Daytona 24: Tafel Racing Thursday report

TAFEL RACING QUALIFIES 1-2 FOR ROLEX 24 Wolf Henzler Sets GT Qualifying Record DAYTONA BEACH, Fl., Jan.26, 2006 Having set the fastest lap during all three days of the recent Daytona test session and in the two practice sessions prior to...

TAFEL RACING QUALIFIES 1-2 FOR ROLEX 24
Wolf Henzler Sets GT Qualifying Record

DAYTONA BEACH, Fl., Jan.26, 2006 Having set the fastest lap during all three days of the recent Daytona test session and in the two practice sessions prior to qualifying, Wolf Henzler and Andrew Davis put the #72 NEC and #74 Rembrandt Charms Porsches of Tafel Racing first and second on the GT grid for Saturday's Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Henzler set a GT qualifying record of 1:53.336, his second-straight pole at the Rolex. He is also "two for two" in Grand-Am races, winning the Rolex and Watkins Glen race last year.

"The Rolex is special," said Henzler. "First of all for the Rolex (watch) of course! Then you have the tradition; even in Europe this race receives considerable publicity. And the track with its combination of the high banking with the tight infield is very unique. Only in the Rolex do you get 75 cars of different classes racing against each other for 24 hours."

W ith regard to the pole, Jim Tafel, owner/driver, commented that the "pole is great but one-two really does it for me. Our pit position, sponsors, drivers and crew are working in harmony and I'm really hoping to capitalize on what we've put together. Today was great, but the race is next and that will be even better."

Technical Director Tony Dowe, a winner of the Rolex six times, including three overall stated "Obviously I'm pleased with the pole but, more importantly, it shows that the decision we made to bypass the Mexico race last year and focus on the Rolex and the 2006 season was the right one. I'm very proud of the effort and commitment of the drivers, engineers and crews; both cars on the front row of the GT grid proves that all of the detail work was worthwhile. I also want to thank Porsche for giving us such a good platform to work with; to Hoosier for the good tire development program; and, especially to Jim Tafel for giving all of us a great team to work with."

"First time I came here was in 1988 with Jaguar and we finished 1st and 3rd," Dowe continued. "I'd like to improve on that this year."

Following on the team's fifth-place Rolex GT finish in only its first full year of competition, Tafel, owner/driver of Tafel Racing, earlier announced a three-car campaign featuring Porsche GT3 Cup cars for the full 13-race season in the 2006 Grand American Rolex GT Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve.

Tafel and Dowe assembled an excellent mix of seasoned professionals and enthusiastic youth to drive for the team, including two previous Rolex 24 at Daytona winners, Henzler and Scotsman Robin Liddell, in the #72 NEC Tafel Racing Porsche.

For the past three seasons, Liddell has successfully driven both prototypes and GT cars in America, including a class victory in the 2004 Rolex 24 at Daytona, as well as 8 additional wins and 7 fastest laps. In 2005, Liddell was in the Top 5 in both American Le Mans (ALMS) and Speed World Challenge Drivers' Championships.

The past two years have been equally successful for Henzler. After starting his career as Junior German Kart Champion in 1991, he broke through in 2004 winning the Porsche Michelin Supercup with 9 wins and 2 seconds out of 12 races. Like Liddell, Henzler won the GT class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2005 and finished 4th in the ALMS GT championship.

Joining Henzler and Liddell at the Rolex 24 will be Californian Johannes van Overbeek and 17-year-old Graham Rahal, son of the legendary racer and team owner. Last year, van Overbeek finished in 3rd at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the ALMS GT championship just ahead of Henzler and Liddell. In 2004, he was the runner-up in the ALMS GT championship and finished 2nd behind Liddell in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. And in 2003, van Overbeek again placed 3rd in both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Grand-Am Rolex GT championship.

Hoping to earn "Rookie of the Year" status at the Rolex 24, Rahal was successful as a rookie in Formula BMW in 2004 followed by even better rookie year in Star Mazda finishing 4th in the championship. Rahal topped that by becoming the Formula Atlantic Champion in the 2005 SCCA Runoffs last fall.

Tafel and Davis, both from the Atlanta area, tied for 9th in the 2005 Rolex GT Drivers' Championship, scoring points in all 13 of the races they contested and finishing as high as 4th at Daytona and Watkins Glen. Joining Tafel and Davis in the #74 Rembrandt Charms Tafel Racing Porsche will be Dr. C. Michael Cawley from Atlanta, Charles Espenlaub of Lutz, Fl. and Buffalo's Eric Lux.

After starting his career with three straight SCCA Southeast Championships from 1997-1999, Davis has had a versatile career as of late competing in ALMS, Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR), Grand-Am Cup, as well as the entire Rolex GT Series with Tafel Racing. Last year, Davis qualified on the front row multiple times and led numerous laps on his way to a 5th place in the Rolex GT Series. An Atlanta neurosurgeon, Cawley has competed in numerous Grand-Am and Porsche Cup races over the past three years.

Espenlaub has been racing SPEED Touring Cars along with Porsche Club, HSR, Motorola Cup and Grand-Am Cup since 1999 but spends much of his time as a senior driving instructor for the Panoz Racing School where he was Lux's instructor. Espenlaub must have done a good job because in his first year of professional racing Lux has scored 8 HSR wins and was the first 16-year old to take the checkered flag in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona where he finished 9th in class and 21st overall.

And, of course, one of the team's strengths and mainstays is unquestionably the experience of veteran racing director, Tony Dowe. Few in sports car racing have such an extensive resume, including Team Manager for Jaguar's overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1990), as well as Technical Director for TWR Group, Panoz Motorsports, Professional Sports Car Racing and Dick Barbour Racing, among others.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Graham Rahal , Robin Liddell , Dick Barbour , Andrew Davis , Michael Cawley , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Eric Lux