Chris Dyson says his decision to return to LMP1 competition has been fueled by the category’s current “speed and performance” that he’s been missing as a driver in recent years.
The two-time American Le Mans Series champion was confirmed Monday as part of Team LNT’s lineup for the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship season, which will see Dyson team up with longtime co-driver Guy Smith and Ginetta factory driver Michael Simpson in one of its two Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AERs.
While set to make his comeback to prototype racing for the first time since 2014, it was one year earlier, in the final season of ALMS, when the second-generation driver last drove a LMP1 car, in Dyson Racing’s Lola B12/60 Mazda.
Dyson, whose family owns a controlling interest in AER, said he firmly believes there’s untapped potential in the British-built prototype, which only had one race outing prior to its transformation to AER power last year.
“Lawrence [Tomlinson, Ginetta chairman] was very keen to take advantage of the opportunity, not only with the regulations but also with the window for the current LMP1 cars and really mount a serious assault,” Dyson told Sportscar365.
“Obviously from the engine side, our family has had a long-standing relationship with AER and I think they’ve got a world-beating product right now.
“This is a great mix of technology and also good people around the program.
“It was an opportunity that was truly interesting to me. I’m excited to get back into it and I know Guy is too. I’m really looking forward to working with Michael Simpson as well.”
Dyson got his first laps in the car in a test at Paul Ricard last month and said he was “blown away” by the performance and overall package.
He said the opportunity to reunite with longtime co-driver Smith, who retired as a Bentley factory driver last year, came as a logical option given the Englishman’s “known quantity” in the prototype ranks.
“When we were talking about drivers, we both agreed that Guy would be a great candidate,” Dyson said. “The big question was whether he’d want to race again.
“He came out and tested and did great. Just like me, he was blown away with the car and we both got really excited at that point.”
Dyson said he plans to contest the full WEC season except for the second round at Fuji, which clashes with the penultimate race of the Trans Am season, where he currently leads the TA championship.
The WEC program will culminate with the 41 year-old’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June for the first time in six years.
“I like the balance of the schedule,” Dyson said. “It’s broadly a fall and winter series, which means there aren’t a lot of clashes with other racing commitments.
“Obviously the chance to get back to Le Mans was truly exciting.”
With sweeping changes to the Equivalence of Technology and introduction of ‘Success Handicap’ to the class, Dyson is upbeat on the season ahead, in what he hopes will make LMP1 non-hybrids “truly competitive” to the Toyota TS050 Hybrids.
“We’ll have to see how that shakes out,” he said. “I know, certainly, the Rebellion guys have a great car. I believe what Ginetta has put together is fantastic.
“I think it’s going to be good racing.
“The fact that the FIA is in the business of putting on a championship with races; no one wants to watch processions. This is the first year they’ve really, truly made it a point on saying this is the new model.
“If there ever was a time to get in with a realistic chance of having head-to-head battles, this year is a good one. You never want to go and make up the numbers.
“Clearly LMP1 cars, these current-generation cars, is probably the height of speed and performance in sports cars, at least in recent times.
“For me, the last couple of years, it’s been tough to sit on the sidelines because I’ve seen how fast these cars have gone and the levels of performance they’ve now reached.
“To actually have a chance to get in one, in a test, and get out there and do the times, for me it was encouraging.
“But it also confirmed with me that this is a pretty special era and I want to enjoy it while it’s still with us.”
WEC Program to be Dyson’s “Primary Commitment”
Dyson said his program with Team LNT will largely take priority although hasn’t ruled out a return of Dyson Racing to North American racing in the future.
The team had been linked to a GT3 program for this year although it has yet to materialize.
“We’re still working on some things,” Dyson said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been shy about wanting to get back into top levels of U.S. motorsport.
“I think Dad (Rob) and I are still keen to do that.
“We’ve had some positive conversations but right now for me the WEC will be my primary commitment.”