Team Falken win first in class at Watkins Glen Six-Hour
Team Falken and its tenacious duo of drivers, Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers, aboard their durable Porsche 911 RSR, reaffirmed their endurance skills with their first win of the 2015 season in the GTLM Class at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, Round 6 of the TUDOR United Sports Challenge (TUSC).
The team had previously tested at Watkins Glen and came away from that session confident that it would do well come race weekend. However, while temperatures remained the same, the wet/dry situation that occurred on Friday and Saturday had the No. 17 Porsche off the test pace and the crew scratching its collective head.
“The track was tremendously different at the race,” stated Phil Howard, Team Manager. “We were two seconds off our test pace the first day in the dry but then so were the Works Porsches. It was difficult to understand the problem in the wet on Saturday, and we certainly struggled then. We couldn’t get any grip, so we weren’t exactly excited coming into today.”
Driver Bryan Sellers noted the same: “When we tested here we thought we were going to be very strong for the race and then when we came back, it didn’t look like we were going to be that good,” he said. “We struggled in the wet; we struggled in the dry; it just seemed like we were missing a little bit. However, once the race came around, we were able to get things going in the right direction and when we hit the momentum swing in the middle of the race, we were in good shape.”
Added Neil Fife, Falken Tire’s Race Engineer: “I agree with Bryan. The momentum started when the team sat down after Saturday’s last practice and came up with some really good tires for race day and a strategy, and that helped us achieve what we needed to achieve in the end. We did a few things to the car to compromise wet v. dry for Sunday because we knew that’s what race conditions would be and the Falken team found the tires to put us where we wanted to be.”
“Running well in the warm-up was a bit of an uplift,” enthused Howard. “From there, when the race began, the drivers just did a fantastic job, with a great ending.”
“We showed the pace and once we got into the top three with about three hours to go, we just knew that’s where we were going to stay,” said Fife. Once we made the right call, we felt it was a gutsy call for all of us on the stand, but the result was a ‘W,’ and we’re very pleased about it.”
“There’s always a turning point in the race and you’re thinking, ‘this is possible; we can do this,’” declared Sellers. “I was thinking just before Wolf got in at the end, ‘we had a real chance to win…and that we were strong enough to win.’ You know, we made sure to ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s,’ and we could make it happen. Add a little bit of luck, and we came away with the win.
“P1 is always great,” Sellers continued. When you win, it’s good for everybody; the drivers, the crew. A victory lets everybody see what they’ve accomplished; what Falken is capable of doing. Right now, the crew guys … they’re still working. Wolf and I get to spray the champagne, but winning for the crew is always one of the best things for me.”
Henzler wrapped up the drivers’ perspective: “You could say we came here and we were a little bit surprised because we struggled so much especially because usually we are good in the wet. We all expected a wet race and as Neil said, we all sat together on Saturday and decided upon some set-up changes that we felt were the best for the car.
“We went into the race and all of a sudden, we were right there,” Henzler added. “In the dry, we could set the same lap times as in the wet. Obviously we made the right changes and like always, our principal strength is having a tire that is very consistent which can do good lap times over the full stint. Second, having a crew that is so strong for the pit stops and makes the right strategy calls makes it easier for Bryan and me. At the end, when I was in the car for nearly two hours, the wet tire was giving me great lap times the entire time, so I think we really turned things around, and it’s just awesome to win here at The Glen.”
“This win just validates what we know,” stated Bradley Lim, Falken’s TUSC Supervisor. “We have a fantastic team that, when faced with a challenge, knows how to deal with it. We were super confident coming back to Watkins Glen. We know how to win endurance races. Our Falken tires are superb in the wet. It was that perfect trifecta – coupled with our dynamic duo of drivers – that earned us this important victory.”
“We have to thank all the folks at Walker Racing, as well as our team of Falken engineers for their valiant efforts and brilliant strategy this weekend,” acknowledged Nick Fousekis, Falken’s Director of Motorsports Marketing and Events. “We went from being a bit demoralized on Saturday to ecstatic on Sunday, and definitely felt every bit of the emotional scale. As always, that’s racing. But you forget all the lows when you get a win, and we’ll revel in this victory for a while.”
Round seven of the TUSC moves across the border to Bowmanville, Ontario, for the two-hour and 40-minute Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, set for July 10-12, and featuring P, PC and GTLM classes.