Sebring: Tafel Racing race report

Tafel Racing Starts ALMS Season with Two Cars in Sebring 12 Hour Top-Seven Debris Ends No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari Fight for GT2 Lead; Team Rallies for Seventh No. 73 Tafel Ferrari Overcomes Multiple Obstacles to Land Fourth in ...

Tafel Racing Starts ALMS Season with Two Cars in Sebring 12 Hour Top-Seven

Debris Ends No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari Fight for GT2 Lead; Team Rallies for Seventh
No. 73 Tafel Ferrari Overcomes Multiple Obstacles to Land Fourth in 12 Hours

SEBRING, Fla. March 15, 2008 - Tafel Racing had high expectations entering today's 56th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. The Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) owned operation had prepared both its No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC and the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC to the team's exacting detail for the American Le Mans Series season-opener but external circumstances would work against them. The Cumming, Ga.-based group started second with the No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari and fourth with the No. 73. At the end of the 12 hours of competition both Ferraris were running quickly but had to settle for results below their potential. The No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari rallied from last in the GT2 class to take a hard-fought seventh while the No. 73 Tafel F430 GTC overcame a day of obstacles to finish with a fourth-place in class.

No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC Drivers: Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany), Dirk Muller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco), Rob Bell (Northants, England)

The difficulties for the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC started 31 minutes into the 12 hour race. On the opening stint of the event, Dirk Muller ran over debris on the Sebring International Raceway. The impact of the debris damaged the front splitter and punctured the passenger-side radiator. An extended 21 lap pit stop to make repairs dropped the Bell Micro Ferrari from second-place to 14th in the GT2 class running order. Subsequent stops would drop the car further. The work was all uphill for trio of Rob Bell, Dominik Farnbacher and Muller as they dropped to 15th, last in class, 43 laps down to the leaders. Showing the dogged determination of champions, the Tafel/Bell Micro team did not stop attacking the 3.7- mile, 17-turn circuit turning lap times comparable to the class leaders. Lap-by-lap they fought their way back into the top-10, then the top-seven. The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC took the Sebring checkered flag seventh in class earning valuable points towards the GT2 Team and Driver Championships; the primary goal of team for 2008.

No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC Drivers: Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.), Pierre Ehret (who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif. but was born in Germany), Allan Simonsen (Danish-born but living in Melbourne, Australia)

Owner/driver Jim Tafel entered the race with the strategy to stay smooth and consistent. That strategy worked well for the No. 73 Tafel Ferrari F430 GTC. The greatest position move, and vindication of the plan, came in Hour Five when the GT2 leader made heavy contact with a another car also running in the top- three. The No. 73, being driven in sixth-place at the time by Allan Simonsen, immediately gained two spots to enter the top-four. Pierre Ehret took over driving chores shortly after and moved the car into the top-three. Jim Tafel kept the No. 73 within the top-five in the heated competition of the GT2 class despite a furry of challenges including a malfunctioning ventilation system on the car, a faulty radio and a lost passenger side mirror. An extended pit stop to replace the mirror, lost in hour seven, slowed the team's progress. Once repaired, the No. 73 continued its forward progress. Simonsen was behind the wheel as the blue, white and silver No. 73 moved up to fourth in the race's final hour. It marked the second time in two seasons of Sebring competition that the team, under the guidance of Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.), finished Sebring with both cars running and in the top seven.

With the highest-placing team car earning points towards the GT2 Team Championship, Tafel Racing is well positioned to begin the title chase. Tafel Racing will enter Round Two of 2008 American Le Mans Series, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.), fourth in team points. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be run on Saturday, April 5 and broadcast on ABC.

Quotes

Jim Tafel, Team Owner/Driver, No. 73: "Hardest day in racing for me. It was hot, we lost ventilation, we lost the radio but we didn't lose our composure. It was hard out there during the day but it came around at night. I am really disappointed about the time we had to spend in the pits with the 71 car but that's all part of it. My hat is off to these guys on the team. They just kept working until the very end and that is exciting to be a part of."

Tony Dowe, Technical Director: "The damage to the nose and radiator in Dirk's first stint really put us behind for the rest of the day. Once we fixed that the car ran great. The time we lost was the time difference between being at the front and being back in seventh. The bottom line for us is it was a terrific recovery to get points towards the rest of the season."

Rob Bell, Driver, No. 71: "It is always good to tick another box off for a big race. But, obviously, from the first hour we hit problems; quite literally. You are never going to get the time back that you lose doing the repairs. So, it is very hard to go out and drive a double stint in the heat knowing that you are not going to win the race. The speed is there. All three drivers got into the two minute, two second lap time bracket which was as good as anyone else got. Now it just leaves making these things bulletproof."

Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "If we wouldn't have had the little issue with the radiator, it would have been easily a podium. The team worked well. We can all be happy with our stints; Rob, Dirk and I all ran very quick times. I am pleased to have finished the race with a seventh."

Dirk Muller, Driver, No. 71: "Thank you to the whole Tafel/Bell Micro Racing team. They did an awesome job. We dropped to dead last after I drove over some debris. But no one on the team backed-off. Everyone was looking forward and doing their best. We came from the last position all the way up to seventh position. I am pretty happy we earned so many points, which I think is the key thing. Now everything is together heading towards St. Petersburg."

Allan Simonsen, Driver, No. 73: "Hard race. It was especially very hard when I had to do a stint without the mirror. That was quite interesting. It is nice to bring both cars home today but it didn't really turn out the way we wanted. We are happy with fourth- place but, obviously, it would have been extremely satisfying if we would have finished on the podium."

-credit: tr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Dirk Müller , Rob Bell , Pierre Ehret , Allan Simonsen , Jim Tafel , Dominik Farnbacher