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While an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans has eluded one of America’s top sportscar teams for more than 20 years, Dyson Racing could be on the brink of making its long-awaited debut in the legendary around-the-clock French endurance classic.
SPEED.com has learned that the defending American Le Mans Series champions are in “serious consideration” of mounting a two-car LMP1 effort in next year’s race, thanks in part to a pair of automatic entries received for winning the ALMS championship and season-long Michelin Green X Challenge.
“Receiving two entries is a unique proposition for Le Mans,” said Dyson Racing VP and sporting director Chris Dyson. “We've got interest from some parties and from some sponsors who would like us to take a look at it. We're doing that now. We're definitely giving it some more serious consideration than we have in recent years.”
The Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based team, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008, enjoyed one of its most successful seasons to date, with Chris Dyson and Guy Smith claiming the ALMS LMP1 drivers’ championship.
Dyson’s second Lola B09/86 Mazda also rejoined the fray under a partnership with Oryx Racing, which saw Humaid al Masaood and Steven Kane score their maiden victory on the streets of Baltimore in September.
While Dyson stressed their ALMS program would remain the primary focus for next year, the opportunity to go to Le Mans, after a series of previously unsuccessful attempts, could help open the doors for new sponsorship opportunities in both campaigns.
“We've submitted a preliminary entry on a couple of occasions but ultimately had to withdraw when we couldn't pull the program together in time,” Dyson explained. “I think they've always been welcoming to our participation in the event.
“The way things have worked out in recent years, the entries are pretty sought-after these days. There's a value in that, maybe more now than there used to be. That's why we're taking a look at it and the different options for that event.”
Despite his father’s team having never made the trip to la Sarthe, Chris Dyson has made two previous starts in the 24-hour race, including a 7th place overall finish in 2004. His last attempt came in 2009 in a LMP2-class Lola run by British outfit RML.
If Dyson were to take up its pair of entries, it would be with upgraded versions of its Lola-Mazda package that it campaigned in the ALMS for the past three years. The team’s two current Lola B09/86 Mazdas, which run at a reduced weight and with LMP2-sized wheels and suspension, is currently not legal for competition outside of the ALMS.
It’s believed the team would opt for the new Lola B12/60 coupe, although Dyson would not confirm. As Lola’s latest LMP1 offering, the B12/60 is an evolution of the B10/60s that Rebellion Racing campaigned in the European-based Le Mans Series and Intercontinental Le Mans Cup this year.
Whichever Lola chassis they end up with, Dyson confirmed their continued partnership with Mazda, which could see the Japanese manufacturer represented on the LMP1 grid at Le Mans alongside factory efforts from Toyota and Honda, if Dyson pulls the trigger on the Le Mans program.
"We're looking at it seriously and are pushing hard now,” Dyson said. “Clearly, there's some logistical hurdles you have to get over if you want to run the event, but none of them are insurmountable. We've got a lot of friends over in England and would love to have their support for logistics. We're thinking that far ahead about it, but it's preliminary at this point."
Dyson said he’s set a deadline of Christmas to come to a final decision. The team’s ALMS program, meanwhile, could still see an expansion to three cars next year, with the third entry having a “50/50” chance of making the grid, according to Dyson.
Chris Dyson will again be joined by Guy Smith in the No. 16 car, with Jay Cochran returning to the lineup as well. Dyson's partnership with al Masaood's Oryx outfit has yet to be finalized for the 2012 ALMS season.
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