Team Falken ready for first assault on Daytona
For the first time in its six-year history of participation at the pinnacle of sports car racing – competing initially in ALMS and now its successor, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – Falken Tire, a leader in high performance tires for a wide variety of domestic and import vehicles, will field its race-winning Porsche 911 RSR in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The trademark teal and blue-liveried entry will be piloted by a trio of experienced drivers, veteran teammates Bryan Sellers and Porsche Factory Driver Wolf Henzler, along with fellow Porsche Factory Driver Patrick Long, who will join the team at all TUSC endurance races this season.
The team will again compete in the exacting GTLM class, and starts the season better equipped after the recent Roar before the 24 under the direction of returning Derrick Walker racing, who had this to say about the start of the 2015 season: “The Daytona 24 Hour is a unique event for Team Falken because this is our first 24-hour event, and the spotlight shines hard on this race. We’ve proven ourselves at endurance races having won Petit Le Mans twice, but Daytona is a very demanding track with its oval banking, and the grueling race pace for 24 hours will be a true test of our team and equipment. I’m pleased to have the right combination of Bryan, Wolf and now Pat, along with our Porsche RSR, bring us to what we all consider our next big challenge.”
Part of the challenge of competing at Daytona, according to Falken Director of Motorsports and Consumer Marketing Nick Fousekis, is that “Falken believes in pushing tire technology to the limits. It was important for us to compete in a 24-hour race, and of course, running a full TUDOR schedule. We’ve spent a lot of time working up to a tire that can handle the embankment and load of Daytona, and clearly what we learn here will not only help our race efforts but also the product we offer our consumers – durability, strength, longevity and naturally, performance.”
“There are few races in the world that hold the caliber of a 24-hour race… Le Mans and the Rolex 24…that’s it,” added Bradley Lim, Falken’s TUSC Motorsports Supervisor. “This race is not for the faint of heart. After our two tests, we’ve seen two extremes – that of performing very well in our first experience at Daytona to having some struggles with the cold temps at Roar. So, we’ve seen both spectrums and learned a lot; this will help us as we prep for the race.”
All three drivers weighed in on the difficulties of the Rolex 24 Hours, agreeing that preparation and patience are the keys to success.
Noted Sellers following the Roar test: “Overall, we’ve certainly come to realize how difficult Daytona truly is. At our November test, we were very strong and felt very comfortable coming away. But conditions were substantially different for the Roar, and we didn’t perform nearly as quickly as the previous test. However, we can look at the results and recognize there’s an opportunity that this is what the race will be like and use this data to move forward for the race. As a result, we can say this was a very productive test. We may not have shown as well speed-wise, but it was all about continuing to learn Daytona for the race itself, and we accomplished that.
“Bottom line, I feel comfortable with the guys and the team and we can go back and analyze different conditions for the race,” Sellers explained. “Additionally, Pat’s a great complement to the program. He brings a lot of experience to our team; he’s probably the most experienced third driver to join us, so it’s been good to hear his thoughts and ideas to help us because ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. We knew when he came in that he’s competitive and wants to win and will do anything to help us move forward and he’s proven that. Pat’s a great resource to figure out the differences to the other Porsches he’s driven and tell us where we’re better and where we can improve.”
Henzler agreed with Sellers, adding that the results from Roar allowed Team Falken to “continue where we finished in the previous test. We ran a variety of tires this time and had our first session running at night. We experienced different temperatures during the day and obviously at night. We also found what worked well in the previous test didn’t work so well at Roar, but that’s a normal thing,” he stated, “because you always come to a test to learn and after the test you analyze and fix the points that weren’t good.
“I do believe the test was good,” Henzler continued. “We were close to our competitors and we have a strong third driver in Pat who has a lot of experience here and in the Porsche. What we learned at Roar will help us have a strong car and a solid set-up for the race.”
Long also expressed his confidence. “While this was the first time testing with Team Falken, I feel like I’ve been with these guys for a while. The chemistry and the ‘no-BS mentality’ means that you are right there working on the car and everything is exact and tight and you don’t have to spend much time to meet 30 people. It feels great.
“This is really my way of going racing,” he added. “The emphasis is getting right down to business without complicating things. I’m used to jumping into different 911s so it didn’t take me long to realize there’s a slightly different driving style here, but we can achieve the same performance and move forward toward getting on with the race.”
The Rolex 24 at Daytona is the first race of the 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship and is set to commence on January 24-25 on the 3.56-mile road course set-up at Daytona International Raceway in Daytona, FL.