Marino Franchitti has claimed that the new-look Dyson Racing team can take the LMP2 battle to Acura in this year's American Le Mans Series, admitting that he has already fallen in love with the squad's new Lola coupe.
The Scot made a strong enough impression on the Dyson operation to be offered a chance to return to the line-up in 2009 and, with the security and continuity of an agreement under his belt, is already focusing on how to defeat the Acura prototype that many believe will become the successor to Penske and Porsche at the head of the LMP class.
"Without doubt, the biggest thing that's happened in my life since we last shared some time together is rejoining Dyson Racing and our new partners at BP and Mazda," he wrote in a regular column, "I'm delighted to be a part of this exciting programme - having never had the opportunity to stay with a team for a second year before, the continuity is going to be fantastic and I want to thank Rob and Chris Dyson, as well as Robert Davis and John Doonan at Mazda, for making this possible.
"I was in close contact with Rob and Chris regarding the team's programme for '09 - there was a mutual wish to continue together if possible, so it was a case of seeing how it could all come together. Of course, I was talking with other teams, but my number one choice was to stay with Dyson Racing and, as I said earlier, to have the continuity. When I received the call to let me know I would be back with the team; well, to say I was happy would be a huge understatement!
"I can't tell you how different Christmas is when you know you have a drive for the following year - you actually relax properly and I was certainly a much nicer person to be around because of it. It was the best early Christmas present! I feel so lucky to have this drive, especially in this current climate, and for that I'm thankful every day."
With Dyson again changing its choice of chassis, reverting from last year's Porsche to the latest product from Lola, pre-season preparations will be of the utmost important, but Franchitti is already impressed with the BP-backed machine.
"In mid January, feeling fit and recharged, I headed out to Poughkeepsie to the Dyson workshop to see our new car and make a seat," the Scot continued, "Guy Smith and I had already checked out the RML Lola coupe at the LMS race in Silverstone last season – and I have to say we had instantly fallen in love with it.
"What amazed me when I climbed in the car for the first time was how much room there was inside, I was very pleasantly surprised. It was also interesting to take a closer look at the Mazda MZR-R engine, which is an amazing piece of engineering.
"The Sebring test was my first chance to get my hands on our new car and I was not disappointed. The Lola-Mazda is the third LMP2 marque I've driven in as many years, and I'm conscious of being the only driver to have had that opportunity in LMP2. I'm also aware of how fortunate I am to have gained a great deal of experience in such a relatively short period of time.
"Unfortunately, both [co-driver] Butch [Leitzinger] and I had issues with our new seats at the test, so I extended my stay and headed back to the Dyson workshop with the crew to make another insert. That one worked out really well and I'm looking forward to putting it to good use very soon.
"[The car] still very new, but it has a huge amount of potential and I think it will allow us to give the Acura a hard time, which, since they are talking as though they have already won the championship, would be fun! "We'll certainly never give up until we beat them."