Team Falken Tire rolls the dice at Lime Rock Park
Round 4 of the American Le Mans Series presented by Patron was a bittersweet event for the Team Falken Tire. Accelerated shoulder wear on the left rear tire due to heavy load forced the team to pit and change tires more often than expected, costing the team the opportunity to move up through the GT field. The team stayed ahead of four other cars to finish seventh in the GT class.
During the six week "Le Mans" break, the team held two tests at Road Atlanta and Mid-Ohio, focusing on tire development and overall car balance, and the team felt optimistic about the advances made. "The performance gains we had at Mid-Ohio were real," said Program Manager Derrick Walker. "Why they didn't repeat here was troubling at the moment." The trouble started 40 minutes into the race when starting Falken driver Bryan Sellers noticed a vibration in the rear of the 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. "Before that, everything was fine," said Sellers. "The balance of the car wasn't bad, we were only lacking a little bit of overall grip to the other guys. We could manage over a stint to stay toughly with the same lap times." Vibrations being not an uncommon occurrence in motorsports due to regular tire wear, the team did not pit, but stayed focused on tire pressures. Shortly after in lap 35, the team called Bryan in as the pressure in the No. 17 Porsche left rear tire rapidly dropped, forcing Sellers to limp into pit lane. "With the loss of pressure we obviously realized we had a different kind of vibration, and a different kind of problem," said Walker. "From that point on, we were in total experimental mode."
For the remainder of the race, the team cautiously watched as the left rear continued to show accelerated wear. The Falken crew members stayed on call at all times, ready instantly to jump over the pit wall and be prepared for any kind of situation at any time. On lap 92, Porsche Factory driver Wolf Henzler got behind the wheel with the best set of tires the team had all race. Overall the team pitted four times during the 2 hour and 45 minute endurance race, using different compounds and constructions from start to finish.
"We went through the whole range of different constructions and different compounds," said Walker. First and foremost a tire development program, Falken Tire made great strides in the advancement of the Falken Azenis R1 Slicks. In ultimate tire set up, the goal is softer rubber with more grip. However, this leads to accelerated levels of wear, forcing the developers to find a soft rubber that lasts for the longest period of time. "We learned a lot from this event. It will help us better understand what we've got in our tires for Mosport."
"We had a tough race today," said Henzler. "We couldn't finish as we expected, but only thing we can do is keep working hard and test tires and try to get better for the next races." Round five of the American Le Mans Series takes place at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport July 21-22.