The Ex – Dyson Racing, James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger, ALMS and four-time Sebring 12 Hour 2001 Riley & Scott Mk3C LMP900 / LMP1

From 1995, Riley & Scott have been a key feature on the American sports car racing scene, taking 47 victories with a huge 13 wins of the famous Daytona 24 Hours, along with further successes including the Sebring 12 Hours. The manufacturer founded by Bill Riley and Mark Scott came to build its first car in 1991 as a silhouette with Chevrolet body for the Trans-Am series. This was followed by a foray into road car production with a Chevrolet engined roadster design.

Their first well known car, the Mk3, was penned and modelled in 1993, however was slow to reach fruition. After working with Dyson Racing on improving their existing Ferrari powered Spice sports prototype during 1994, Dyson proceeded to order two new Mk3s from Riley & Scott for 1995. The rest of the design and build of the first car was completed in just four months, ready for delivery to Dyson Racing at the beginning of the 1995 season.

Dyson Racing was officially established in 1983 when Rob Dyson stepped up to IMSA GTO and Trans-Am with a Pontiac Firebird. Having become SCCA National Champion in 1981 with his Datsun 200 SX, Dyson was making a name as an amateur racer and success soon followed at a higher level. Dyson scored a 3rd overall in the IMSA Elkhart Lake 500 miles in his debut season with the Firebird, a car which was largely self developed.

Following the debut IMSA season, Dyson wanted to move up to the top class, GTP. A March was considered, but Bob Akin had advised on a Porsche 962. However, on going to Al Holbert to buy a new 962, Dyson found they were all sold out. Instead, he was able to buy the first factory customer 962 from Bruce Leven. Dyson wasted no time in getting to grips with the new challenger, taking victory first time out with co-driver Drake Olson.

This spelled the first step into the world of top line sports prototypes for Dyson Racing, which continued until the conclusion of the ALMS championship at the end of 2013. Over the 28 year span, the team took multiple championship titles in IMSA World Sports Cars, USRRC Can-Am, Grand-Am, and the American Le Mans Series having campaigned cars from the Porsche 962, to a Spice-Ferrari, Riley & Scott Mk3 and Mk3C, Lola-MG EX257, Porsche RS Spyder, Lola B09/86 and their final car, the Lola-Mazda B12/60.

Of all their challengers, it was the Riley & Scott Mk3 that proved most successful with back to back Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car championships and two wins of the Daytona 24 Hours.

This car, Riley & Scott Mk3C 01-002

With a return to the American Le Mans Series planned for 2001, Dyson Racing took on an experimental development of their proven Riley & Scott Mk3, the Mk3C chassis number 01-002, this car. The race missing from Dyson’s exceptional record was the Sebring 12 Hours and it was hoped that the new Mk3C LMP900 would address that.

Featuring much improved aerodynamics with a reduced frontal area, single roll hoop and small wrap-around windscreen, the Mk3C took lessons of Riley & Scott’s involvement with the Cadillac NorthStar LMP project. Unlike the carbon monocoque of the NorthStar, the Mk3C used a hybrid chassis of space frame with carbon-fibre construction which was stiffer than that of the previous Mk3.

At the core of the car, the chassis gave option as to engine choice, though most were fitted with Elan Technologies built, Lincoln badged, Ford V8s. A new 6 speed gearbox by X-Trac was used and there was provision for a pneumatic Megaline gear actuation system. The use of Megaline also made steering wheel mounted paddle-shift an option. The new, lower and more sculpted body was made from carbon fibre, as were both the brake discs and pads.

Five Mk3Cs were built in total, with one used as a crash test car, and 01-002 going to Dyson Racing for the beginning of the 2001 season. Dyson used a 5.6-litre version of the Lincoln V8 for the first race, the Sebring 12 Hours and the new car arrived just 13 days before hand. The team were up against stiff competition in the form of the Audi R8 LMP900, by then in its second year of competition and well sorted.

01-002 qualified 7th overall at Sebring, with Butch Leitzinger, Elliot Forbes-Robinson and James Weaver on driving duties for Dyson in what would be the first race for the new Riley & Scott model. The Mk3C was neck and neck with the other challengers within the LMP900 class, and showed promise in the first half of the race. Renowned as a car destroying test of endurance, Sebring saw 01-002 retire after the half way mark with overheating issues.

