Testing at Road Atlanta for fall return to Series and GT2 It's a sweltering August day in Braselton, Ga., but Yoshi Yasuda doesn't seem to be sweating anything. The stoic Falken Tire engineer from Kobe, Japan, stares intently at the screen in...
Testing at Road Atlanta for fall return to Series and GT2
It's a sweltering August day in Braselton, Ga., but Yoshi Yasuda doesn't seem to be sweating anything. The stoic Falken Tire engineer from Kobe, Japan, stares intently at the screen in the pit box, watching red and green bar graphs bob up and down as the Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR's telemetry system pours in information about Bryan Sellers' test run.
"This track is very severe from a tire point of view," Yasuda says calmly. "I am worried about breaking the tire. There are lots of up-and-downs, high- speed corners, long straights."
Inside the team trailer, drivers Dominic Cicero and Sellers exhibit cautious optimism.
"It's definitely been a very good first half day," says Sellers. "Generally the swing of things takes at least half a day to get rolling, and the first half day has gone quicker than (when we tested here) in June."
"I think we learned a lot from last time and really put it to use here," adds Cicero. "We were quicker. A lot of the little issues we had handling- wise; we progressed from there. We're stepping up - you know, baby steps up."
A sense of anticipation is palpable among members of the Falken team. Not having raced since Long Beach in April, team manager Rod Everett and crew will spend five days testing at Road Atlanta in preparation for their return to American Le Mans Series and the GT2 class in September for the 12th annual Petit Le Mans Powered by MAZDA6.
"I don't think Road Atlanta is generally a place that people get five days of testing prior to the race weekend because the race weekend is five days of testing all in itself," says Sellers. "But with our schedule being limited, the priority changes to what tracks we test on. So Atlanta is a huge priority for us because it's not our debut race, but it's our back-to- the-ALMS race."
"It means that we're winding up the season, too, to make progress for next year," Cicero says. "Kinda get the momentum, get the snowball rolling up a little bit... This is (helping) build the fan base and everything for next season."
Team Falken Tire aspires to enter the 2010 season with a product that can compete with big fish Michelin's tires. The upcoming races at Road Atlanta and two weeks later at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will serve as a crucible for the newly created team. Fortunately for Falken, their people seem keenly focused.
During a test run of the Falken car, senior manager Mark Richter chatted with Yasuda about his job. As the sound of the car's engine floated over a hill, Yasuda's eyes took on the soft look of someone whose mind is elsewhere.
"You're always listening, aren't you?" chuckles Richter.
Staring at the enormous, fluffy sky behind Richter's head, Yasuda replies, "I am listening right now."