Tafel Racing Opens 2008 American Le Mans Series Season with 12 Hour Challenge Two-Pronged Ferrari Attack Creates Strategy to Bring Home 56th Running of Sebring SEBRING, Fla. March 9 2008 - The 56th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring ...
Tafel Racing Opens 2008 American Le Mans Series Season with 12 Hour Challenge
Two-Pronged Ferrari Attack Creates Strategy to Bring Home 56th Running of Sebring
SEBRING, Fla. March 9 2008 - The 56th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida confronts Tafel Racing and the other American Le Mans Series GT2 class competitors with a unique set of challenges. Far longer than the two hour and 45-minute "sprint" races that the Series will contest at most events but half the distance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the March 15th classic demands a unique approach to ensure success. The intense competition forces a full-throttle pace for 12 hours like the shorter events. Meanwhile, the 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit, often called more daunting than Le Mans, demands care be given to the machine. In the balance is victory. In order to find success at the season-opening event, the Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) owned program must put the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC and the No. 73 Tafel Ferrari on the grid ready for flawless performances at full speed for 12 hours.
The Cumming, Ga.-based effort will seek its first American Le Mans Series victory with a two-pronged approach. The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC will be driven by full-season pilots Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany), who is a former 24 At Daytona victor, and 2000 Series GT2 Champion Dirk Muller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco). They will be joined in the V8-powered, Michelin tire- shod Italian exotic by 2007 Le Mans Series GT2 Champion Rob Bell (Northants, England). In the No. 73 machine will be owner/driver Jim Tafel, 2005 24 At Daytona-winner Pierre Ehret (who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif. but was born in Germany) and 2007 Australian GT Champ Allan Simonsen (Danish-born but living in Melbourne, Australia). In 2007, at the team's first 12 Hours of Sebring, Tafel Racing placed two cars in the top-five earning its first podium with a third-place for the No. 71.
Lessons learned in several years of sports car racing as a team and decades of success by Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) provided much needed insight to overcome rookie jitters in '07. A keen attention to detail, a well thought out strategy and the fine-tuning of an already successful operation looks to overwhelm any sophomore slump. An off- season switch from Porsche to Ferrari and a wide- sweeping driver lineup makeover have brought about what appears to be major changes from the outside. However, only one adjustment has been made to the crew that took the program to third-place in the American Le Mans Series GT2 Team Championship. This continuity of the well-honed team provides its greatest asset towards accomplishing success at Sebring and throughout the season.
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring can be seen live on SPEED Channel starting at 9:30 AM (ET), March 15th. Live timing and scoring of each on-track session and the American Le Mans Series Radio Web broadcast can be found at www.AmericanLeMans.com.
Jim Tafel, Team Owner/Driver, No. 73: "We're going to the same dance I just have a different partner. That is how I see this year. We have a good lay of the land from last year and now we just need to execute. As a driver, I look at my job as being smooth and consistent. I just want to go and have a great day. It is about staying out of the pits, being smooth, fast and consistent."
Tony Dowe, Technical Director: "The plan is to reduce the external and internal pressures, sort through the priorities and make sure to minimize any mistakes; simple really. Let's see if things work out that way next Saturday. If they do it's champagne, if not, cold tea."
Rob Bell, Driver, No. 71: About the challenges of racing at Sebring: "The biggest challenge of Sebring will be to keep going until the end. It's the first time that the 2008 car will have done a 12 hour race and this track is phenomenally bumpy and tricky. It's not a foregone conclusion that we'll make it to the end. Having said this, I know that there's been a lot of work done over the winter and I'm confident for the weekend." About making his Series debut: "As it's my first ALMS race it's all a bit unknown for me. I think there'll be plenty of familiar faces from Europe, and it'll be the cream of the crop racing out there. The difference will be in the depth of quality drivers and talent, which will make for a highly competitive race."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "The biggest challenge last year was the track itself. It is very bumpy and it was very warm in the car. That made it very hard to stay focused. So it will be the same this year. I trained hard to give my best and to make no mistakes."
Dirk Muller, Driver, No. 71: About racing at Sebring: "Sebring was one of my first long distance experiences and so it is something special for me. But racing in Sebring means also that you need to be really fit for a 12 hour sprint. The track is very technical and challenging and together with the big crowds this is something which makes Sebring so special." About the 2008 season: "Since 2001, it will be my third full ALMS season and I am really looking forward to achieving the maximum out of it. I have a strong team, a strong teammate, a strong Michelin Ferrari and it is now time to start the season. This year, I think, it will be the most challenging season in a couple of years and I am really proud to join this challenge."
Pierre Ehret, Driver, No. 73: "The spectators in Sebring are some of the wildest I have seen at any race track in the world. Come heat, cold or drenching rain, they are there. The track itself is as wild as the crowd, and the competition truly gives meaning to the figure of speech; 'survival of the fittest'."