Team Falken finishes sixth at Long Beach
After starting in eighth position, Team Falken Tire finished 6th in the GT class today in the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, a home track for the Fontana based team. The team entered the weekend hoping for a second straight street course win on the 1.968 mile track, with the previous win being on the streets of Baltimore last season.
With their unbeatable rain tire set up, the team conquered the charts in the rain-filled practice session and qualifying session on Friday. However, the weather conditions resulted in the qualifying session results to be abandoned, forcing the team to give up the pole position and start the race based on their position in the championship point standings. American Bryan Sellers started the race in 8th, but was passed before the green flag flew, interrupting his run out of the hairpin and losing two positions. Undeterred, Sellers aggressively worked his way through the field, but again faced adversity when he came behind a slower LMPC car that would not let him pass.
"It's a bit frustrating when things like that happen," said Sellers. "Finally, once we got past them, we were two seconds faster every lap. It's tough, because they're in their own race as well." Sellers pulled into the pits at the halfway point, and German Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler took his turn behind the wheel.
Watching the lap times of Sellers get better with each lap, Henzler rejoined the race in 5th position in the GT class, optimistic the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR could continue to climb the charts. As the session progressed, Henzler felt issues with over steer; a problem that got worse with each lap.
"I don't know what happened," he said. "It didn't seem like Bryan had that much over steer when he was in the car. We'll have to sit down and find out why it was so bad and work on it in the future."
In the final minutes of the race, Henzler expertly held off the Aston Martin of Adrian Fernandez as they raced nose to end for several laps. With seven minutes to go, Henzler lost the position, bringing the car across the finish line in sixth.
"All in all we came away with a reasonable finish," said Team Manager Derrick Walker "Not good, but reasonable. It was really hard to overtake when you're back there with so many cars. It was just trying to execute the best we can, but it clearly wasn't quick enough in the second stint."
Despite the frustrations on track, the team is proud of a victory that took place earlier in the day. Working with the Austin Hatcher Foundation, the team auctioned off 20 pieces of body work, memorabilia and artwork to raise $4,530 from fans to benefit families with children suffering from pediatric cancer.
"To raise that kind of money for an auction at the race track is pretty incredible," said Sellers. "What you really have to remember is we can help people along the way of what we're doing. Then it's special. We're lucky to do what we do and it's cool that we're able to contribute to that and do what we did today."
Team Falken Tire and the American Le Mans Series next races at the American Le Mans Monterey Presented by Patron May 10-12.