Road Atlanta: Tafel Racing race report

Tafel Racing Finishes Second in GT2 at Petit Braselton, Georgia, October 6, 2007 -- Tafel Racing's Wolf Henzler and Dominik Farnbacher in their No. 71 Porsche finished second this evening in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Petit Le Mans run...

Tafel Racing Finishes Second in GT2 at Petit

Braselton, Georgia, October 6, 2007 -- Tafel Racing's Wolf Henzler and Dominik Farnbacher in their No. 71 Porsche finished second this evening in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Petit Le Mans run at Road Atlanta. Henzler and Farnbacher endured 10-hours of racing to bring their 997 RSR home in second place, the team's best finish of the year.

Henzler started the Tafel Porsche from his third row qualifying position. By lap three he had the car in third position and by lap 18 was leading the race. As the team cycled through pit stops, Henzler and Farnbacher fought to stay at the front of the GT2 field. On lap 93 Farnbacher pitted the car out of sequence due to a loss of power. The problem was quickly diagnosed by the Porsche technical team as a bad fuse. Then on lap 307, around the race's three-quarter distance, the Tafel crew had trouble with the left rear wheel. Team technical director Tony Dowe made the decision to keep the left rear on the car and returned Henzler to the fight, so as not to go down a lap with repairs. On the final pit stop, Dowe consulted with the Michelin tire technician who inspected the tire and the decision was made to triple-stint the left rear. Those strategic calls, coupled with excellent crew work and driving propelled the team to their best finish of the season.

In the team Tafel Racing Porsche No. 73 driven by Nathan Swartzbaugh, Lars Erik Nielsen and Jim Tafel unfortunately had a very short day. Soon after his first pit stop during the races initial caution period, Swartzbaugh exited the pits and was getting back up to speed. One lap later the race went green, Swartzbaugh was exiting turn five when the combination of pickup on the tires and the high curbing caught him out and sent him into the wall. The damage ended the day just over an hour into the race for the 73 trio.

Farnbacher put in a great drive at the end of the race to give the team a great finish. The young German was locked into a battle with the 18 car for nearly the entire closing hour of the race.

"The tire had me a little worried," Farnbacher said. "When I got in the car Tony assured me that we had some rubber left on the tire. So I pushed as hard I could, Milner got by me and I just wanted to try and pressure him. With two to go he went to the gas a little too early at the apex of seven and made a slight spin. That is all I needed. With the tire wear I really didn't have anything for him. I was having trouble getting a run on him. Wolf did a great job all day. Tony and the crew put us in a position to be successful and it was a good finish for the team."

Henzler was recovering from the flu that he suffered last week. Although a little weak at the end he still managed to celebrate a well driven race.

"We had a pretty good day," Henzler said. "The wheel being stuck on was a little bit of a worry, but Tony, the Porsche and Michelin guys really made the right calls to keep us up toward the front at the end. Domini k got in the car and pushed every lap. In turn seven he forced the 18 car into a mistake and was able to get by. It is a good result for the team. We really had a tough year and this result in this big race will give us a lift for the final at Laguna."

Swartzbaugh was able to turn fast laps during his stint, until it went wrong on lap 30.

"I had just pitted and went out and then the race went green again," Swartzbaugh said. "I may have had some pickup on my tires, but I got out on the high curbing at the exit of turn five and it just spun me into the wall. Usually our traction control can take care of that, but I was running a slightly different setting. It is tough to go out that early in the race and I feel bad for my teammates Lars and Jim."

Lars Erik Nielsen didn't have a chance to take his first race laps at Petit Le Mans.

"Yes, it was a disappointing early end," Nielsen said. "However it was a positive weekend for me with the team. When I drove the car it was really great and a joy to drive. Nathan had some tough luck. I am looking forward to driving with the team at Laguna Seca in two weeks."

Team owner Jim Tafel was a spectator after the retirement of the No. 73, but was still very proud of his team and the finish of the No. 71.

"We were able to celebrate after a tough beginning," Tafel said. "Nathan had a bad break and we went out early with the 73. Wolf and Dominik really had a strong run. Wolf led some laps early and the crew, together with our partners Porsche and Michelin, all had a hand in this second place today. A great piece of driving by Wolf kept us up toward the front of the field all race. Dominik took on the challenge at the end to put the pressure on the 18 forcing him into a mistake and brought the car home in second. We needed a lift after the early bad luck."

"What a day," Dowe said. "We had Nathan in the wall and a car out of the race early. Wolf led some laps and then we had our fuse issue. The wheel was stuck on toward the end, but we were able to overcome all this as a team and finish second. With the year that we have had it was a nice way to end a long day."

-credit: tr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Lars Erik Nielsen , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Dominik Farnbacher , Nathan Swartzbaugh