Falken, the little team that could, out of IMSA after 2015
Tire manufacturer's one lone Porsche team has been more than competitive.
In November of 2013, at the annual Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, Falken Tire announced a two-year deal making Falken Tire a "proud partner" of IMSA and the TUDOR Championship, and an approved tire supplier for the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.
Apparently, that's all Falken will do with the series. In a statement published in a tire magazine, the manufacturer has decided to move on after this season.
Said International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) President Scott Atherton on Falken Tire’s decision to discontinue its Team Falken Tire program following the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season: “The Team Falken Tire program has been a championship-level performer, both on and off the racetrack, for the past several years in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón previously.
"Its victories at Petit Le Mans each of the past two years – among other victories – prove the caliber of the team. Falken Tire consistently has used the team, car and their involvement in the TUDOR Championship in its mainstream advertising and the success they have had against the best of the best GT race teams and tire manufacturers in the world is truly impressive.
“Unfortunately, Falken Tire has made a business decision to discontinue its TUDOR Championship program following the 2015 season. They will be sorely missed by their many fans – and by all of us. As always, IMSA will continue to offer an open platform for multiple tire manufacturers in the GT Le Mans class.”
Sellers, Henzler have over-delivered
That SEMA announcement had Falken planning a continuation of its GTLM race team, which, that November, 2013 statement said. "will field a brand-new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the 2014 TUDOR Championship. Co-drivers Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler will compete for Team Falken Tire on a full-time basis beginning with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on March 16, 2014. Sellers, Henzler and Nick Tandy drove a 2010 Porsche to a popular GT-class victory in the Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta last month."
The team has done a remarkable job since, as the lone manufacturer in the GTLM series that has challenged the powerhouse Michelin, and done quite well against them. The other three classes in the TUDOR Championship all require a Continental spec tire, with GTLM allowing open competition. Some of those teams contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and since Michelin is so strong there, it is an additional reason to run Michelins during the TUDOR Championship season.
According to Modern Tire Dealer magazine: "We feel extremely fortunate to have worked within the IMSA and ALMS community,” said Rick Brennan, Executive Director of Marketing at Falken Tire. “Our special thanks go to everyone there, from series staff to race weekend volunteers. We’ve seen first-hand the level of passion and tireless commitment that everyone involved brings to the office and to the track each and every day and we will definitely miss being part of that family.”
Continued the announcement in Modern Tire Dealer: Brennan also expressed the company’s deep appreciation to Team Falken manager Derrick Walker and crew members. “Our five top podium finishes will always be among the most memorable chapters of the Falken Tire history book and none would have been possible without Derrick and his team’s incredible expertise and talent. Walker Racing hasn’t just been a trusted partner but an invaluable advisor to our high-performance tire development and test program.”
While sad about the end of a good run together, Walker said he is grateful for the opportunity Falken Tire gave them. "We've had a great five years and I have to thank Falken Tire for a phenomenal partnership. During our time together, we enjoyed the challenge of the tire development process and always saw ourselves as 'the tire that could'. While I'm disappointed that Falken Tire has changed its marketing strategy, we appreciate our time together," says Walker.
Although this might be the end of the road for the Falken partnership, this doesn't mean it's the end for Walker Racing. "We really have enjoyed sports car racing and we are now in the process of exploring other racing opportunities to utilize our experienced team in some other program," he said.
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