Spending just 1:39 total in the pits at Virginia International Raceway’s TUDOR United Sportscar race, Team Falken took full advantage of its superb team strategy, and with sheer determination by drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers, ran to the top of the leader board until two corners from the checkered flag, finishing just .492 seconds behind winner Giancarlo Fisichella’s Ferrari F458 Italia in the GTLM Class.
The pit strategy put Falken’s Porsche 911 RSR in contention for the victory with roughly 20 minutes to go, though a concern over fuel consumption threatened to preempt the win. A full-course caution with 10 minutes remaining allowed Henzler to extend to full throttle and he fought off the consistently advancing Fisichella until the very end.
“This was a great day for Falken,” declared Sellers. “We came here and tested four weeks ago and initially struggled. We subsequently spent two days digging in and getting the car comfortable to drive so we could have a good race car when we came back.
“Clearly, the testing showed from the beginning of the weekend,” Sellers continued. The team qualified in seventh for the race, but was competitive as soon as the green flag was thrown. “During the race, the tires worked well; we had good grip and good speed,” he added. “Fortunately, things played in our favor a little bit, but we were really tight on fuel so we needed that yellow at the end. The results worked out the way we thought they would. Wolf drove a great last couple of laps and kept that Ferrari behind him as long as he could and it was just a fantastic battle.”
Henzler, clearly pleased with the Porsche’s performance, acknowledged that the second place finish was “like a win, I would say. Our testing paid off. On race day, we had some really good Falken AZENIS RT slicks and were able to do consistent lap times. As planned, our strategy was a little bit different that the other teams and that clearly helped us. But I must say that sometimes you must take a chance and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Henzler continued: “For us, finally, we had a race where it did work, so it was a great effort and a good call from the pits. The team did a good job, as always. I’m happy to be back on the podium with Falken and Bryan and am really looking forward to the last two races.”
“The momentum leaving VIR is strong, and the team’s confidence was definitely elevated as a result of today’s finish,” stated Nick Fousekis, Falken’s Director of Motorsports Marketing and Consumer Events. “We’re looking forward to competing in Texas – a strong consumer market for Falken – at the Circuit of the Americas, and of course, we are the defending GTLM winner at Petit Le Mans, so it goes without saying we intend to make it two-in-a-row there.”
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.