Farnbacher Loles Earns Podium Position at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Farnbacher Loles Racing finished the 2009 American Le Mans Series season with a third place podium finish at the Monterey Sports Car Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, October, 10th. Porsche Factory Driver, Wolf Henzler, started the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing/ Flamingo Resort Hotel/ Ehret Family Winery Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in fourth position and immediately challenged the #62 Ferrari F430 GT for third place during the first half hour of the four-hour event. After an hour of green flag racing, a full course caution gave Henzler, of Nurtingen, Germany, the opportunity to safely pit the #87 for fuel and tires, handing the Porsche over to co-driver, Pierre Ehret. While most of the leaders pitted along with the #87, several lower running cars stayed out, forcing Ehret, of Munich, Bavaria, Germany, to rejoin the race in eighth position. By lap 61, Ehret had become comfortable with the initially unfamiliar Porsche, and had moved the #87 into sixth position, rapidly chasing down the #17 Porsche GT3 RSR of Bryan Sellers for fifth. After following the #17 for several laps, Ehret identified where he could attempt a pass, and was able to out-brake the other Porsche in the fast uphill left-hand turn 5.
After another full course caution on lap 67, Ehret pitted the #87 and handed the RSR back to Henzler during another full service stop, with Henzler rejoining the race in fifth position. By the half-way point of the race, only the top-5 cars remained on the lead lap, with all five competitors running closely on the track. With fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, Henzler began methodically passing opponents one at a time. The #87 got around the #21 Panoz on lap 85, Henzler then set his fastest lap of the race two laps later with a 1:24.939. By lap 93, the #87 was up to third position having passed Richard Westbrook in the #18 Porsche GT3 RSR.
By lap 119, the #87 needed fuel and tires to complete the remaining 35 laps. Despite pitting under the green flag, the Farnbacher Loles crew got Henzler back on track without losing his third place classification. Unfortunately, pitting under green allowed Dominik Farnbacher in the #21 Panoz to catch back up. While a fierce battle for the overall race lead was taking place among the prototype competitors, the #87 and the #21 fought for the final podium position with both cars swapping P3 back and forth after multiple passes and side-by-side racing. Finally, with only two laps remaining, Henzler exploited race traffic and a better braking opportunity in the tight eleventh turn to pass the #21 for the final time.
With the podium result, and with the #92 BMW M3 of Dirk Muller and Tommy Milner finishing in sixth position, Henzler also improved one position in the 2009 Driver's Championship, finishing the season in a hard-fought third place.
Henzler thoroughly enjoyed racing for third place with his good friend Dominik Farnbacher.
"The fight with the Panoz was a great battle, fun and fair," Henzler said. "A prototype overtook me, but then he had a bad exit and I hit him. I don't know if he was on cold tires, but I wasn't expecting him to be so slow. I had to brake really hard, and Dominik in the Panoz had a great run, so he was able to pass me. After that, I was trying really hard to pass him back. I tried two times and we even went side by side through turns 1 through 4. We gave each other room and kept it fair. Finally with two laps until the end, I was able to pass him in the same way he passed me. He ran into traffic and he had a little bit of a bad exit, so I dove in. I had watched him from behind for 15 minutes, so I knew where I could out-brake him. So when we went into turn eleven, I knew I could make the pass so I said, "Okay, now or never.' I made the move, and it worked perfectly."
Ehret was elated with the team's podium result and with his experience in the 2009 Porsche GT3 RSR.
"It was a lot of fun learning to drive the Porsche again. I have much more confidence in the RSR now," Ehret said. "I had to drive slowly in the beginning until the tires warmed up. You have to work really hard to be fast, so once the tires came up to temperature, I pushed as hard as I could. I began to catch the #17 Porsche and I saw that he was braking much earlier than me in turns three, four, eight, nine, everywhere really. So on lap 61, I made the move on the inside of turn five under braking and got P5 from him. It felt really good to earn that position for the team. The podium finish feels great. Wolf did a superb job, and I'm happy with my performance as well."
"Everyone worked very hard this weekend to provide me and Pierre with a good car for the race," Henzler added. "We earned our podium position today and our third in the Championship. I've known Pierre for a few years now, but this is the first time I've driven with him in the ALMS. He's used to driving Ferraris, but after a few laps in the Porsche, he got much more consistent and confident. He kept the car safe and developed a good rhythm as his stint went on. He was a big help to me today and we earned this podium together."
Farnbacher Loles Team Principal, Gregory Loles, is proud of his team's accomplishments at the ALMS season finale. "Pierre, Wolf, and the entire crew spent the whole week adjusting the car, making it better with every session. Both drivers made exciting passes during the race and the #87 fought all the way to the end. A podium result is a great way to finish the season and I'm very proud of everyone that's been involved with our ALMS effort this year. I'm very happy for Wolf especially with his third-place finish in the Driver's Championship. He certainly deserves it."
The American Le Mans Series will begin the 2010 season with the 58th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on March 20, 2010.