Tafel/Bell Micro Racing 4th After Late Race Fueling; No. 73 Takes 9th After Early Repairs LAKEVILLE Conn., July 12, 2008 - It was billed as a road racer's bullring and today's American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix lived up to the billing. The ...
Tafel/Bell Micro Racing 4th After Late Race Fueling; No. 73 Takes 9th After Early Repairs
LAKEVILLE Conn., July 12, 2008 - It was billed as a road racer's bullring and today's American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix lived up to the billing. The newly reconfigured and repaved Lime Rock (Conn.) Park resembled a cage-match as the GT2 class competitors fought tooth and nail for a victory in the fifth round of the 11-race championship. At the checkered flag the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC was fourth after nearly taking a second-place until a late-race fuel stop dropped the car of Dirk Muller (a native of Germany living in Monaco) and Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) from the podium. The No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC co-driven by Alex Figge (Denver, Col.) and Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) suffered early race run-ins that put them deep in the pack ultimately crossing the finish line ninth in class.
Dominik Farnbacher took the green flag from third on the GT2 class grid. The young German phenom slipped to fourth at the start but kept his composure working the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC back into third-place by lap 15. Composure was hard to find outside of the cockpit of the Tafel Racing machine at the 1.51-mile track. The narrow, twisting course took made duels into brawls throughout the race and Farnbacher found himself entangled with a lapped car during the first half of the event. While attempting a pass around the outside of a fellow GT2 car, Farnbacher treaded onto the dirty portion of the track. While correcting the car from spinning he made contact with the backmarker. The incident would come back to haunt the team three times; first as a drive through penalty for preventable contact and secondly when the driver side door refused to open due to damage resulting from the contact. During the Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) directed team's first pit stop, the door - crushed near the latching mechanism - failed to open for Dirk Muller who was taking over the car for the second half of the race on lap 76, one hour and 23 minutes into the race. The team quickly adapted doing the driver change through the passenger-side door. However, the delay dropped the Bell Micro Ferrari to fifth, one lap down. Muller began his attack and through strategy and driving the worked the two-time 2008 winner through the field and as high as second as others pitted for fuel. The third-time the door resurfaced came in the closing stages. Knowing that race officials would force the team to repair the door if the team stopped, Dowe and engineers Scott Besst and Mike Menapace worked to stretch the fuel. However, on the race's final lap, Muller called in that the car was out of fuel. Muller made it back to pit lane and received a splash of fuel and re-entered the track to take the checkered flag in fourth.
The No. 73 Tafel Ferrari F430 GTC made its third start of the 2008 season as a provisional starter, 12th, after failing to take a qualifying time on Friday. The No. 73 had been involved in a significant incident that damaged the nose, driver side headlight assembly and passenger door in the weekend's second practice. Prior to the No. 73's first of three pit stops, Jim Tafel had gone off course while attempting to make way for the overtaking leaders. The car sustained cosmetic damage to the driver's side including the side-view mirror in the excursion. The mirror would need to be replaced before co-driver Alex Figge could take to the course. The team fell from ninth to tenth in the stop. David Fullerton would call for two stops for fuel in an effort to work the No. 73 towards the front of the field. Figge, who was sore from the accident the day before, drove a strong race to place the No. 73 ninth in the final standings; its second-best showing of the year.
Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "It was a brutal race. I was trying to let the leaders come around me and I went off track just before the end of my stint. I handed the car over to Alex and he did a great job. My thanks to the whole team for their effort. I feel sick about the No. 71, having to stop for fuel on the last lap. It isn't the result that we hoped for but we'll take it and move on to Mid-Ohio."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "Five or six times I got in a very bad situation with prototypes so I would gain a position and then I would loss one. I got hit so many times; I said before this race was all about surviving. I had the [No. 61] Risi car in front of me; I was lapping him for maybe the third time. He was going very slowly into turn two and I thought he was having a problem so I was going to overtake him on the outside. I went on the outside but there was a lot of sand. As soon as I went into the turn the car slipped away from me and we hit each other. Maybe from the outside it looked like I was angry at him but I was just correcting the car. I was very surprised when they called me in for a penalty. All-in-all I was very happy with the car. Thank you to the team for the great car and maybe this time we didn't have luck but we didn't lose the contact with the front car in the championship. We are still second and the gap is only 11 points. Let them have one mistake and we are right back there."
Dirk Muller, Driver, No. 71: "I came here for the first time in my life and, to be fair, I liked it. I never had any on-track situations. Everyone behaved very professionally around me. I thought it was great racing. The car was like a rocket. From the middle of my stint on I was trying to save fuel; looking towards the end of the race. We worked our way up to third and then got lucky and moved into second. Then we got very unlucky and ran out of fuel at the end. We finished fourth and that is better than a DNF. We lost big momentum in the points but we are still second in the championship. It shows that everything needs to go right. We win together, we lose together. We need to look forward and just take it as it is. We nearly finished second and now we are fourth. That's OK."
Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "When we were in a rhythm we were in the same pace as Dirk and Dom. To me that is really encouraging because I am still getting the pace a little bit. I still need to work on the prototype situation. What is working in my mind is causing some hairy moments out on track. We'll practice that some more on a bigger track at Mid-O. All- in-all, I am excited. I really want to thank Jim and the team. It is really a first-class effort, great stops."