The Farnbacher Loles Racing Team headed to the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama with a 29-point lead in the Grand-Am Rolex Series GT Class. The team was prepared for the notoriously brutal heat at this beautiful track in the deep South. To everyone’s relief, while still warm, the temperatures were cooler than last year.
The team struggled a bit finding the right set-up in practice and it wasn’t until the final session that they were able to get the cars dialed in. Leh Keen took advantage of the set-up and put down a perfect lap in the #87 Farnbacher Loles/Shock Doctor Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to narrowly edge out Joe Foster in the Dempsey Racing Mazda. Keen and his co-driver Dirk Werner have had a very consistent season, which has kept them in the points lead.
The qualifying session was so incredibly tight that the first four cars were separated by only .027 seconds! Keen’s teammate Eric Lux was not far behind Leh. His lap of 1:28.768 in the #86 Farnbacher Loles/Wheel Enhancement/Shark Energy Drink Porsche was only .216 off the pole but put him in the sixth starting spot. Lux had to do all the practice and set-up on the car this weekend since his co-driver Wolf Henzler was racing another Farnbacher Loles Porsche in Connecticut and flew in to Birmingham on Saturday night.
At the green flag, Keen held the lead though the first lap while Lux was contacted by another car causing damage to the rear and sending him to the pits for a quick repair. Eric got back out quickly and was soon back into contention. Keen was passed by the #57 Pontiac midway through his opening stint and the Mazdas began to show their speed as well. At the 45-minute mark, Keen made his mandatory stop from the 4th spot and Dirk Werner took over. Eric Lux meanwhile had gotten up to third and was running fourth when he pitted to hand over to Henzler.
Henzler has had limited experience at the track and his lack of practice time prior to the race put him at a disadvantage. But he was able to get up to pace very quickly during the race and was soon turning laps times equal to his teammate.
With 45-minutes left in the race, Dirk Werner held the fifth spot while Wolf Henzler ran in seventh. And that is where they would finish. It was apparent the Porsches were no match for the Pontiacs and Mazdas this weekend. The winning #57 was turning laps 1.5 seconds faster than the fastest Porsche. With their fifth place finish, Keen and Werner points lead drops to 25 over Collins and Edwards in the #07 Pontiac. Lux is now in fourth place, only three points out of third.
Greg Loles was glad to get this race behind the team. ‘This circuit obviously suited our opponents better than it did us. We just couldn’t get the tires to stay under the car for a stint, but we have to be happy with our fifth and seventh place finishes considering the circumstances. Everyone did a great job. The drivers were patient and didn’t get frustrated where we could have created a problem and had a poor finish. We are definitely ready to move on and go back to the Glen where we feel the track will suit us better.
– Farnbacher Loles Racing