Next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona will mark a new era for Flying Lizard Motorsports, as the championship-winning squad moves forward without its team principal behind the wheel for the first time.
While having been a driving force behind the California-based organization since its launch in 2004, Seth Neiman has decided to call time on his full-time racing career, as the successful 60-year-old businessman looks lead the team into its next chapter of customer-based racing.
“Honestly, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I just reached the point where I felt like it’s time that I step back from racing,” Neiman told Sportscar365. “I still love cars and being on the track. But racing and the schedule just doesn’t work well for me.
“I felt now was the time to take a step back from driving and think about how Flying Lizard lives past me.”
Neiman, considered one of the longest-running active gentleman drivers in the sport, achieved notable success through his 12-year run, including multiple podium finishes and a class win at Baltimore in 2013.
However, some of his best memories come from the battles in the ALMS GT class, where oftentimes he was pitted against some of the top professional drivers in the world.
“There are a lot of good moments,” he said. “For me, particularly all those years in GT. There were some great runs at Le Mans; the podium there was certainly there a high spot. We had five or six seasons in ALMS where the pro GT category really was such spectacular racing.
“Frequently, I was competing with factory teams with two or three all-pro drivers. Every time we got to the podium, or even a top-five against that competition is pretty exciting for a guy that got into racing the way I did.
“My friends used to ask if I was a great racing driver. I said, ‘Well, you know I drive against a pretty rough crowd!’ But held my own.”
His decision to scale back driving commitments coincides with the team’s new focus on customer programs, with Flying Lizard set to operate the K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S GT3s this year in Pirelli World Challenge.
It comes after a season of campaigning Audi R8 LMS cars full-time in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which marked the first non-Porsche entry the team had run since its inception.
“If you step back a little bit and look what the team has done in the past three years, there’s been an increasing emphasis on customer-related programs,” Neiman said. “That was really me preparing us for when I step back from driving.
“There’s also been changes in the way the team is being managed. Darren Law is playing a very strong role now. He brings a different sensibility of how to work with the partners.
“The team is going from strength to strength in may ways. It’s definitely a new era.”
While the team’s core focus will be in PWC this year, under the K-PAX banner, Neiman still sees a future for the Flying Lizard brand, should the right opportunity present itself, from a customer or manufacturer standpoint.
A single customer Audi has been entered for Daytona and Neiman said it’s their hope to compete in as many TUDOR Championship events this year as possible, depending on customer interest.
“Flying Lizard is one of the most recognized brands in racing,” he said. “We have a lot of great fans.
“When I started the team way back when with Tommy [Sadler], Craig [Watkins], Johannes [van Overbeek] and Eric [Ingraham], we set out to build a long-term franchise, like some of the great teams from the ’70s and ’80s.
“Our world is very different now, but we certainly, for 10 or 12 years, we managed to create an identifiable group that was consistently competitive and had a lot of championships and a great fan base.
“I think the objective is to continue that, as long as U.S. sports car racing supports that.”
As for his driving career, Neiman admitted he hasn’t completely hung up the helmet just yet and he may be tempted to come back for a race or two, but is mostly content to watch the next chapter of the team evolve from the pit box instead.