Mid-Ohio: Tafel Racing race report

Tafel Racing Competitive Despite Ninth and Tenth Finish At Mid-Ohio LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Wolf Henzler was in the lead with the No. 71 Tafel Racing Porsche at the one-hour mark of Saturday's Acura Sports Car Challenge American Le Mans Series ...

Tafel Racing Competitive Despite Ninth and Tenth Finish At Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Wolf Henzler was in the lead with the No. 71 Tafel Racing Porsche at the one-hour mark of Saturday's Acura Sports Car Challenge American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but unfortunately both the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR he shares with Robin Liddell and the team's sister car driven by Jim Tafel and Dominik Farnbacher suffered a component failure of their rear hubs that thwarted possible podium finishes.

Henzler and Liddell's No. 71 didn't finish the two-hour-and-45-minute race and was credited with a ninth-place finish in the GT2 class. Tafel and Farnbacher's No. 73 lost many laps in the garage area before returning to the fray to finish tenth in the final rundown.

Henzler, who won this race last year, started fifth in class, while Tafel started ninth. By the fifth trip around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course Henzler, of Nuertingen, Germany, was already fourth and Tafel had moved up to eighth.

The two Ferraris that were leading the class tangled on lap 30, 40 minutes into the race. The leader, Mika Salo in the Risi Competizione Ferrari, received a 2-minute penalty and the second-place driver, Tomas Enge in the Petersen White Lightning Ferrari, was nailed with a 5-minute penalty for their actions. That gave the class lead to Joerg Bergmeister and advanced Henzler to second.

Bergmeister pitted at the one-hour mark to give the lead to Henzler, which turned out to be the brightest spot in Tafel Racing's day. Henzler was still leading when he pitted four minutes later, allowing Liddell to take the wheel of his car and giving the lead to Johannes van Overbeek.

Liddell, of Northampton, Scotland, ran in third place throughout his stint, and turned the car back over to Henzler at the one-hour-and-51-minute mark still in that podium position. Their car's rear hub problem occurred around the two-hour mark, and Henzler took the Porsche back to the garage area around 2:14:12 to battle again another day.

The problems with Tafel and Farnbacher's car started even earlier in the form of brake trouble. Tafel, of Alpharetta, Ga., made two pit stops in the first half hour before he took the car behind the wall for repairs. He returned many laps down and posted consistently good times until he turned the car over to Farnbacher, of Lichtenau, Germany, two hours and two minutes in. Farnbacher actually set the fastest lap for the team when his 57th lap was timed in 1:22.177 (99.36 miles per hour), so both cars were extremely competitive here despite what the final results showed.

Driver quotes:

Wolf Henzler: "In the beginning I stuck behind the Ferraris. Then they had contact, and I led briefly.

"I had some bad luck with traffic. They caught me in the corners, and I couldn't get Jorge [Bergmeister] in the straights. But the car was running good. I really had a good feeling that we were going to have a good day.

"Then we pitted, and I made a little mistake. I locked up the wheels and the crew had to push us back to change the tires. That cost us a little time; I don't know how much. The team did a good pit stop even though I made it hard for them to change tires.

"Robin did a good stint, and then I got in again. I had a softer brake pedal when I got in that time, and it became worse. I continued on, but the next lap I got a bad vibration and I had to pit. The crew saw that there was a problem with the rear, and we went back to the garage.

"Like Dominik said, Jim did very good lap times in the 73 car. I'm really impressed with him.

"I don't say what happened today is anyone's fault; it's just bad luck. Today we were in line to finish on the podium and maybe even win. Maybe we're saving our luck for another time. The whole team is very motivated to get our luck turned around. We'll push even harder."

Robin Liddell: "The car was super when I got in. Then it developed an understeer because the tires were going away, so I tried very hard not to abuse the front tires. Then I got new tires and later the balance started to come back. From my side that was it, really.

"I stopped early due to the understeer to hold the track position and to get new tires for the last part of my stint. Then a few laps later we had the rear hub problem. It seems to be the same problem as the other car had.

"Wolf had a little contact with the left rear with an Audi, but I don't have any opinion on whether that affected us or not. Then he locked the brakes up and nearly hit the wall when he came in for a pit stop. The crew had to roll the car back to get it in the right position to get everything done, and that cost us a little time."

Jim Tafel: "That never happened to us before, and to have that happen to both cars, I just don't understand it. I haven't talked to the engineers or Porsche yet, but hopefully we can solve the problem so it doesn't reoccur.

"I had no incidents. The car was fine. Then I lost my brakes. The pedal went all the way to the floor when I was in Turn 4. I don't know how I got it stopped enough, but I got back to the pits. I guess the stub axle was broken, and that did a number on the brakes. It showed through the brakes first, apparently. Then I got a huge vibration as it fractured and bent more, so they told me to take it behind the wall.

"It was real close to the wheel falling off. At least we didn't have a catastrophic accident.

"We just have to figure out why it happened."

Dominik Farnbacher: "We didn't have much luck this weekend. The same thing broke on both cars.

"I'm very proud of Jim. He did times that were similar to the pro drivers, and he's new to this. He had no mistakes and there was no damage to the car when he turned it over to me. He deserves a lot of respect from everyone for the job he did.

"My stint was OK. I tried to be consistent. The crew did a good job. We're looking forward to the next race at Road America."

-credit: tafelracing

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Mika Salo , Robin Liddell , Johannes van Overbeek , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Dominik Farnbacher
Teams Risi Competizione