James Weaver: In His Own Words

James Weaver made a welcome return to the American Le Mans Series paddock during the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park earlier this month, as he helped celebrate Dyson Racing’s 25th anniversary in racing. Weaver, who hung up his helmet at the end of the 2006 season, was a longtime driver for Dyson, collecting three championships and 33 wins for the Poughkeepsie, New York-based squad. In all, the veteran Englishman earned 100 wins throughout his racing career.

Weaver was a likable figure on and off the track, and has been sorely missed since his quiet departure from the series at Laguna Seca nearly two years ago. While on holiday at Lime Rock Park, Weaver took time to sit down with the media and reflect on some of his most memorable experiences racing in America.

What Makes Dyson Racing Special:

photo by: John Thawley “Dyson Racing was my home for 20 years, and I absolutely loved it. We always had good cars and great teammates. It was always a family atmosphere, that wonderful American ‘can-do’ attitude. To me, it had absolutely everything you’d want if you wanted to go motor racing. You look at kids today and ask them what they want to do and they say, ‘I want to win.’ Well, great, but that’s what happens if you do everything right. Rob would always try to do everything right, and then if we did it right, we’d win. I think that’s the big difference. Rob always said get the basics right.

“I think the biggest thing you notice is when things are going wrong is that Rob never panics. Everybody knows that Rob wants things done properly. We were at Mosport one year. John Paul Jr. got t-boned at the top of the wall, and it looked like a horrific accident. Rob went to the medical center to see if he was all right. He then asked the crew chief if they could get [the car] fixed for next weekend, and the crew chief, Pat Smith, said ‘Yeah, no problem.’ That was it. He didn’t even bat an eyelid. That was a racing thing, John was all right, and we’ll get the car fixed. You wouldn’t know from his demeanor that he’d just been handed a bill for $300,000. He’s got all of his values absolutely right.”

Rob Off The Track:

photo by: John Thawley “When I first came over, I was introduced to Rob. I was so desperate to get the drive, I thought I couldn’t possibly call Mr. Dyson, Rob. He insisted on me calling him Rob. So I thought I couldn’t do that, I’m going to have to call him the governor, which at home is a term of respect and endearment. It’s familiar, but not overly familiar. So I started calling him “The Governor” and everybody now calls him the “The Governor.” I was with Dave Maraj a couple of years ago. He came up in the paddock and said, ‘I want to have a chat with The Governor.’  I thought ‘that’s it, even the opposition calls him The Governor!’

“Rob’s exceptionally well read. He’s got a wicked sense of humor. I remember once him telling me that Lyndon Johnson was walking out of the lawn of the White House and there were two helicopters there. [Johnson] started walking up to one of them and the young guard said, ‘No Mr. President, that’s not your helicopter. This is your helicopter.’ And the President said, ‘Son, they are all my helicopters.’

“When I was driving for Rob, I made the mistake of not referring the No. 16 car to ‘our car’ (Butch Leitzinger and Weaver’s car). I said ‘my car’. Then Rob said, ‘Son, they’re all my cars.’”

How Dyson Saved His Career:

photo by: John Thawley “By the time I’d got here, I was pretty much in the toilet. I was drinking in the last chance saloon when Rob gave me the chance. Without him, I’d probably stop racing in the mid-’80s. It would have been horrendous. Rob resurrected a lot of people’s careers. Price Cobb was doing nothing and Rob gave him a chance. Rob gave me a chance, Butch was a youngster – no real reason for him to be in the car, but Rob liked him so he gave him a go. John Paul Jr. had a pretty rough time one thing or another, and Rob gave him a chance that many people wouldn’t have done. Rob doesn’t just look the list of, ‘Right, who’s the current flavor of the month, who are the stars?’ He looks at people who will fit in. Dyson Racing has no acknowledged stars, but Pat Smith for example, is a fantastic crew chief. Peter Weston, our engineer, you couldn’t ask for a better bloke in pit lane to make our cars go quick. He’s always had very capable people, but he’s never made a big fuss about it.”

Reliving the 2003 Overall Victory at Infineon Raceway (the first by a LMP675):

photo by: John Thawley “The [Lola EX257 AER] was getting really good by then. The engine was good. We qualified on pole. We did reasonably well in the race but the track was really greasy. We were on Goodyears and they were absolutely fantastic so we had a huge advantage. Everybody was getting pick up on their tires and our car didn’t. So as the race wore on, we just got more and more competitive. With three or four laps to go, we got past the Audi. I thought, ‘Right, lets make sure we stay in the lead.’ So I reached up to the dashboard and had the old ignition and all the switches for the engines wound to maximum, no matter what it was. The thing was ticking for the last three or four laps, but we held the Audi off and won. When the engine guy looked at what I’d done, he went, ‘Oh no, I can’t believe you did that!’  I said, ‘I would rather park on the side of the road than lose.’”

The Secret Behind His Pink Socks:
“My eldest daughter, when she was 3, was shopping for Christmas presents. She went into the shop and said, ‘I want to buy those socks for you for Christmas.’ I said, ‘Sweetheart, that’s magnificent.’ I bought the pink socks and put them on. The next day I didn’t have them on and she said, ‘Daddy, where are the pink socks?’ So I put them on and they’ve become a thing, and I’ve worn them ever since. The thing was, I once said to Andy [Wallace] ‘You won’t believe it, but they’re a lot cheaper than the other colors, but I have no idea why!?’”

How Retirement has Been:

“It’s not until you retire that you realize how good it is. It’s absolutely miserable being a civilian because when you’re racing, you’re not only doing what you love, but you’re driving some of the best cars in the world in all the best places. You stay in nice hotels, meet interesting people. You just live like a king. It’s extraordinary what an enormous standard of living you have just by driving a racing car. You get used to it. It’s very easy not to appreciate it as much as you should.”

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