By 1986, Price Cobb joined Dyson behind the wheel and played an instrumental role in the team's success, namely in the L.A. Times Grand Prix at Riverside, a victory that remains close to Rob's heart to this day. "Winning at the track, in that event and in that track configuration, and getting that piece of history, that was probably the single-most important race I had done,” he says.
The performance also caught the attention of British rising star named none other than James Weaver, who was making his foray into U.S. racing.
"I think I was pretty shallow because the first race I came to in America, Dyson Racing won. I thought, 'Right, I need to drive for them!'” Weaver recalls with a laugh. “I was at Riverside with Bob Akin driving the Coca-Cola Porsche . Rob and Price Cobb won in their 962 and it had No. 16 on it.
“When I was a school boy, I was a big Pedro Rodriguez fan. And the last race he won, in a Porsche 917, at the Osterreichring, he was also carrying No 16. It just seemed the right place to go, really."
Weaver joined Dyson the following year, in what kick-started a two-decade long relationship with the team. It stretched well through the IMSA GTP days, which saw an influx of competition until the end of the decade. Mighty factory efforts from Nissan, Jaguar and Toyota battled with some of the top privateers, in what many considered to have been the glory days of U.S. sports car racing.
The 1988 season, dominated by the Nissan GTP ZX-T, which took eight consecutive wins, was particularly rewarding for Dyson, as Rob earned the only two wins for Porsche that year.
"They were tough,” Dyson says of Nissan's effort. “That car was really a leap forward, in many respects, and was powerful as hell. Don Devendorf had some really good guys on that car. The whole thing was just very impressive.
“But the other aspect of it was that you had Dan Gurney show up with his Toyota cars and they were tough as nails as well and exceptionally well driven. Then you had the Jaguars show up. That was a beautifully funded effort.
"We were running against some of the other Porsches and you'd get the odd Lancia coming over from Europe or an old March being yanked out. You also had the Corvette and all those guys. What was great was that all of the cars were so different.”
With having proven itself in GTP, Dyson tested the waters of open-wheel racing. Weaver competed in four IndyCar events in 1989, but as the team boss explains, it quickly became apparent where their heart and soul was at.
"It was completely unsatisfying and absolutely no fun,” Dyson says of their short-lived IndyCar venture. “The cars weren't very good. It was sprint racing. We couldn't get the equipment we needed and I felt that we were just technologically way behind. We couldn't catch up. No matter what we did, we couldn't get there.
“It was maybe short-sighted; maybe I'd be running IndyCars now. We just gravitated back to sports cars. They were just more interesting. You could do more with the cars... It was a little bit more of a hot-rodding mentality with sports cars."
The dawn of the decade brought new challenges, with U.S. sports car racing taking a hit following the musical chairs of IMSA ownership and increasing costs that severely affected both factory and private teams. Chris Dyson, who grew up around his father's team, remembers the era.
"GTP was out of control in terms of factory participation,” Chris Dyson says. “There wasn't really an outlet anymore for competitive vehicles to get into the hands of independent teams, as there had been with the Porsche 962.
“That was probably one of the toughest periods for the team. Thankfully, Dad kept everybody around and when the opportunity came with the WSC formula, we went right back into that. I think that was a great avenue for us because the '90s were actually fantastic for the team."
By 1994, the GTP era ended and IMSA created the World Sports Car series, which marked a new beginning for Dyson with a switch to open-top, flat-bottomed prototypes. But Rob's first choice in a produced-based Ferrari-engined Spice chassis wasn't necessarily the winning recipe, as he explains.
"I looked at the rules and they wanted street-derived engines so I pulled out an issue of Road & Track,” Rob Dyson recalls. “They had a winter rundown of the major specs of every car they tested that year. I looked down to see what kind of engines these street cars had. I went down the list and saw the 348 Ferrari had a 3.5-liter V8, twin cam.
“I thought that might be a good thing, so I had one of the guys get a couple of junk engines... and we put it in a Spice chassis. But little did I know that Spice was literally going out of business. When we got the car from them, it was not very well built. We had to go completely through it and fix all of the problems. It was just a disaster.”
Dyson sought engineering advise from Bob Riley and met with the renowned chassis constructor at his shop in Indianapolis. One thing led to another and Dyson helped commission the build of the Riley & Scott MkIII for 1995, an all-new, state-of-the-art prototype. Dyson also made the switch to Lozano Brothers-tuned big-block Ford V8s.
"We picked [the car] up in Daytona,” Rob Dyson says. “I got in the car and set it up according to Bob's specs and pulled out of the pits. As soon as I went onto the banking, I said, 'Boy, this car really feels great.' I came out of the Bus Stop, and wasn't even going full blast, but I knew it was really strong. I knew we had a winning combination. Even though the Ferraris were there and there were several other variants.”