With his legendary background as a championship racecar driver and as the owner of Dyson Racing of Poughkeepsie, NY, Rob Dyson is a man on the move. Having already competed successfully with his team in famed North American racing series such as the IMSA GT Championship and American Le Mans Series, Dyson, at age 73, is still today one of the busiest guys you’ll come across, and a very hard man to pin down.
When Horsepower finally caught up with him in mid-March, as the COVID-19 crisis gripped the nation and the world, we discovered why he’d been so elusive—and it had nothing to do with the car racing. For several days, Dyson had been busy helping to establish COVID-19 testing sites throughout his home base of Dutchess County. When local politicians, community leaders and health care professionals urgently needed to put a plan in motion to deal with the pandemic—and quickly—they knew just who to call. Unsurprisingly, Dyson got the job done, arranging for four makeshift, portable clinics and securing the locations for them to be housed. “Look, it’s about serving your community,” he says. “The thing about this country is, everybody’s got to help everybody else. You know the old saying ‘If you have your health, you have everything’? Well, that is the truth.”
With that admirable drive and outlook on life, it’s no wonder Dyson has reached the level of success and popularity that he’s enjoyed throughout his career. Dyson has been a fixture of the racing world since 1974, when he raced his Datsun 510 sedan at Watkins Glen before moving up to the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) nationals in 1977, winning a national championship in 1981 in a Nissan 200SX. He and his team would go on to compete in numerous races—among them, the Watkins Glen International, 24 Hours of Daytona, Pirelli World Challenge, World Sportscar Championship and 12 Hours of Sebring. Over the years, Dyson and his team have competed from behind the wheel of every make and model of car, from Ford to Ferrari, and have enjoyed relationships with a number of automakers, including Mazda and Lola. But it is their longstanding partnership with Porsche for which they’re best known, a relationship that dates back to 1985, when Dyson and co-driver Drake Olson began a four-year winning streak at the Porsche Cup of North America. And Dyson Racing is a family affair—Dyson’s son, Chris Dyson, raced for the team from 2001-2013 and is now vice president of the company.
Closer to home, Dyson has an established relationship with the Saratoga Automobile Museum, to which he has loaned 15 cars from his collection for a major exhibition that kicks off this June. The cars that will be on display include those Dyson himself has raced, plus models he has owned for years and some he’s only recently acquired.
Not that these are the first cars Dyson has had on display in Saratoga. In 2017, a Lola B09/86 prototype, which Dyson Racing campaigned to a pair of championships in the American Le Mans Series, got a new home in the Saratoga Automobile Museum’s Racing in New York State exhibit, a major feature of the museum that displays a number of racecars and artifacts from the history of motorsport in the state. Back when Dyson loaned the Lola to the museum, Ron Hedger, a member of the museum’s board of trustees and the person who oversees the Racing in New York State exhibit and related programming, called it “a remarkable example of high-tech racing,” adding that the Dyson family has deep roots in Upstate New York, having made their home in the Hudson Valley for more than four decades.
Anticipating this summer’s exhibition, Carly Connors, the museum’s executive director, noted that the Dyson family are longtime supporters, calling the Lola that’s on permanent display “a testament to Dyson Racing’s dedication to the museum and the education of our youth about the importance the automobile has played in New York history. We are honored to host the Dyson collection for this exhibition and can’t wait to showcase it to the public.”
Dyson’s generosity to the Saratoga Automobile Museum, which opened in 2002, hinges on his admiration and support of the museum and its mission of preservation and education. In addition to loaning his cars to the museum, he is an active participant in its exhibits and other functions, having visited and given a number of talks there throughout the years. “It is a fantastic, historic building,” he says of the lovingly restored Saratoga Bottling Plant (for full story, see page 60) that now houses the museum. “To be able to house cars of all types and all sizes there is really terrific. If you’re a car guy, it is the place to be. Ron Hedger and the staff over there make it great, and people respect it—it’s getting better and better every year.”
When he was asked to participate in the June exhibition, Dyson didn’t hesitate for a minute. “Clearly, I’m a car guy,” he says. “I love my racing and I love my old racecars, so when they asked me if I wanted to show some of them I said, why not? They’re really neat and have brought me so much joy. There are so many stories behind them, and I wanted to share them with people who visit the museum—and I hope they’ll think they’re neat, too.”
This June, the auto museum will be open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm, and will eventually be open seven days a week during the summer months. Adds Dyson of his upcoming 15-sportscar exhibition: “I am honored and pleased to have my cars at the Saratoga Automobile Museum. People are really going to enjoy it, and I hope that it adds to the reputation of what is a great museum.”
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Horsepower magazine, a publication produced by Saratoga Living Arts in partnership with the Saratoga Automobile Museum.