After Sebring, Dyson upgraded 01-002 with a 6-litre version of the Lincoln V8 engine and it was not until the Mosport round of the ALMS in August that the car raced again. With long term Dyson drivers Leitzinger and Weaver at the wheel, 01-002 set the 5th fastest time in qualifying, just 0.1 seconds slower than the Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and Andy Wallace. Dyson were however hit by a grid penalty which saw them line up 23rd for the race. They however, had a better experience than at Sebring, finishing in 5th place after 2 hours and 45 minutes of racing.

A week later 01-002 was out again at the next round of the ALMS, Mid-Ohio. With the same drivers, 01-002 qualified 7th and had a strong race to finish on the podium with 3rd place having split the two works Audi R8s. The final race of 2001 was Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The 1000 mile season ending race was also the final round of the European Le Mans Series and a huge field of cars were present.

Forbes-Robinson joined Weaver and Leitzinger once more, with the trio setting the 8th fastest time in qualifying. In the race, retirement was forced on the 94th lap with clutch failure. Petit Le Mans marked 01-002’s final race with Dyson Racing, and ahead of the 2003 season it was bought by Jon Lewis’ American Spirit Racing outfit.

The Mk3C was American Spirit Racing’s first step into prototype racing, and Tomy Drissi, Michael Lewis and Guy Cosmo were recruited as drivers. Buddy Fey, who had held top positions within the Cadillac LMP program, was brought in as Chief Engineer and brought considerable experience.

Drissi later recounted how the Riley & Scott had proven to be “pretty rookie-friendly” having arrived at Sebring without driving a prototype before. Bill Riley helped ASR in getting 01-002 ready and adding some updates before their first outing as the car had not seen the track in a year.

At the Sebring 12 Hours in March 2003, the trio of Lewis, Drissi and Cosmo got to grips with the AmeriSuites liveried 01-002 well, qualifying in 12th position in their first timed session with the Riley & Scott. The team had a good showing through the 12 Hours, running in 10th position by the half way mark. Cosmo suffered back issues on the notoriously bumpy airfield circuit and only completed limited running during the race.

The trio encountered issues with the starter motor, the loss of a wheel nut after a pit stop, an errant Corvette without lights and contact with an Audi. Despite the tests of the race, they completed the distance in 12th place on their debut with 01-002.

The second round of the 2003 ALMS came at Road Atlanta for the Chevy Grand Prix in June. For the shorter, 2 hour 45 minute long race it was Drissi and Lewis who drove, though Melanie Paterson tested the car on the lead up to the main event. The pair qualified 01-002 in 10th position, finishing the race in 12th place.

Next was to Canada and Trois-Rivières for the third round in the ALMS series. Held on the first weekend of August, it was again Drissi and Lewis on driving duties. They set 7th fastest lap time in qualifying, and again held the same position to the conclusion of the 3 hour race.

The Trois-Rivières race was the first of four rounds in close succession. Mosport came next, and after qualifying 10th, retirement was forced with engine failure. Following Mosport was the Road America 500 Miles where the pair again qualified 01-002 in 10th position and crossed the finish line in 14th. The month was rounded out with the Laguna Seca round. Here Drissi and Lewis qualified 9th and raced forward to their best result of the season, 5th place.

2003 was rounded out in October by the concluding race of the ALMS series, Petit Le Mans. With 1000 miles of racing to be covered, Drissi and Lewis were joined in 01-002 by Melanie Paterson for her first LMP900 race. 9th place was taken in qualifying before completing the race distance in 10th position.

Over the winter preceding the 2004 season, 01-002 moved to AutoCon Motorsports and appeared in a black livery for the new year of racing. Sponsorship from the CellMark Group and upcoming DodgeBall movie, with which Drissi was involved, adorned the car at the Sebring 12 Hours. 2004 saw a new class structure in the ALMS, with the top class previously known as LMP900 becoming LMP1. 01-002 was entered in the LMP1 class and driven at Sebring by Drissi, Lewis and Vic Rice. They set the 9th fastest time on the way to finishing a fine 7th overall after the 12 Hours.

The AutoCon Motorsports team had ambitions of a Le Mans 24 Hours entry in 2004 with 01-002 though the desired entry was not granted. With Drissi and Lewis busy with Trans-Am driving commitments, it wasn’t until the season closing Petit Le Mans in September that 01-002 raced again. Having moved away from the Lincoln V8, 01-002 was fitted instead with Elan Power Products version by the time of Petit Le Mans.

Drissi and Lewis were joined once more by Melanie Paterson, and while they set the 9th fastest qualifying time, a penalty saw them start 35th on the grid. The race itself ended with disappointment when retirement came after an accident.

