Falken Tire scores solid seventh place at Laguna Seca
Competing on one of the most challenging road courses in North America can impact every race team, especially during a six-hour endurance event, and while Team Falken and its GT-class Porsche 911 GT3 RSR continue to gain critical experience and points in their first season-long race program, strong competition kept Falken drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers in only seventh place in the May 22 American LeMans Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In unseasonably cold and windy conditions, the GT class shaped up to be a compelling battle, but was derailed at times by the 10 full course caution periods. Nevertheless, the yellows were scarcely needed to close up a train of seven cars which all raced hard as they were separated by just seconds during the heat of the enduro.
Despite Team Falken’s strong performance in the race, the Porsche missed most of the first practice session due to a “chatter” noise coming from right rear of car. The well-prepared and staffed team replaced suspension components in the pit lane and proceeded back out on track with 34 minutes left of testing. Unfortunately, the chatter remained, and the team continued to perform changes throughout testing and conducted tire testing later on, ultimately deciding on the same Falken Azenis RT slick set-up as the Sebring and Long Beach races.
While the team reduced the chatter noise on qualifying day, contact with another car damaged the Porsche’s bodywork, and the team lost time in the pits as they made exterior repairs to the car. The crew also worked diligently to make the Porsche more drivable for longer driving stints as well as increase tire longevity.
During qualifying, driver Henzler ran 11 laps and placed Falken into ninth position with a time of 1:23.991. On race day, despite the 10 cautions that occurred during the six hours, the Falken Porsche completed the event without incident, finishing seventh out of 13. Henzler ran a best lap of 1:24.583 during the race, which included 35 cars in all four classes.
“The weather was another competitor at Laguna Seca,” said Kevin Jones, supervisor of Falken’s ALMS Motorsports program. “Finding the ‘perfect’ race tire proved elusive due to the constant change in temperature and other weather factors: first calm, then windy; then we had a dust-covered track. Those were all challenges beyond our control."
Despite the struggles, Rod Everett, Falken team manager, said he was pleased with the team’s performance. “We’re making strides, and using every session to increase our strengths. We’ll be testing over the ‘LeMans break’ at both Road America and Miller Motorsports Park developing our strategy for Round 4 at Miller" in Tooele, Utah, on July 11.
To learn more about the Falken Tire American Le Mans Motor Sports Team, visit www.wegetyougoing.com.