Highcroft Racing At The 54th Sebring 12 Hours
Old Boys New Boys

Duncan Dayton is a very well known face in sportscar racing circles, but has been absent from a full time ALMS campaign for a couple of years now.

He’s still been racing of course, in his fabulous classic Formula One cars, but he’d freely admit that his heart is in sportscars, and there’s been a quiet but extremely efficient effort underway to plot a return to the ALMS.

There were rumblings at the end of the 2005 season that Dayton might have plans for a 2006 return and those emerged in the shape of the rejuvenated, ex-Dyson Racing Lola B01/60.

Anyone thinking that this is the Dyson Lola with a new paint job would be very wide of the mark.

A close inspection of the car yesterday by the dsc Editor elicited the telling response “it looks like a brand new car.”

And he was right, the preparation of the Lola is absolutely immaculate… even down to suede trim around the cockpit area and tailored suede trimmed kneeling pads for the crew, to protect the sidepods.

The driving squad this week includes the ever enthusiastic Gregor Fisken, and the story of his involvement underlines the enthusiasm that underpins the Highcroft Racing effort:

“Duncan told me late last year at a post season lunch for one of the historic championships that he had bought the ex-Dyson cars. I was already looking at my options for Sebring and knew that several of the European teams that had hoped to be here might struggle to have their hybrids ready in time.

“I really enjoyed the Team Jota Zytek last time out and I’m delighted to be back in a LMP1 car here. As for Duncan, well I have the highest level of respect for his preparation. There are absolutely no half measures. This effort makes absolute sense. Why pull together a new team and run a brand new car? The B01/60 is a proven package and we know where the issues might occur. It makes all the sense in the world to prove a new team on this sort of car, and to have a competitive package for a season’s racing whilst you do it.

“As for the crew, there just isn’t a bad man anywhere here. They’re all exceptional.”

Duncan Dayton himself was smiling broadly as he joined in the conversation, clearly pleased with the positive response the team had garnered from all observers:

“It’s not bad from a starting point of nothing in early November is it?”

He singled out Chief mechanic Dave Luckett (on the left, left)for particular praise.

“The single best mechanic I have ever worked with. Dave checks, checks and checks again. We would not have made it here without him. He worked 31 days in January to help get the car prepared.”

Luckett is probably best known to motorsport followers as the man who was the innocent victim of a dreadful error by the official starter of the 1981 Belgian Grand Prix, which led to the then chief mechanic of the Arrows F1 team being pinned between Ricardo Patrese’s stalled Arrows A3 on the grid (which he was attempting to restart), and the unsighted sister car of Siegfried Stohr.

“As for the ALMS,” continued Duncan Dayton, “it’s simply what I want to do. Lots of credit for that should go to Jon Field for keeping me informed as to what was going on and for showing me just how much fun this kind of racing can be.”

There are strong indications that the B01/60 project in 2006, whilst a full on assault on the ALMS title, is also something of a toe in the water ahead of potentially a new car next season. Duncan Dayton has definitely got the bug!

‘New’ boy Rick Knoop has, as they say, ‘been there and done that’. His recent racing has been at the wheel of a classic F1 Tyrrell, with top line sportscar and NASCAR racing amongst the boxes already ticked on the Knoop CV.

The Highcroft Racing project though has tempted the Californian back into contemporary sportscar racing for the first time in some two decades. How did he find the differences?

“Well first of all this is by far the nicest race car I have ever driven. The real big steps forward for me are the brakes and the sheer grip. You really have to readjust. Driving a Porsche 962 is like having a JATO bottle strapped to your shoulders. This car is a step forward again. That means you need to develop your confidence with the car but not go too fast too soon – do that and you’re just going to get to the scene of your accident a whole lot quicker.”

A top notch support team, a trio of enthusiastic drivers and a beautifully prepared car. Who would bet against this team posting a very good finish indeed on Saturday?


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