For 2005, AutoCon Motorsports continued with 01-002. The year began in traditional style with the Sebring 12 Hours. With Sahara film branding on the front of the car, Drissi and Lewis were joined by Bryan Willman, and the trio set what ended up being the 10th fastest time in qualifying. The scheduled qualifying session was aborted due to heavy rain, and instead the times were taken from the free practice sessions. In the 12 Hours itself, run in dry conditions, 01-002 retired with gearbox issues.

01-002’s next outing was in July for the fifth round of ALMS at Sonoma. Driven by Lewis and Willman, 01-002 qualified in 7th position but retired from the race with clutch failure. Next was the Portland Grand Prix two weeks later, where with Red Line Oil sponsorship Lewis and Willman again set 7th fastest time and raced through to a 7th place finish.

August saw 01-002 compete at Road America with Lewis and Willman repeating the 7th in both qualifying and the race. At Petit Le Mans in October, 01-002 was piloted by the same duo and qualified 10th before finishing the 6 hour race in 15th position. The final round of the ALMS in 2005 was the Laguna Seca 4 Hours. Lewis and Willman had a troubled qualifying which led to them lining up in 27th position for the start. In what would be the final top-line contemporary outing for 01-002, which was the last Mk3C still being campaigned at this level, Lewis and Willman drove through to a 13th place finish.

Having been retired from the ALMS by AutoCon Motorsports, 01-002 was bought by Mark Brannon in the USA. Brannon had 01-002 repainted red and began competing with the car in HSR in 2007. 01-002 was then campaigned by Brannon through to 2020 in HSR, SVRA and Masters racing throughout the USA at tracks including Indianapolis, Daytona, COTA, and Laguna Seca for the Monterey Historics meeting.

Brannon had 01-002 prepared and supported by Haynes Performance Autosports, and during his 14 year ownership, 01-002 benefitted from a bare chassis rebuild. In July 2020, a new Fuel Safe Systems bag tank was fitted and the engine was rebuilt by Savannah Race Engineering.

Following the completion of the 2020 refresh work, 01-002 was bought by Emmanuel Brigand in France in 2021.

Having been transported to Crubile Sport in France, 01-002 was returned to the white AmeriSuites livery and prepared to race in Peter Auto’s Endurance Racing Legends. Crubile Sport completed crack testing work in February 2022 as part of the preparation, and an Endurance Racing Legends technical passport was granted.

01-002 was present at Peter Auto’s 2022 Mugello Classic, but was hampered by a clutch issue. With the troubles addressed, it was at the Le Mans Classic that the last owner got his first race with 01-002. Running in the 45 minute Endurance Racing Legends race, it qualified in 15th position before finishing the race in 6th position.

From Le Mans Classic, 01-002 went to Paul Ricard for Peter Auto’s Dix Mille Tours meeting. Amongst a strong 37 car grid, 01-002 set the 3rd fastest lap time in qualifying 1 and was 6th fastest the in the second timed session. With the grid formed on the fastest times of either session, 01-002 lined up in 5th place for first of two 40 minute races.

A close battle followed with 01-002 finishing 3rd overall and it’s best lap time being just 0.1 seconds behind the Courage C60 and Audi R8 which finished 1st and 2nd. For the second race, 01-002 again lined up in 5th place before finishing 6th at the conclusion of the 40 minute race in what was a successful weekend for the car.

On returning the Crubile Sport after Paul Ricard, the gearbox was checked and found to be in good condition. Other recent work included the fitment of a new clutch, the replacement of the Geartronics gear change actuation valves, servicing of the EFI data logging system, fitment of a new fire extinguisher and setting up on a rolling road with the correct size air intake restrictor for Peter Auto. Importantly, the carbon brakes show little wear, with thick pads present and three discs still showing all of the three wear indicator grooves, while one disc shows two.

Accompanied by extensive paperwork including the hugely insightful original running sheets and set up information along with the Peter Auto Endurance Racing Legends technical passport, current fuel tank certificate, HSR log books, results sheets and more. A spare set of wheels with unused Michelin wet tyres, dive plane formers, large restrictors, wheel nut socket and air jack lance fitting are also with 01-002.

With interesting ALMS period history including four Sebring 12 Hour campaigns and one of just five Mk3Cs built by Riley & Scott, 01-002 boasts strong Ford V8 power and a dependable steel and carbon chassis with powerful carbon brakes. As has been shown by the last owner, 01-002 is a very competitive and practical period LMP900 and LMP1 car which excels in the popular Peter Auto Endurance Racing Legends series. Eligibility extends further to the European Masters Endurance Legends grid, the U.S. version and events like the HSR Daytona Classic 24 Hour and Sebring Classic.