Team Falken perseveres at Sebring
The 60th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida was a long and hard run for Team Falken Tire. The American Le Mans Series GT team spent most of the 12 hour endurance race trying to regain ground lost early in the event. Despite the setbacks, the team finished with a solid 8th place finish in the GT class, marking the team's first finish of the historic event.
Team Falken Tire was on everyone's lips as the race went green at 10:30am on Saturday, March 17. Just a short time before, the team lost an engine in the final minutes of the warm up session preceding the race. Fans and media watched in awe as the experienced team worked quickly and methodically to replace the engine and repair any damage. Applause burst throughout the paddock and in the social media realm when only ninety minutes later, with a different engine in the car, Wolf Henzler brought the 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR out on track to take the green flag with the rest of the ALMS field.
"We certainly have to thank them for all the help they gave us, said Team Manager Derrick Walker. "Porsche employees were really coming out of the woodwork to help us."
Re-energized with a strong sense of accomplishment, and riding on sheer skill and adrenaline, Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler expertly worked his way through the field and joined the top 10 in the GT class in the first hour, running 37th overall. "I had a very good first stint," said Henzler. "I had to start from pit lane, but I was able to make up some positions quickly. The tires and balance felt good." An hour and 30 minutes into the race, Henzer successfully earned the third GT spot. It was then that the team's luck began to change. Henzler noticed a strange vibration coming from the car that was growing stronger with each lap.
After 40 laps, veteran racer Bryan Sellers took command of the Porsche, rejoining the field 8th in class. The vibration Henzler noticed grew stronger, bringing concern to the team. "As soon as I got in the car and it dropped off the jacks I could feel it," said Sellers. "Unfortunately, you could tell pretty early that it was a pretty big problem." After ten laps, Sellers and Walker made the decision to bring the Porsche back into the paddock to investigate the problem. The forward engine mount had cracked, taking valuable time to fix. The Porsche rejoined 13th in class, sixteen laps behind the leaders, with Sellers at the wheel. "A lot of the race was just managing traffic. For a long time we felt like we were pushing really hard. We didn't really get a chance to race anyone because we were in a race all in our own."
Unwilling to face defeat, the drivers and crew worked together flawlessly for the remainder of the race. Martin Ragginger was the first driver to have a trouble free stint, laying down consistent times and gaining position. The rest of the event was trouble free for the team as they drove to their first Twelve Hour of Sebring finish.
"I'm pleased for Falken," said Team Manager Derrick Walker. "The tires were consistent and we learned a lot today. We worked for our position today, well and truly." Walker praised the team for their hard work not only before the race with the engine troubles, but throughout the entire event. "The guys worked incredibly hard. The whole day was a real test of endurance, not just the race." The team has much work to do before the Long Beach Grand Prix April 13th-14th. Historically, the team has raced strong on street courses, racing the Falken Tire Azenis slicks. Walker and the team will work closely with Porsche and Falken Tire to continue to showcase strong competition against the more experienced veterans of the American Le Mans Series.