When Lizards Evolve: The New but Familiar Faces of Flying Lizard Motorsports
The world of sports car racing has undergone vast changes in the past two years, with competitors all over the paddock evolving with the times. Flying Lizard Motorsports is no exception. Last fall, the team underwent several changes, continuing on its quest to run a successful business and racing program worthy of its iconic history.
The fan-favorite sports car team began in 2004, created by venture capitalist Seth Neiman. Neiman focused on hiring from the top levels of motorsport, creating a crew and driver lineup that brought noticeable success. In its second season, the team attained an impressive third place finish at the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2007, Flying Lizard Motorsports became a Porsche Factory supported team, catapulting the team into global recognition. The team attained (3) American Le Mans Series Driver Championships in 2008, 2009, 2010, (2) American Le Mans Series Team Championships in 2008, 2009 and (1) American Le Mans Series Team Championship in the GTC class in 2013. The team has won Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta, the 12 Hours of Sebring, as well as produced Porsche Cup winners in both 2006 and 2007.
After the 2013 season, the two premier sports car series in North America, the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, merged to create the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. The team entered into the new series with a new manufacturer for the 2014 customer effort, racing the new Audi R8 LMS. At the end of that season, Seth Neiman quietly stepped back from the driver’s seat as he considered how to evolve and grow the racing program.
“For a few years, I knew the time was coming for me to step back from racing – first driving, and then ownership and management of the team,” said Seth. “Of course, I was concerned about who would carry the team forward, building on all that we had done, and continuing in their own way. My ideal scenario was for the senior team and long term colleagues to take it on.”
Insert Crew Chief Tommy Sadler, Chief Strategist Thomas Blam and former Lizard driver Darren Law, all three of whom had been with Flying Lizard since the beginning. The trio stepped up, assuming the ownership and day to day management of the team. Sadler’s role as Crew Chief transitioned to the team’s Technical Director, managing the technical and mechanical operations, overseeing the crew, mechanics of the team, and car preparation. After a decade of Lizard service, long time Team Manager Eric Ingraham stayed on to aid in the transition and passed the baton to then Chief Strategist Thomas Blam. Lastly, Darren Law, who drove with the team from 2004 to 2012, left his role as COO at Bondurant School of High Performance Driving to be appointed the Flying Lizard Program Manager. His new role appointed him in charge of overseeing the operations of the business, including customer and manufacturer relationships as well as the general operations of the team.
“This was a shift within our core business model,” said Darren Law. “For us, 2015 was an important year to collect data and work to establish future programs.”
In addition to the management team adjustments, Flying Lizard Motorsports was preparing to announce another big change: They were going to reduce involvement in the TUDOR Championship and merge with K-PAX Racing, which provided the resources for a full season in the Pirelli World Challenge with a new manufacturer: McLaren GT.
“So many things were changing in the sport, and everyone knew that Pirelli World Challenge was on an upswing,” said Law. “The price to compete was very affordable, and the quality of competition was looking to reach a new peak for the series. We were incredibly excited to take on the new challenge, especially with a championship winning organization like K-PAX Racing. To combine those efforts with a partial season in the TUDOR Championship as well as our customer program in the Porsche Club of America was a big and welcomed challenge.”
“I couldn’t have been happier when Tommy, Thomas and Darren jumped at the chance to make the Lizards their own,” said Seth. “They’ve chosen to move the team in new directions, while continuing the focus on excellence, and are clearly creating an exciting and worthy next chapter for Flying Lizard Motorsports.”
The hard worked paid off. The 2015 season proved to be the busiest yet for the Lizards. They picked up a top 5 finish at Petit Le Mans, 4 wins and 8 podiums in Pirelli World Challenge and dominated the Porsche Club events with multiple wins. The team also just announced entry into the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, partnering with Toyo Tires to run the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Ultra this December.
“2014 and our first year in a new direction were huge successes,” said Law. “We raced at more tracks in front of more fans, and brought home so many strong finishes. We now have three solid programs with three different manufacturers, and we’re finishing off the year with a new tire partner and the longest endurance race on the calendar.”
So what’s next?
Next year’s plans remain confidential while the team continues to put the 2016 season into place. Now that the new management team has proven to have the capabilities to carry on the Lizard success, the possibilities are endless. Many discussions are underway as the team is currently exploring options in the IMSA Weather Tech Championship, Pirelli World Challenge and Porsche Club of America.
First and foremost, the team will continue to work with manufacturers to support product development while maintaining the high quality customer based racing programs.
“Seth left big shoes to fill, but he also handpicked each member of this team,” said Darren. “We have history here and share his passion for the Flying Lizard brand and want it to succeed just as much as he did. Flying Lizard Motorsports has always been a top tier program now we are going to expand this to additional areas of the racing industry.”
Customers interested in partnering with Flying Lizard Motorsports can contact the team directly.