Dirk Müller Earns SPEEDTV.com Long Beach "Drive of the Race" Award
No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Ferrari Earns Prestigious Award for Driver Skill and Pit CallLONG BEACH, Calif., April 24, 2008 - The accolades for Tafel Racing's dramatic GT2 class victory in the American Le Mans Series at the Grand Prix of Long Beach continue to come. The daring pit call, quick pit stop, unselfish teamwork and Dirk Müller's stunning drive in the closing laps of the event are still the hot topic for fans the week after the April 19 event. On Wednesday, SPEEDTV.com, the American Le Mans Series Radio Web and Racecar Engineering Magazine bestowed another honor on the German, who now lives in Monaco, with the SPEEDTV.com Long Beach 'Drive of the Race' Award. The award is given to the driver, regardless of car class, that representatives from the three leading sources of sports car news feel had the most impressive drive in each of the 11 American Le Mans Series races this season. Müller, who drove the No. 71 Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari F430 GTC with Dominik Farnbacher (Ansbach, Germany) from fourth to the team's second-straight GT2 victory, follows Marino Franchitti (12 Hours of Sebring) and Marco Werner (Grand Prix of St. Petersburg) as the 2008 recipients of the award.
The exciting final stage of the 100-minute American Le Mans Series race got heated 30-minutes from the finish when Tafel Racing Technical Director Tony Dowe (Cumming, Ga.) made the call to finish the race on the same Michelin Tires that the car started. The strategy, while dangerous if Müller or opening driver Farnbacher pushed the tires too hard in the early stages, paid-off when all contenders spent the additional time in pit lane to change tires. The gap made by the call was large enough that Müller was able to look after the same tires he had used to qualify fourth all the way through the event. With the well-worn rubber, the 2000 American Le Mans Series GT2 champion called upon his full arsenal of knowledge to keep the second and third-place Porsches behind his blue, white and silver Ferrari. In a pitched battle, Müller fended off the attack lap after lap despite Wolf Henzler (German) coming alongside the Bell Microproducts machine more than once. The two Porsche's trailing the Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) owned Ferrari cut the lead at the checkered flag to the closest margin of victory (0.102 seconds) in GT2 history but could not pass Müller. It proved to be the second-closest finish ever, regardless of class, in the Series. The victory was the second for the Cumming, Ga.-based program in the American Le Mans Series, Farnbacher's second and Müller's tenth career victory in GT2.
The official announcement of the award can be seen at: www.auto- racing.speedtv.com/article/alms-dirk-mueller-wins- speedtvcom-long-beach-drive-of-the-race.
QuotesDirk Müller, Driver, No. 71: "I am really delighted to receive the SPEEDTV.com ALMS Long Beach 'Drive of the Race' Award. I have just seen the two examples of Marino [Franchitti] and Marco [Werner] who have received it before me and, to be honest, I cannot even be close to showing how I feel. It is really, really high on my personal ranking of honors to be nominated out of so many drivers. But, to be honest, this prize should honor the whole team. To get this chance you have to have the surroundings which, obviously, Tafel Racing, Ferrari, Michelin, Bell Micro, Dominik and everyone on the whole team have given me.
"The last few laps were probably the hardest GT2 laps I have ever done. It was absolutely pure touring car, short-distance high-level racing. I really appreciated having Wolf [Henzler, Flying Lizard, No. 45] and [Patrick] Pilet [Flying Lizard, No. 46] behind me. They raced me hard but absolutely fair the whole time. That was really, really nice. I really liked this kind of racing. I had to open my whole experience in touring car to keep them behind me. I knew exactly where I was quicker and where they were quicker and I knew the best overtaking spots and where I had to position myself. I saw the checkered flag at the end but, unluckily, I had to do another lap but I was able to hold them off. It was definitely one of the hardest defenses of position that I have had to do in GT2. It was mentally exhausting and it took me time after the checker to appreciate what we had done. I was able to get to the podium because of the very good car, the very good pit stop, the strategy, the Michelin tires and for sure to have Dom in the car and bringing me the Tafel/Bell Micro Racing Ferrari in that position. I am missing the words in English to express how special this is to me. I am really, really delighted. Thank you to SPEEDTV.com, the ALMS Radio Web and Racecar Engineering Magazine for this honor."
Marshall Pruett, Automotive & Sportscar Racing Editor, SPEEDtv.com: "We're blessed to have four different classes of cars racing at once in the American Le Mans Series; where other series only highlight the overall winner, the Series gives so many teams and drivers the opportunity to stand out and demonstrate their smarts and skills. That's exactly what we had last weekend with Dirk Muller and his Tafel Racing team. Dirk was clearly the star of the race and put on a performance fans and insiders will be talking about for years to come. After winning the last two races, I think Dirk, Dominik and the entire Tafel team have proven they know how to win, and do so in dramatic fashion. I can't wait to see what kind of fireworks they have in store for the rest of the season."