Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari Grabs Third ALMS Podium in a Row on Last Lap of Utah Grand Prix
TOOELE, Utah, May 18, 2008 - The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC earned its third-consecutive American Le Mans Series podium in dramatic fashion in today's Utah Grand Prix. The Cumming, Ga.-based team took-over third- place on the last lap of the two hour and 45-minute event at the 3.048-miles, the 15-turn Miller Motorsports Park (MMP). The No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC had a less satisfying return to the Series after a two race sabbatical finishing 16th in class.
Coming off of two-straight American Le Mans Series GT2 class victories (St. Petersburg and Long Beach), all eyes were on the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC entering the Utah Grand Prix. With high expectations to continue the team's streak, Farnbacher started the Ferrari fifth in class. The day would be made all the tougher when, on the first full course caution, the safety car "split" the No. 71 from the class leading No. 45 Porsche. Now a lap down through no fault of their own, it was an uphill battle for the team and Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.).
Dowe's calming influence and a spectacular stint by Farnbacher moved the Bell Micro machine into second-place prior to the first of the team's two pit stops. Farnbacher handed the No. 71 over to 2000 GT2 champion Dirk Muller one hour and 20 minutes into the race. As they have done all season, the No. 71 crew performed a flawless stop returning to the track in sixth-place. Muller was up to fourth ten minutes later and back into second-place with one hour remaining in the event. The blue, white and silver Ferrari held second until the second and last pit stop for 12 seconds of fuel only.
Running fourth following the stop, Muller went on the attack in the final 20 minutes of the race. With fuel enough to reach the checkered flag, the second-year American Le Mans Series team hoped to force the third-place car into the pits for a splash of fuel. However, in a dramatic turn of events, it was the second-place machine that headed to the pit lane on the last lap. Muller's impressive lap times and the quick pit work of the crew was enough to overcome the gap the No. 87 had on the Bell Micro No. 71 entering the lap. Muller overtook the 87 as it left the pit lane and held off the charging Porsche to cross the finish line in third.
No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC
Drivers: Alex Figge (Denver, Col.), Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.)
The No. 73 Tafel Ferrari F430 GTC made its return to the American Le Mans Series with today's Utah Grand Prix. The car has been on the sidelines for the two events since finishing fourth in the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring. Figge, making his first start in the Series since 2005, took the green flag and ran as high as tenth before making contact with the No. 48 Ferrari 55 minutes into the event. Damage to the right front bodywork, suspension, steering rack and radiator would end the team's day 16th in class. Jim Tafel, hoping to make his second start of the season, did not turn a wheel in the race as the incident came minutes before the scheduled first stop.
The third-place result dropped Farnbacher and Muller from the driver's point lead to second. They trail the No. 45 drivers by one point (68 to 67) after four races. Tafel Racing's two car effort is also second in the team championship behind the three-car Flying Lizard team 82 points to 73.
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "I am really happy for the 71 Bell Micro Ferrari. It really shows how much each tenth of a second counts. Every tenth Dirk and Dominik picked up on the track, the tenths that the team gave us on two great pit stops; it all adds up. That really showed in the results today. I am obviously disappointed in how the race ended for the 73 Ferrari. I know how bad Alex felt with that situation. He is beating himself up but things like that happen. It was his first race back here in the Series and his first in GT2. As he gets back into a rhythm we'll be OK."
Tony Dowe, Technical Director: About the No. 71: "One of the realities of the Series we are in is that we know we cannot win every race and some races we will do better than others. The effort that Porsche has put in is fantastic. We really recognize how much effort they have made and we salute that effort. We gained even more respect for Wolf Henzler's efforts today. Because he drove for us last year we are very happy for him. But we also know the abilities of Dirk and Dominik and the team members who are working to put us ahead again. Our program is very strong. While the Lizard and Risi teams are away at Le Mans we are testing here in America at a number of facilities. We look forward to the results we find because we know with seven races to go there is everything to play for. The Lime Rock race and Mid-Ohio will be fantastic. I really look forward to seeing the results there."
About the No. 73: "I am really happy for Alex's first drive with us. Although the end result was not what he or us wanted, we have already seen his abilities and commitment to working with us and making results for both himself and the team happen the right way."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "The car felt very good. We were lacking a little in horsepower compared to the other cars. We also had a little issue with [tire rubber] pickup. After the two safety car periods I needed a few laps to get the pickup down and it cost us quite a bit of time. All-in-all we did no mistakes. The car was running great. Dirk was driving a phenomenal stint at the end. It was so close at the end that it was heart-beating action. We are happy. We collected some points and I am looking forward to Lime Rock."
Dirk Muller, Driver, No. 71: "Thanks for all the effort the team put into this race. We had two awesome pit stops. Really, really good. Dom drove a fantastic first stint. I had bad luck with the traffic for four laps in a row. I just couldn't believe it. But I didn't risk it. I knew we had to finish. Finally we had a very close finish but in the end we finished third. Thanks to everybody at Tafel Racing, Michelin and Ferrari."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "I'm just feeling really sick with myself. It was a huge mistake. It was completely out of line by me and I just wish I could make it up to the 48 Ferrari."