…! I spoke to him afterwards, and he recounted a similar tale.

The cars were nigh on impossible to drive on cold tyres. After 3 or 4 laps everything was back to normal again, and the lap times were as fast as ever. It got me thinking about the start of the race though… ALMS rules don’t allow the use of tyre blankets or ovens, so the start was going to be very exciting for the starting drivers. Then I though to myself; “well, isn’t that what you have team mates for”? So I said, “Christopher, my dear team mate and friend, I think you should start the race. It’ll be valuable experience for you”. Butch managed to pull the same rotten trick on James, so we were both feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

Race morning turned out to be even colder… The four of us travelled to the track in the same rental car. I mentioned to Chris that it wasn’t going to be pleasant for the first few laps. Somehow I don’t think I had his full attention…He went out for the warm-up and just couldn’t believe how bad it was. Later in the session though, with some heat in the tyres, the grip returned and Chris was on the pace.

But it didn’t go to plan at the start. A lot of cars arrived at the narrow first corner all at the same time, and when the dust had settled the number 20 car was stuck in the sand.

We lost a lap, but it all became academic when the engine stopped at around half distance after a huge oil leak. James and Butch had a great run to second overall and first in class. So another great result for Dyson Racing.

Sears Point
Although we didn’t finish at Laguna Seca, the two wins in the middle of the season had really set Chris up for a run at the title. He’d started out with the Sebring recovery drive to the win (when I was sharing car 16 with James and Butch), then we’d had the third in class at the Chevy GP, but apart from Mosport and Road America, the other highlight was Sears Point.

This was the first time that we’d filled the front row, and we had our chassis dialled in really well, with Goodyear and AER doing a great job too.

We’d discussed pit strategy before the race, and the plan was that I would stop first, so that we only had one car on pit lane at a time. I ran second to Butch for a while, but one of the Audis got me in traffic.

dailysportscar.comThen it was Dyson-Audi-Dyson-Audi until I pitted – for fuel only. But the safety car came out just after I’d left the pits, and that was us a lap down to the other three. There was no way we were going to get that back, but we would just have to push as hard as we could, and hope for a better break at the next pit stop. But the track was still green when my fuel light came on again, and I had to pit for fuel, tyres and driver change next time around.

Chris took over, but would you believe it…! Out came the pace car as he was halfway around his first lap. Not our day then… we managed to salvage a fairly unspectacular 7th overall, but importantly 2nd in class, for a Dyson 1-2 in P675. The 16 car had had a great run, and James was able to squeeze past the Audi with a few laps remaining to take the first overall win for a 675 car. A few more of those would be nice next year…


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