Team Falken concludes season with sixth place at Petit Le Mans
After an intense nine hour and 37 minute long battle, Team Falken Tire finished sixth place in the 15th Annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Bryan Sellers started the American Le Mans Series event in tenth place, hard charging the 2012 Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR up through the field. Falken's Azenis RT Slicks endured the track temperatures and high load corners of Road Atlanta lap after lap, and allowed Sellers to maintain position before handing the car off to Austrian Martin Ragginger. In his first stint, Ragginger drove with a purpose, working his way up from ninth to third. For the rest of the endurance event, the Falken Tire Porsche kept consistent lap times and held perfectly executed pit stops, allowing the team to maintain position and remain competitive.
"The team did a great job today and the mechanics did good tire changes." said Porsche Factory driver Wolf Henzler, who took the wheel for the Porsche's third stint. "The strategy was good as always, and that's how we got sixth."
Each driver took two stints behind the wheel of the Porsche, battling lapped traffic, blocking and changing weather conditions. Sellers jumped back in the car on lap 155 to complete his final stint, lasting roughly 70 laps, keeping the car in the top five and as close to the lead cars as possible. Ragginger spent his second stint chasing down the no. 45 Flying Lizards Porsche, starting nine seconds behind. Less than 10 laps later, 'Raggi' was less than two seconds behind the opposing Porsche. An incident on track brought out a yellow flag, bringing the Falken Tire Porsche to the pits for fuel and tires. During the caution, pass-arounds allowed the no. 45 Flying Lizards Porsche to gain a lap, putting Falken a lap behind in the GT class.
"There was speed missing, but in the end we made the car good to run a full stint, which was our goal," said Ragginger. "I'm happy that we finished where we did. I'm happy I could support Bryan and Wolf and Falken Tire this year."
The tension was at an all-time high in the final laps as Wolf Henzler, who was conserving fuel for most of his stint, was given the green light from Team Manager Derrick Walker to hard charge for fifth position. The struggling No. 45 Flying Lizards Porsche slowly dropped from third to fourth position with just a few minutes remaining on the clock. With permission to stop reserving fuel and fight for a top-five finish, Henzler laid down strong lap times in the final two laps of the 1,000 mile race. With three laps to go, Wolf was 26 seconds way from making the pass. Two laps to go, he was 16 seconds away. As the checker flag waved, the Falken Tire Porsche was just eight seconds shy of finishing in the top five at Petit Le Mans for the second consecutive year.
Overall, the team was pleased with the results. "All in all, I think today showed the resiliency of our guys and how we were able to run a race with little to no mistakes," said Bryan Sellers. "As a whole for the season, we probably under delivered in some ways and over delivered in others. Any time you can get a win in ALMS GT, you've accomplished something, and we did that."
Looking forward to 2013, Team Falken Tire will be conducting extensive tire testing to further develop the tires that earned the team their win at the Baltimore Grand Prix, the team's third career win in the American Le Mans Series.
"We really managed to set up the car and get the consistent lap times from the first lap to the last lap, which was very good," said Wolf Henzler. "This is something we really have to continue to work at for next year, so we can combine that with speed as well. We'll use the winter break for testing to develop the tires. I'm happy and looking forward to next year and a busy off season with testing and developing the tires."