Hard Work Paying off for Team Sahlen Not long ago, Team Sahlen was one of the more competitive teams in the Grand-Am Road Racing paddock, winning two Rolex Series SGS races and four straight titles in the KONI Sports Car...
Hard Work Paying off for Team Sahlen
Not long ago, Team Sahlen was one of the more competitive teams in the Grand-Am Road Racing paddock, winning two Rolex Series SGS races and four straight titles in the KONI Sports Car Challenge from 2001 through 2004.
Since moving full-time to racing Corvettes in the GT class of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, though, it's been a struggle. Not one to give up, the family-based team from Canton, Ohio has done plenty of work during the off-season, looking to be more competitive.
The team will race a pair of red-and-yellow Corvettes in all of the remaining Rolex Series races. Team patriarch Joe Nonnamaker will race the No. 43 HRPWorld.com entry with his youngest son Wayne, while son Will returns with sponsor Joe Sahlen in the No. 42. Last year, Wayne and his dad finished sixth at Mid-Ohio and eighth at Barber, while Will and Joe Sahlen took seventh at VIR and ninth at Barber.
"We've worked hard for the past two and a half years on these cars, so it's nice to see a lot of our efforts coming to fruition," said Will, who started out racing street stocks under the Planet Earth Motorsports banner. "We've done a lot of work. The competition is tough in this series - and we know that - so we made some alterations to the cars, are we're happy.
"The rest of the season's looking real good," added Will, who won the inaugural Rolex Series Bob Akin Award in 2005 in addition to 13 KONI Challenge victories and the 2001 and 2002 ST titles.
"We're trying some new things to get closer and closer to the front," added Wayne, who designed the successful internet site theracesite.com as a school project while at Miami (Ohio) University. Wayne is a two-time winner in the Rolex Series SGS class in the team's Planet Earth Motorsports Porsches - and was the last driver to win a Rolex Series race driving solo - in addition to sharing the 2002 KONI ST title with brother Will and the 2003 KONI GS championship with his father.
The team ran one Corvette at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, but had the dubious distinction of being first car out with mechanical problems.
"We had a not-so desirable start to the year, but we're on pace to get really up to the front, so we're excited," Wayne said."We have redeveloped many different pieces on this car over the past two seasons. While we made improvements to the car each time, the pace at the front of the Rolex GT class is a moving target as everyone is improving. The car's pace at Homestead showed that we were able to improve ahead of the rest of the pace. We got some things right in the last alteration. The car was much smoother and offered a much more predictable driving experience."
Joe Sahlen is especially excited about the team running a former SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 in the KONI Challenge. While the team formerly campaigned a front-wheel drive, rear-engined Dodge in that division, the Mazda's front-engine, rear-wheel drive mirrors the GT Corvette.
"It's good to practice in the Mazda - almost to use that as a training car, because it has the same configuration as the Corvette," Sahlen said. "The handling dynamics are very similar, even though the power is so much different and the performance is far higher in the Corvette. I felt good after the recent KONI weekend at Homestead. Even though we had transmission problems, we qualified good (14th) and I thought we had a top-five or six car.
"I'm really happy about the changes we've made over the winter to the Corvette," added Sahlen, who owns Sahlen Packing Company Inc. near Buffalo, N.Y. "We were at Homestead for the recent test working to perfect things with our rear suspension - which we did not run at Daytona, which was pretty short lived due to an engine failure."
Now, it's on to Virginia International Raceway for the April 25 Bosch Engineering 250, the next event on the Rolex Series schedule.
"It seemed like a long break, but time flies," Sahlen said. "We needed the time to go testing to get ready for the main part of the season coming up."
In addition to the special test at Homestead, the team also tested at Kershaw Motorsports Park.
"VIR is such a beautiful fun track to drive," Wayne said. "I'm really excited about New Jersey. Last year the layout was really nice, so it will be nice to go back and see how they finished it up and see the final product."