Flying Lizards’ 2005
Short Of (High) Expectations
© Gary Horrocks

Third place in the ALMS GT2 Team Championship. A podium finish at Le Mans. For many, this would be a great year, but for Flying Lizard Motorsports, it was short of expectations. The fans and their own. But there really is more to the story.

dailysportscar.comAfter trying over the entire last half of the season to speak with Seth Neiman, here we are just before Christmas - and we finally find some time between business meetings to discuss the season. Seth, one of the co-owners of Flying Lizard Motorsports, and still somewhat jet-lagged from a trip to the Porsche Motorsports Banquet simply said, “well, let’s just say that it was an interesting season. I look back at the results and we have a lot to be proud of, but our objective at the beginning of the season was to win the Championship. Obviously, that did not happen.”

But as always, there is much more to a story than what is on the surface. Last year, the Lizards were the revelation of the season, winning at Mid Ohio and finishing on the podium in eight of their nine race starts in ALMS competition. It was in some ways a dream season, but it also set the expectations rather high for this still new team. This year, while there were no wins, there were still five podium finishes in ALMS competition, which would been a successful season by many other teams’ standards, but the expectations were higher here.

“We, as a team faced adversity for the first time,” summed up Seth Neiman. “Yeah, in some ways I’m disappointed in finishing third in the championship, but I’m also proud of what we accomplished. We finished third at Le Mans and I know we can do better, but it really was a life time achievement. Just how many people in the world can say that they finished on the podium at Le Mans? I would guess that there are not that many that can say that.”

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In 2004, the Lizards travelled to Le Mans, using it as sort of a reconnaissance run, in preparation for running the event in 2005. “Eric Ingraham and Tommy Sadler did a great job organizing us for the race. The trip over in 2004 could not have been used any better. We learned what to expect and all of the circumstances to prepare for. Racing there for the first time, we set a goal of making it to the finish. That we did. We kept the car on the track and did all we could to minimize the potential of bad luck. If it wasn’t for an air-jack that failed early in the race and cost us at least a lap, we might have been even closer to the front. But to finish third is still amazing. To be up on the podium in front of the thousands of screaming fans is something that I will not forget. I believe we did as well as anybody in the paddock and we even met budget!”

In 2004, in ALMS competition, the Lizards came across a set-up that allowed them to make the most of the Michelin tires. But for 2005, Michelin made some changes to the tire, apparently addressing some of the same areas that Flying Lizard was able to exploit.

dailysportscar.com“We came up with a set-up (in 2004) that made the tires last longer and really gave us a speed advantage, especially late in the races. But when we tried that approach this year, things didn’t work. We had misunderstood the problem and it wasn’t until several races in that we realized what was happening. Then, because of the testing restrictions, we were forced into the development mode at the race weekends. It was not the fault of anybody. Nobody did anything wrong, but it was up to us as a team to find our way back.”

While the ALMS-implemented restrictions on available testing during the season is an attempt to equalize the playing field, it does make it an uphill battle for those that are still learning the trade. “We chose where to put our energy and how to make the most of our resources. Early, we did not think clearly, but we learned as a team that we must work through the challenges that were presented to us. And I think we did that. By the end of the year, we were faster and more competitive than we were earlier, and I think we became a better team because of it.”

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What also may have been a distraction last year will not be this year. “We won’t be going to Daytona this year. I really do love the race and would like to race in it, but looking back on it, instead of working on ALMS issues, we were spending our time addressing issues for Daytona. We’ve got too much to get ready for Sebring.”

As far as plans for this coming season, the team is not ready to announce anything quite yet, but they will be “back in the ALMS” for what should be one of the more competitive seasons in all of the classes. When asked about what appear to be weekly rumors concerning the team and what they would be doing in 2006, Seth Neiman found it somewhat amusing, but did take notice that at least fans are talking about the team.

With whatever weapon the Lizards choose to attack the 2006 season with, and in whatever class, expect the team to have learned from 2005, and come back with a resolve to make it back to the top.

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