It’s the American Le Mans Series’ second-longest race at 10 hours or 1000 miles around the challenging Road Atlanta circuit. It ends the season each year, and in 2013 it ends an era.
The 2013 Petit Le Mans won’t be the last one, but it will be the last race as part of the American Le Mans Series, which next year merges with Grand-American Road Racing to become the Tudor United Sports Car Championship. When the green flag waves on Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern, Dyson Racing will be seeking its first overall win with the No. 16 Mazda/Thetford/Norcold Lola B12/60-Mazda.
The team won the LMP2 category at Petit Le Mans in 2009, but has yet to win overall in LMP1. Chris Dyson, who will be teaming with Tony Burgess and Chris McMurry, feels confident about the team’s chances.
“We’re going to be in the running for the podium for sure,” he says. “Looking at the competition, we’ve got Muscle Milk and Rebellion, both of who were very competitive at Sebring, both of who have had very good championship campaigns. From our standpoint, we feel like we’ve made a step forward with the car and the Mazda engine this year. We’re looking forward to a good result. If we can stay in touch with those guys, try to capitalize through strategy and making he right decision in traffic, I think we could be in for a better result.”
The team showed its speed in the last race at VIRginia International Raceway, where Guy Smith put the car on the pole before he and Johnny Mowlem finished second. The longer race at Road Atlanta may play into Dyson Racing’s hands, although Rebellion is the defending Petit Le Mans champion. Endurance racing, though, is less about endurance than it used to be, transitioning more to longer contests of outright speed.
“The idea is to get to the end, but with the systems and reliability that are in modern cars, these races are effectively long sprint races,” Dyson says. That said, Dyson does take a particular approach to the long races as a driver.
“The key to these types of events is to prepare yourself mentally as well as physically. The main quest is to get to the end of the race and the key to that is to be relaxed throughout the whole process – the week leading up to the event and the event itself. I try to keep as relaxed as possible, make sure that I’m fueled up properly with nutrition and hydration and I’ve had plenty of rest. You try to tailor your personal training so you arrive fresh and ready to go,” he explains.
Winning this race, as the last Petit Le Mans of the ALMS era, would be special for Dyson.
“It’s been a big part of my life for the last 12 years,” he says. “The team has been competing in the series since 1999. It’s truly the end of an era. Like the closing of any chapter, there’s some melancholy for sure. But at the same time, you look to the future generally as being an improvement on the past and I’m hopeful we’ll have a formula that embraces what’s been great about the last 15 years of the American Le Mans Series.”
The race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 2. There will be a short gap from noon EDT to 2:30 p.m. before it picks up again. The broadcast switches to Fox Sports 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. before moving back to Fox Sports 2 for the finish. A recap show will air on Sunday at 4 p.m. EDT on Fox Sports 1. Streaming of live qualifying can be seen at alms.com on Friday at 1:50 p.m. EDT.