Narrow Track, 'Short' Race Put Emphasis on Precision for the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari
Tafel Racing Starts St. Petersburg Street Course Challenge from 4th on GT2 Grid
Precision will be the key to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for Tafel Racing. Precision on the track by drivers Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) and Dirk Müller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco) and precision in pit lane by the Cumming, Ga.-based program. Müller qualified the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC fourth on the GT2 grid in today's 20-minute time trial. The narrow street course and shortened event will make overcoming that starting position a challenge for the Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) owned team. However, a focused strategy and intense attention to detail have the team optimistic about their chances.
The 1.8-mile, 14-turn course, which runs along the Tampa Bay, is narrow and is lined with concrete retaining walls. The layout offers little margin for error and demands intense concentration by the drivers. With a single 'preferred' passing location, entering turn one following the long front straightaway, overtaking from the second row will challenge first Farnbacher and later Müller.
The lack of multiple preferred passing spots will put an even greater emphasis on the team's pit stop skills. Each position that the Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) led team can make in the pits is one less risky pass required for Farnbacher and Müller to make on the track. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marks the first time the teams will run on a temporary street course this season. Round Two of the 2008 American Le Mans Series season will also play host to an abbreviated version of the typical Series "sprint" race. The condensed event, down from the traditional two hours and 45-minutes, will necessitate a different strategy pushing the teams and drivers to accomplish more in less time. Making the full race distance on a single pit stop is now easily done. Therefore, making that stop as quickly as possible is vital.
Müller, the 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 class Champion, turned a time of one minute, 12.752 seconds on his fifth of eight hot laps in the No. 71 Ferrari. Farnbacher will start the Bell Micro Ferrari in the one hour and 55-minute race. Müller will finish the event. The quickest lap of the 20-minute qualifying session for the class was set by the No. 45 Porsche with a time of 1:11.745. That time bettered the existing track record of 1:12.025 set in 2007 by a Ferrari.
The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg can be seen live on ABC starting at 1:30 pm (ET), Saturday, April 5. Live timing and scoring of each on-track session and the American Le Mans Series Radio Web broadcast can be found at www.AmericanLeMans.com.
QuotesJim Tafel, Team Owner: "I was hoping to be a little higher than that. The Porsches really stepped up. That is why we have a strong team and strong drivers; to be there consistently. It is not down to tenths of a second in qualifying trim, it will be down to who finishes first. We have a few more little changes to make and we should be really solid."
Dominik Farnbacher, Driver, No. 71: "Starting fourth is going to be a hard race. It is not easy to overtake here. Turn one is the best overtaking spot. For the other spots it is just too tight. I will have to wait for a mistake from the guy in front of me or I have to wait for traffic. All the guys in front of me are not beginners. They are pros. We will try and catch a good start and then keep the pace. Dirk will do the rest and, hopefully, we can be at the top of the podium."
Dirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "Position four was definitely not what I was aiming for and definitely not what it showed in the earlier practice. The car was actually quite nice; very consistent. Now we really need to see why we didn't get the peak of the tires. I just had a very consistent car. I did all the lap times within two-tenths. We need to find a way to improve the whole package and then we will see tomorrow."