Tafel Racing Places 3rd with Bell Micro No. 71, No. 73 7th in "Home Town" Petit Le Mans
BRASELTON, Ga., October 4, 2008 - Tafel Racing used its "home town" event, the Petit Le Mans, to place both its American Le Mans Series GT2 entries in the top seven tonight at Road Atlanta. The Cumming, Ga.-based operation finished third with the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC of Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Muller (a native of Germany living in Monaco). Alex Figge (Denver), Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Pierre Ehret (Santa Rosa, Calif./Germany) earned seventh in the 11th Annual 1,000 mile event on the 2.54-mile, 12- turn road course sharing the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC. The tenth event of the season, the third endurance race, locked second-place in the 2008 GT2 Driver and Team Championship for the Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Team with one race remaining.
No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC
Drivers: Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany), Dirk Muller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco)
The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari earned its sixth podium finish of the season with a consistent run in today's Petit Le Mans. Muller started the caution- plagued race third and the Bell Micro entry raced as high as second with Farnbacher behind the wheel. However, the No. 71 would fall two laps behind the class leaders when anticipated "wave bys" - a method that the organizers use to have the safety car pace the overall race leader after the safety car's intervention at any point during the race - failed to come disrupting the team's pit strategy. One of the laps would be made-up through strong driving and pit strategy. However, the team would lose another lap on its last stop when it pitted one lap too early. Once down two laps, Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) chose to run a fuel conservation race to allow Muller to take the checkered flag with no additional pit stops.
Tonight's third-place adds to the three GT2 class victories the team has scored thus far in 2008 (St. Petersburg, Fla., Long Beach, Calif. and at Lexington, Ohio). Today's podium added to the Petit Le Mans podium finishes for the team, which finished second in 2007 in it's only other start here. Farnbacher grabbed his second consecutive top-three at Road Atlanta having raced for Tafel to second last year. Muller adds a fourth-career podium in the Petit Le Mans in five attempts, including a 1999 GT2 class victory.
No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC
Drivers: Alex Figge (Denver, Col.), Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.), Pierre Ehret (Santa Rosa, Calif./Germany)
Figge, Tafel and Ehret joined together to earn the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC its seventh top ten finish in eight races this season. The successful result was in doubt in the fourth hour when Jim Tafel was pushed wide over the curbing coming onto the fast front straight. He spun backwards across the track making slight rear contact with the inside wall. The impact pushed the bumper into the tires and required a quick removal of the bumper by the team to get the car back on track. From there, the 73 team played their strategy cautiously gaining positions as others fell out of the 1,000 mile event. Despite two additional stops to clean accumulating tire rubber in the left-front brake caliper, Figge, who started the car from 11th position, crossed under the checkered flag 20th overall, seventh in class. It was the second top seven for Ehret in the No. 73 having joined with Tafel to take fourth at the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring.
Tony Dowe, Technical Director: "In the big scheme of things I guess we need to be happy with a third place. But, unfortunately, we didn't get wave bys when others did which cost us two laps. We worked very hard and got one lap back. Then I made a poor call trying to make something out of the last yellow to improve our position and it went against us. After that we decided to cruise. We were nine or ten laps ahead of the next place car so we went to a fuel save map and come home third."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "Our race was pretty good. Dirk did a great job. He drove awesome stints. We had bad luck with our pit stops and that is why we lost two laps. After all this bad luck we had this year I think it is time to challenge for the championship next year. At Laguna we will still do our best and of course we will try and win that race."
Dirk Muller, Driver, No. 71: "My congratulations to Porsche, the [Flying] Lizards, Wolf Henzler and Jorg Bergmeister for the championship. I am not very happy with third place. There were many things that went wrong today. We had the car, the combination. Dom did an awesome job. The car was good to win the race but we finished third. For sure I am disappointed."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "We were still running at the end and that was our goal for the weekend. We ended-up with a top ten and we earned some points towards Jim's Founder Cup championship. I am happy with it. Our quick lap was good and that was with the car straight off the truck. Dave [Fullerton, engineer] didn't even get a chance do anything because of the mechanical problems we had all weekend. This result speaks to the team. I am just glad to bring it home in only a couple of pieces but still running. It was my first time doing this race and it was a blast. This race is definitely a big deal. I was happy to be driving at the end with the fireworks and everything. That was cool."
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "We were on the back foot this whole week. I am really glad to see the car finish the race. That was our main goal. I had an incident with the Audi in Turn 12 and I was pretty lucky to get away with just what happened. A top ten finish with seventh in the 73 and a podium for the 71; I am pleased with that."
Tafel Racing will now close the 11-race season at the Monterey Sports Car Challenge season-finale at Raceway Laguna Seca on October 18.