Today at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Team Falken Tire battled the odds to take home the first top five finish of the season at Round 5 of the American Le Mans Series. The GT team struggled all weekend to dial in on the ideal car and tire balance.
Unbeknownst to many, there were bigger problems for the GT team behind the scenes than just balance. At Round 4 at Lime Rock Park, the team was eager to test a new tire design, created by new manufacturing methods. However, a problem in production negatively impacted the team's weekend, resulting in an eighth place finish. With an average of 20-30 days for a turn around to receive new tires, the team headed into this weekend's event cautiously, and without the more recently developed tire they hoped to have.
Heading to the race session, team members watched cautiously as the #17 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR started from eighth position in the GT class. After only eight laps, Porsche Factory driver Wolf Henzler charged his way up to sixth position. By lap 31, the German worked his way up to fourth position. Hope started to rise as the Porsche continued to climb the charts.
"We had a good strategy and were able to stay close during the race," said Henzler. "We made up positions when we came into the pits for tires and fuel. The guys were really fast with those pit stops." With one hour left on the clock, Henzler handed the wheel to American racer Bryan Sellers. Within just minutes, Sellers gained two spots, and was able to hold consistent lap times to the cars ahead of him. Confidently working his way through the field, he was able to race the Porsche in fourth. A slight wiggle in turn one allowed another GT car to pass by, followed by a full course yellow.
Coming into the race with one of the biggest challenges all season, Sellers brought the RSR across the finish line to earn the team the best finish so far this year. "It's funny," said Sellers, "If before the race you told us we were going to have a P5, we'd say, 'Yup, we'll take it, no problem.' But now, P5, and we're kind of disappointed we weren't on the podium." Starting the race weekend with some of the odds stacked against them, this event gave the team a renewed outlook on the rest of the season. "Now we need to continue to work and take advantage of that and fight for podiums again," said Sellers.
"The drivers drove the wheels off the thing," said Program Manager Derrick Walker. "We stayed out of trouble, and the engineers gave us a good strategy, that really got us a solid finish. We earned every point that this pays, because we were up against it."
Looking ahead to Round 6 at Mid-Ohio, the team optimistically awaits to take the new Falken Azenis RT Slick tire design against the competition. Team Falken Tire earned their first win of the season during torrential downpour at Mid-Ohio in 2011, when their rain tire set down the fastest times of the entire field. "This is where the season can turn for us," said Sellers. "And we're on an upward swing."
Source: Team Falken