Tooele, Utah, 20th May 2007. A successful racing driver only likes to win. Coming second or third sometimes causes mixed emotions. As Wolf Henzler of Nurtingen, near Stuttgart in Germany, stood on the GT2 podium at Miller Motorsports Park ...
Tooele, Utah, 20th May 2007. A successful racing driver only likes to win. Coming second or third sometimes causes mixed emotions. As Wolf Henzler of Nurtingen, near Stuttgart in Germany, stood on the GT2 podium at Miller Motorsports Park yesterday evening he knew that third place was a good result for the weekend and for Tafel Racing, but he was still left unsatisfied.
"After qualifying, I didn't really expect to have a car that could finish on the podium," said Henzler, "so I was happy to achieve this result. But, overall, we were just not fast enough compared to the Ferraris and it's difficult to feel anything but unhappy about that."
The 4.5-mile Miller Motorsports Park circuit, America's longest road course, presents teams with a unique challenge for setting up their race cars. There are 24 turns, plenty of dust from the Utah desert in which the track is set, and a low setting sun mid race. Tire management would, however, prove to be the critical factor over the weekend.
"Qualifying was not very good for us," said Wolf. "I asked for a change to be made to the rear suspension before the qualifying session, because I thought the new tires would take it. Unfortunately they didn't, so I ended up in fifth position on the grid and did a qualifying time that was even slower than the practice session just before!"
The German made a good start to the 2 hour 45 minute race from fifth on the grid and was soon running in third position behind two Ferraris 430s. After seven laps the race's only full course caution period occurred and the #71 Tafel Racing Porsche 997 elected to take a quick stop for fuel and front tires, as did many of its GT2 competitors.
"All of the Porsches (us included) had a problem with the front tires as they started to go away after a couple of laps," explains Wolf. "That was the reason why we only changed the fronts. After the race went green again I was stuck in traffic but had no chance to pass. Whenever I got close to the car in front of me, I picked up understeer because I lost front aero downforce. Finally, I was able to pass (because his competitor was overtaken by a Porsche Spyder and had to go off line) and I was immediately able to lap 1.5 to 2 seconds faster, but the #45 car in front of us was already 15 seconds away. I shortened the gap to 8 seconds but had more and more understeer throughout the stint as the tires were now past their best."
At the next pit stop Henzler handed the car over to his team mate, Robin Liddell of Scotland, who lapped consistently quickly to maintain their battle for the podium placing. Despite some shuffling of positions in the running order, due to pit stops, Liddell brought the car home to a strong third place, not least due to some slick pit work from the Tafel Racing team. With just 10 seconds difference between the #71 car and second place, who knows what might have happened if the race had run a few more laps.
Wolf Henzler's next race will be for Tafel Racing in the sixth round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series at Lime Rock Park. The 400 kilometre race (2.5 hours maximum running) for the GT class only will start at 1:45 pm EST on Monday, May 28. Live Timing & Scoring will be available at www.grand-am.com.