Through The Esses - James Weaver Retires From A Racing Life - Part 1: Andy Wallace
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© Andrew S. Hartwell

At the season ending Laguna Seca round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series last weekend, veteran sportscar racing standout James Weaver announced he was retiring as a driver. The sport will surely skip a beat now, for Weaver was very much a vital valve in the heart of the series, having campaigned in sportscar racing as a member of the Dyson Racing organization for 20 years.

The following paragraph was taken from the official team release.

He has 100 career victories - achieving that milestone at Mosport in 2005. He is one of the world's finest sports car racers: he has claimed sixty seven poles, seventy fastest laps, thirty six lap records, and over 200 podium finishes. "James is phenomenal," said team owner Rob Dyson. "He has been one of the primary factors in our success these past twenty years. James was always willing to put in more hours than any other driver to get the car right and that is what separated him from everyone else." James won thirty-three races and three championships for Dyson Racing.

There are precious few who could successfully argue against the fact that Weaver is among the top drivers ever to wring every last reluctant drop of speed out of a race car. And when he wasn't driving the car, he was driven to improve his performance the next time out. We are especially proud to say we had the opportunity to interview James a few times along the way and he never disappointed us, not once. Always ready to flip a quip' and give us that naughty boy look, he was always engaging, friendly and professional. And he never made you feel unimportant. There were no pretensions.

Andy Wallace, himself an incredibly talented and genuinely friendly Englishman, has been a racing partner of Weavers for the last 11 years, racing in tandem for Rob Dyson, and alongside Chris Dyson in Riley and Scott MKIIIs and two different chassis from Lola. Who would know better the real James Weaver than his long time teammate and close friend?

We talked with Andy recently and he had nothing but praise and admiration for his good friend.

"James is a fairly special guy. He is the last of a dying breed. We were together 11 years with Rob Dyson, which is really so unusual. And James is a really good friend of mine. You couldn't ask for a better one. He has been very helpful to me, career wise. But more than just that - you know, everyone says that sportscar racing is a team effort but to actually find a teammate who is as unselfish as James is very unusual. He is always looking out for his teammates."

At Dyson, those teammates have included John Paul Jr., Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Dorsey Schroeder, Guy Smith, and of course, Butch Leitzinger. Wallace feels that when a young Butch Leitzinger joined the Dyson squad, James was always there to lend a hand and provide some guidance.

"James and I often joke that if it wasn't for James and I, Butch would have gone a lot further in his career. The reason we say that is because more than anything we have taught Butch all of the bad habits. He has probably learned more of the bad habits than he has the good ones!

"I think Butch is like James in that he is the kind of person who can jump in a new car and without doing too many laps can get the best out of that car. Whatever the lap time that needs to get done, Butch can do it in only a few laps."

Outside of his success on the track during a race, Weaver is noted for having an incredible talent for setting up a car. Wallace explains.

I have to say he is probably one of the best set-up enabled drivers in the world. I don't know anybody who is as good with a car as he is. From the seat of the pants he can get the very best out of a car. He can feel things that other people can't. With the amount of time I have driven with him I have done my best to learn from him. He has got a way with cars from the old school where they didn't have any data and you learned and made changes from the sea