Road America: Tafel Racing race report

A Rocky Run for Tafel Racing at Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis., Aug. 11 -- It was a challenging race for the five Tafel Racing drivers in Saturday's Generac 500 American Le Mans Series race. The team had to overcome obstacles to finally post ...

A Rocky Run for Tafel Racing at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis., Aug. 11 -- It was a challenging race for the five Tafel Racing drivers in Saturday's Generac 500 American Le Mans Series race. The team had to overcome obstacles to finally post their fourth and eighth place finishes in the four-hour enduro at Road America.

Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell battled an understeer condition all weekend but they still finished fourth in the GT2 class with the No. 71 Tafel Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

Jim Tafel, Dominik Farnbacher and Nathan Swartzbaugh finished eighth in class in the team car, the No. 73, despite the fact it was hit by another competitor at the start, flew about four feet into the air, and landed in a gravel trap off Turn 1.

A little more than an hour of the race was run under a full-course caution after a thunderstorm with lightening forced IMSA officials to instruct the cornerworkers to take cover. That caution flew an hour and 23 minutes into the event.

The No. 71 showed Liddell in fifth place at the end of hour one, Henzler in sixth at the midpoint, and Henzler in fourth at the end of hour three and at the checkered. They flirted with a podium position in the second half of the race and Henzler ran in third from the 2:49:25-mark until 3:07:29, when he slipped to fourth. Throughout it all they handled everything that got thrown at them, as demonstrated by the rock that was lodged in the Porsche's nose after the race, punctuating the "B' in the car's Mobil 1 decal.

"We finished fourth," Liddell said. "I think we had quite a good race. We were chasing a lot of understeer. To finish ahead of the Flying Lizard car was a reasonable result for us today. We went with a completely new set-up for the race. For my stint the car was not really good, but then we made a set-up change when I turned it over to Wolf. I don't know if it was better for him or not. Then we just had to make a splash of fuel at the end, but we still got fourth."

For Henzlerteam work took over when the car was not quite right for the race. Strategy and good pit work salvaged the day for the 71.

"We tried many things on the car here, but we never really got it right," Henzler said. "We never got rid of the understeer.JThen in the race, it was still the same. But we had good pit stops. We made good decisions on tires when it started to rain. Mika Salo and Ralf Kelleners got a lap on us when the safety car came out. Then we got on slicks early, which was a good decision. After the restart it was very hard. I had to be careful not to spin off the track, but then the track was drying off and we stopped under yellow for slicks, and that got us fourth place. That was a really good call."J Things got off to a rocky start for the No. 73. A P2 car started a chain-reaction accident on the first lap in the first turn when his Lola Acura had contact with another GT2 competitor, which in turn plowed into the Tafel entry. Farnbacher was driving, and he was as surprised as anybody when his mount became airborne and landed in a gravel trap. The P2 driver received a stop-and-go penalty for his role in the wreck, but the handling of the Porsche was compromised from that point on.

Farnbacher persevered and was seventh at the end of the first 60 minutes. Tafel then took over, and was maintain that spot at the halfway point. Swartzbaugh, who was making his first start with the team, brought it home, although he spun in Turn 5 at the 2-hour-and-23-minute mark when some bodywork fell off the Porsche unexpectedly.

"I had a good start," said Farnbacher: "Borcheller was next to me. There was a Prototype involved too, but I didn't know that until later. I got a big hit in my right-rear wheel, and I got airborne. I went about 3 feet in the air and I ended up in the gravel trap off Turn 1. It bent the toe linkage and from that point on the rear moved around a lot and there was a lot of understeer. The car was very nervous under braking. I'm very proud of Jim and Nathan. This was Nathan's first race with us. Both did a very good job."

For Swatrzbaugh it was a trying first ALMS race.

"In the first turn at the start, Dominik had an incident and it knocked the car out of whack," Swartzbaugh said. "From that point on we had to deal with an ill-handling car. It made more sense to deal with it than to come in and lose the time trying to fix it. As my stint went on the car was constantly degrading. At one point in the Carousel, some carbon fiber fell off and went under the car. I went on the grass, and that ripped off the front end. That's what caused us to come in again. From then on we just went to the finish. I feel confident that I did a good job considering the situation."

"The highs and lows were emotional," Tafel said. "Right at the start, we get hit in Turn 1 and the car goes 3 or 4 feet in the air. For us to be able to get the timing just right to be able to come from the back of the pack was really something. I thought we were two laps down, but then all of a sudden we were in fifth place! The car was real loose after the accident. I'm proud of Dominik for hustling it back from deep in the pack, and Nathan really did a good job dealing with the car. He really showed me something today."

-credit: tr

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Mika Salo , Robin Liddell , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Dominik Farnbacher , Nathan Swartzbaugh
Teams HART