Elkhart Lake, WI. - Team Falken Tire's strong run at Road America came to a disappointing end this afternoon, resulting in the team's first DNF of the 2012 American Le Mans Series race season. Riding the momentum of two consecutive top-four finishes, the Falken Porsche looked to be fiercely competitive at the 14 turn, 4.08 mile road course.
Porsche Factory driver Wolf Henzler qualified the #17 Falken Porsche in eighth position, and in the first lap in typical Henzler form, charged his way up to gain three positions in the GT class. "The race was going better than qualifying did for us," said Henzler. "We were closer in our lap times to our competitors and in the first couple of laps in each stint we could stay at the same pace."
As the laps counted onward, Henzler's battle to hold ground became more difficult, eventually dropping him to eighth position. By lap 16, Henzler felt the combination of the Porsche and tire selection improve and took advantage, working his way up to sixth.
American Falken driver Bryan Sellers took the wheel on lap 27 during a full course caution. With fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, the Porsche gained another position before the second full course yellow flag of the day came out 20 laps later, allowing the team to make their second pit stop. At the time, Sellers had a large gap between him and the next GT car ahead of him.
The yellow flag instantly allowed Sellers to close the gap on the competition. Sellers pulled into the pits in ninth, and to the credit of the Falken crew's rapid tire change and fueling, the Falken Porsche rejoined the field in fourth, making up five positions. "Unfortunately we don't have enough speed right now at the moment to fight for the win," said Sellers.
"One of the things we've found over the last couple races is that we can just run the race and execute it the best we can though pit stops and strategy, we can put ourselves in a strong position."
Just twenty laps later, the good fortune of the team took a disappointing turn. Just mere laps before conducting the final pit stop of the four hour endurance, Sellers radioed the engineers in pit lane, expressing concerns of increased oversteer. Telemetry showed no reason for alarm, Sellers slowed his pace, on the chance that something may happen.
"I still didn't feel right, so I slowed down to a speed where if something were to happen, it was still a savable speed." Unfortunately for the team, just moments later, before making it into pit lane, the oversteer condition became frantically worse, resulting in losing a tire which sent Sellers off the track and into the wall at the Kink. Sellers immediately radioed to the team to let them know he was not harmed, but that the day was done.
"Bryan and Wolf were driving the wheels off the car and it looked like we were heading toward a decent finish. The team has done an excellent job all season long, especially during the pit stops," said Falken's ALMS Supervisor Kevin Jones. "Right now we are analyzing everything and looking at what improvements can be made entering the last stretch of the season."
The team will now return to the Walker Racing shop in Indianapolis to repair the damage and prepare for the upcoming race at Baltimore. Falken will defend their GT class win at the second annual event in the downtown streets of Baltimore, August 30th through September 1st.
Source: Falken Motorsports