Utah: Tafel Racing qualifying report

Total Tafel Team Effort Puts No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari Fifth on Utah Grid, No. 73 Earns Tenth TOOELE, Utah, May 17, 2008 - Qualifying for the American Le Mans Series GT2 class is always dramatic. However, today's qualifying session for the Utah...

Total Tafel Team Effort Puts No. 71 Bell Micro Ferrari Fifth on Utah Grid, No. 73 Earns Tenth

TOOELE, Utah, May 17, 2008 - Qualifying for the American Le Mans Series GT2 class is always dramatic. However, today's qualifying session for the Utah Grand Prix here at the Miller Motorsports Park (MMP) was even more theatrical than usual for Tafel Racing. At the end of the day, the Cumming, Ga. based team placed both its Ferrari F430 GTCs in the top-ten for the fourth round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series season. However, it was the method to get there that proved most impressive. The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC of Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Muller (a native of Germany living in Monaco) will start fifth on the GT2 class grid after sustaining damage in the practice session directly proceeding the 20-minute time trial. The No. 73 Ferrari F430 GTC with drivers Alex Figge (Denver, Col.) and Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) will pull away tenth in the car's return to American Le Mans Series competition.

The No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari, which has won the last two GT2 class races, had been showing the way during the early practice sessions at the 3.048-miles, the 15-turn course. However, they would set only the eighth quickest time in the second official practice session on Saturday afternoon after sustaining damage on the third lap of that session. Muller was behind the wheel of the Ferrari entering Turn Three when a competitor in the GT1 class made a last minute move to his inside and then spun in front of the 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 class champion. Muller came to an almost complete stop to avoid ramming the other car. However, as the GT1 car spun it made contact with the nose of the Tafel Ferrari. Once back in the garage, the Tafel Racing crew determined that the car had sustained damage to its driver-side radiator, the front splitter and the front bumper. With less than 50 minutes left before qualifying was scheduled to begin, the Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) directed team swarmed on the Bell Micro machine. Team leaders Peter Kaczmar and Paul Caves performed brilliantly and Farnbacher pulled the Bell Micro Ferrari onto the course only four minutes into the qualifying session. Farnbacher, who is in only his second year of Series competition, rewarded his team with an impressive run on new Michelin tires to set his fastest lap of the week at one minute, 47.956 seconds. Farnbacher will start the car the race which starts at 1:05 PM (MT) tomorrow.

The Utah Grand Prix marks the return of the No. 73 Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GTC to the American Le Mans Series after two races on the sidelines. The event is also the return of open wheel regular and former Series starter Alex Figge (Denver, Col.). Figge, who had one test day behind the wheel of the Italian machine prior to Thursday's first test session here at MMP, qualified the car. Still coming to terms with the mid-engine automobile, Figge turned his fastest laps of the weekend in qualifying. His best time of 1:49.928 earned tenth position on the grid. Figge will take the green flag in the No. 73. He will turn the wheel over to Tafel who finished fourth in his only start of 2008 at the 12 Hours of Sebring season-opener.

Jim Tafel, Driver, No. 73: "My thoughts are a little different than they were earlier in the day. Thinking about where we are, you can never take anything for granted. Starting five and ten; that's fine. We are plugging away. It's not won on the first lap. It's not won from the pole. It's where you finish. We will create the strategy that will give us a chance to finish right on top."

Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "We had a little incident in the session before qualifying which cost me the chance to go out and practice on a new set of Michelin tires. Usually you want to practice on new tires but the whole weekend I had not tried new tires. I never knew what it would feel like. In the beginning I was very conservative but the grip level was quite good on the rear. During the session I got comfortable and I could drive for a fifth-place position. I am very thankful to the team for repairing the car in the short period. For not practicing qualifying and not knowing what might have been different from the practices, it was a very good result for us."

Alex Figge, Driver, No. 73: "I am disappointed. Obviously, I am with a great team but I don't know if I have led Dave [Fullerton, No. 73 engineer] astray with the car. I am just lacking confidence in my feedback. I expect a little more out of myself. This team has won a lot of races during the race so I think they can get Jim and I a few positions tomorrow. I am looking forward to tomorrow but disappointed with myself today."

Dirk Muller, Driver, No. 71: "Losing the last practice before qualifying makes me sad. How the accident makes it even worse because I couldn't really do anything because it was the mistake of the Corvette. We are looking forward. Dom did an awesome job especially not getting any pre-qualifying time. The whole team did an awesome job. So, all of the success of coming back and taking fifth place goes to the team who put in all the effort to fix the car going into qualifying. That makes me really proud. They were working really hard and really precise. The race is long and we have a good race car. So, from that point of view, we are looking forward."

-credit: tr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Dirk Müller , Alex Figge , Jim Tafel , Dominik Farnbacher