Team Falken’s new line-up of Team Manager Derrick Walker and returning driving veterans Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers entered the 59th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring ready to race their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with its newly approved bodywork and suspension. Joined by Porsche Factory Driver Martin Ragginger, it was a strong combination for one of the most important race events in the American LeMans Series calendar.
The team and Falken engineers worked closely with Porsche to make changes and set the car’s balance and final tire choice as recommended by Falken’s Japanese contingent. Aided by Falken Tire Engineer Yoshi Yasuda and Falken Car Engineer John Ward, the best tire combination was selected for the changing track and weather conditions as the race wore on. It was regrettable that a serious gearbox issue that had been troubling the team during the first four hours finally forced the team out of the race after hour nine.
“After nine hours, the gearbox issue could not be ignored, and so Falken mechanics opted to go behind the wall to rebuild the box in order to finish out the race, however, once apart, it was obvious that it was not possible to rebuild it in time and rejoin the race,” declared Nick Fousekis, Director, Motorsports Marketing and Events. “Clearly, more investigation needs to be done to determine the precise cause of the failure, but to be taken out just three hours before the end of the race was a bitter disappointment to the team. Nevertheless, this is a learning process, and we’ll take it in stride and move on from here,” Fousekis added.
More than 160,000 fans were in attendance, welcoming the warm weather throughout the day. The Team Falken Porsche qualified 11th in class, and ran consistent lap times, with its trio of drivers providing strong consistency throughout the event, placing as high as third in the tough ALMS GT2 class. This year’s 12 hours of Sebring proved to be a hard one for Porsche as many of the automaker’s teams succumbed to a number of issues. A similar 911 GT3 exited the race eight laps after Team Falken’s with a similar gearbox problem.
Though the team placed 15th in class due to the mechanical woes, the Falken 17 car was carrying the fight in the GT class for Porsche and stood well to earn a certain 4th place finish.
“Well, it seems I will have to wait a bit as I had hoped this would have been my first 12 hour event but I guess you can only say that when you actual finish the race,” said Team Falken Manager Derrick Walker. ”However, the end result does not do justice to what happened in the race or even what led up to the race. There was a superhuman effort all around by the Falken team to be the best we could. Our strategy going into the race was to manage everything within our control – consistent pace; variable tire selection; zero penalties; avoiding the mayhem on track – and we did all of that really well.
“We slowly advanced our way through the field; pit stops were great; drivers worked really well together and did an excellent job for Falken, and it was fun… until our gearbox became an issue,” Walker added. “I can’t wait for Long Beach, a track I have been to many times before with open wheel cars, which require a completely different tire and race strategy, but we will be prepared and ready to compete.”
Round 2 of the ALMS presented by Patron Tequila will take place in Team Falken’s backyard on the streets of Long Beach April 15-16. TV coverage is on ESPN2 at 5:00 p.m. ET, April 17.
To learn more about the Falken TIre American Le Mans team visit www.wegetyougoing.com