St. Pete: Tafel Racing race report

No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari Earns First ALMS Victory for Tafel Racing Farnbacher Shares First Victory with Muller's First Since '01 on the Streets of St. Pete St. Petersburg, Fla., April 5, 2008 - The Grand Prix of St....

No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari Earns First ALMS Victory for Tafel Racing
Farnbacher Shares First Victory with Muller's First Since '01 on the Streets of St. Pete

St. Petersburg, Fla., April 5, 2008 - The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.) was a day of firsts for Tafel Racing. The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC scored its first American Le Mans Series GT2 class victory here giving Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) and sophomore driver Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) their first American Le Mans Series wins. It marked the Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) managed operations first victory with partner Bell Microproducts and their first with the Ferrari F430 GTC and Michelin. It was the first victory lane celebration for several team members as well. The win also announced the return to the ALMS podium for 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 Champion Dirk Muller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco). Muller earned his ninth career Series race win but his first since leaving the ALMS in 2001.

The Cumming, Ga.-based operation won the event in convincing style crossing under the checkered flag 13 seconds ahead of second-place. Farnbacher started the first street race of the season; second race overall, in fourth spot after a disappointing qualifying session. The young German moved to third at the start and then to second before handing the Bell Micro Racing machine over to Muller during the race's second full course caution, 56 minutes into the event. The ultra- quick pit stop by the Tafel Racing crew to fill the Ferrari with fuel and replace all four Michelin Pilot racing slicks allowed Muller to hold the No. 71's position as it waited for the restart.

The defining moment of the race came with 24 minutes remaining in the one hour and 55-minute race. After shadowing the leading No. 45 entry, Muller made an impressive overtaking move to capture the lead. He wasted little time putting his mark on the race. He then pulled away from all challengers to take the Tafel team to victory lane in impressive style.

Jim Tafel, Team Owner: "This is like the first day I ever went to Disneyland as a kid. It is euphoric. We all worked so hard to get to this point. Every team member has worked hard. We all know what victory feels like now. In the future, we just have to repeat the process we learned here this weekend. Our objective here was to be focused and win. It was a textbook, solid win. It was great to see the margin. I thought it was going to come down to a cat and dog fight at the very end. With 20 minutes to go there was the Lizard car and the Risi car. It was like the tumblers on a safe; it all came together today. All the hard work over not just the last year in the American Le Mans Series but since we started. It is very gratifying to do this with Bell Micro, Ferrari and Michelin."

Tony Dowe, Technical Director: "It is really good for the whole team. I think you'll see us getting better and better. It is always tough to win the first one but I think it justifies all the decisions to only run one car this weekend. I once worked for a guy that said 'when you need luck it is never around but when you don't need it there is a bucket full. Today there was a bucket full behind the bench. It is very, very nice to have two young guys like Dirk and Dom that are here to race and not play politics. They really did us right today. What is nice is that there are guys on the team that have never been a part of a team that has won. I have won lots and lots so I am pleased for the guys that have hung in when it was really tough and this pays it back."

Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "It was a very good race for us. We didn't have any problems. The only problem we had was the heat in the car but we got used to it. Me and Dirk ran really well, especially Dirk. He had an awesome stint! I am really happy for the whole team, for Bell Micro. I am so happy right now I cannot explain it!"

Dirk Muller, Driver, No. 71: "It has been awhile. I am really, really happy. It has not sunk in yet. I have done a couple of races last year and we had such bad luck and we had bad luck in Sebring this year. With all the effort from the team, Bell Micro, Michelin especially, all the terrific strategy; it all worked. Dom did a fantastic first stint and it gave me the car in the right position to attack. I got a lot of knowledge of how to use the Michelins, especially under the safety car periods, and that gave me a big advantage. It gave me the possibility to try the attack on Jorg Bergmeister [No. 45]. I came by nice and clean and I just controlled it until the end. It is the first victory for the team and I am happy to be a part of it. Now, in the championship, we are looking ahead and I am very much looking forward to Long Beach. This is really special."

-credit: tr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Dirk Müller , Jörg Bergmeister , Jim Tafel , Dominik Farnbacher