Henzler/Sellers Give Falken Tire Porsche First ALMS Win Ever – in a Downpour
--It was also first Porsche 911 GT3 RSR win of the season, keeping Porsche in the manufacturer’s championship race close behind BMW and Chevrolet—
Lexington, Ohio – August 6 – Making up no less than eight spots in the last 20 minutes of the race, and five positions on the last lap, Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler (Germany) guided the #17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to victory today with co-driver Bryan Sellers (USA) at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge.
Although it threatened to rain all afternoon, everyone thought they had escaped with just partly-cloudy and humid when several surrounding storms converged at the track, and heavy rain came in a hurry in the last 20 minutes of the two hour, 45-minute event. GT leader at the time, Patrick Long in the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche, had the top spot going into what turned out to be the last lap, but spun twice on the last lap, as did more than a dozen cars before the race was red-flagged with ten minutes remaining.
Still we had confidence in the rain tire, and they helped us win.
For Sellers, who comes from Ohio originally, it was a rewarding win – the first sports car win for Falken Tires in North America, and the first for Porsche this year in ALMS GT – as the weekend didn’t start out that well.
“We weren’t that happy with our practice and qualifying performance, but the Falken crew worked hard to improve the car, and we seemed to be faster the longer the race went. And we knew from previous experience that the Falken Tires had good grip in the rain. Early in my stint, we were turned around by the Ford GT, and although I kept the car running and got right back on the track, we lost four positions, and had to push hard to not lose a lap. But the real story of this race was my co-driver – Wolf Henzler – who went from eight to fifth right after the first wet re-start, and fifth to first on the last lap to take our first win. These wet laps were some of the best laps I have ever witnessed,” said Sellers, who also scored his first ALMS win.
For Henzler, it was an affirmation that Derrick Walker, crew chief for Team Falken Tire, has the right answers.
“When it started to rain, I still had good grip with the slicks, and didn’t want to lose track position. The team called me in to change, and I didn’t want to lose track position, and I disagreed with their decision. Finally, they called me and we changed to rain tires. Then the racing line started to dry and I was really upset, and called in to ask to go back to slicks, and no one answered my radio call. Then it rained really hard and, of course, the team was right. On the last lap, all the guys spinning were take the inside line, but I found grip on the outside line and passed all those cars. Falken had tested in the rain at Mid-Ohio, but Bryan had done all the testing. Still we had confidence in the rain tire, and they helped us win,” said Henzler, who won Le Mans in the GT class in 2010 and was the ALMS GT champion with Joerg Bergmeister in 2008.
Long, who took over from Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) while the track was still dry, wasn’t happy that the track went green for that late fateful lap under the flooded conditions that caused half the field to lose control of their cars. Still, he was wistful about the results of a race they could have won.
“The car was good, with the set-up and strategy just as we planned it – this race should have been ours. When we put the rain tires on, we got a lot of pickup, and the tires heated up when we ran close to the Corvette. They cooled down again when we ran in the clear, but when the rains came, no one had grip. The yellow should have come when the track was flooded – no one had any grip, even with the rain tires,” said Long, who, with Bergmeister and the Lizards, have won the GT championship the last two years.
BMWs finished third and fourth, so they maintained their manufacture’s points lead with 96 points, with Chevrolet second with 77 points and Porsche with 72.
In GT Challenge, the TRG team of Spencer Pumpelly/Duncan Ende made it two in-a-row (and three in a row for TRG) with a convincing win in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. With the win, they broke a three-way tie with teammate Dion von Molke (whose car had clutch problems) for second place in the points, and crept closer to points leader Tim Pappas, who finished second with jeroen Bleekemolen in the Black Swan Racing Porsche.
The event will be broadcast on a delayed telecast on Sunday, August 7, at 10:00 PM EDT on ESPN2.