The No. 88 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche scored a top-10 finish in the six-hour Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, balancing a tough race for the team's other two cars. Steve Johnson of Bristol, Va., Dave Lacey of Toronto and John Potter of Salt Lake City, Utah, combined for the finish, overcoming a series of blistering tires throughout the race.
Lacey started the No. 88 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car from 18th on the 26-car GT class grid. He moved up to second in the first half-hour of the race, then pitted at 43 minutes, meeting a series requirement for a pitstop in the first 45 minutes of the race. He returned to the track 19th, then regained nine positions before handing off to Johnson, followed by Potter. Lacey and Johnson each drove another stint and finished 10th.
Their teammates weren't as lucky. Wolf Henzler of Nürtingen, Germany, started the No. 87 Porsche from third on the GT grid. He stopped for a splash of fuel during the first caution, then was hit by a spinning car just 13 minutes into the race. The team replaced a broken suspension link and hammered out the car's badly caved bodywork through three long pitstops, but finally retired from the race. Dirk Werner of Kissenbrück, Germany, drove a few laps between pitstops, but Dominik Farnbacher of Ansbach, Germany, did not drive.
The No. 86 Porsche also encountered problems early in the six-hour race. Pierre Kaffer of Salenstein, Switzerland, started 13th in class and moved to second in 15 minutes. By the 40-minute mark, the car's engine was reported smoking. Leh Keen of Charleston, S.C., drove next and also held second place until he was caught in a chain reaction, hit from behind and knocked into a spinning car ahead, puncturing two of the car's three radiators. The crew quickly replaced the radiators, but the car dropped to 20th in class. Eric Lux of Jacksonville, Fla., drove for 15 minutes, but was forced to stop when the car lost power.
car time driver action
86 start Kaffer
26m Kaffer pit – fuel
39m Kaffer car reported smoking
1h20 change pit – Keen in, four tires, fuel
1h54 Keen pit – rear tires, fuel, oil
2h02 pit – replace left and center radiators, fuel
2h14 Keen back on track
2h37 change pit – Lux in, four tires, fuel
2h52 Lux out of race
87 start Henzler
09m Henzler pit – fuel
13m Henzler hit by No. 29 Porsche turn 8
15m Henzler pit – right rear tire, right rear bodywork, replaced
right rear upper suspension link
21m change pit – Werner in, right rear bodywork
87 26m Werner pit – right rear bodywork
38m Werner back on track
44m Werner out of race
88 start Lacey
43m Lacey pit – four tires, fuel
1h18 change pit – Johnson in, four tires, fuel
1h54 Johnson pit – four tires, fuel
2h37 change pit – Potter in, four tires, fuel
3h40 Potter off track, back on
3h42 change pit – Lacey in, four tires, fuel, removed radiator grill
4h24 change pit – Johnson in, four tires, fuel
5h35 Johnson pit – fuel
5h58 Johnson drive-through penalty for bypassing chicane
Pierre Kaffer, No. 86: "We had some problems with our tires – we had some blisters – so we tried to make the setup as smooth as possible, to keep the tires for the distance. At the start, I knew the other cars had the same problem, so I couldn't understand why they were pushing like hell and trying so hard to fight, so I let them run. Over my stint, I picked up everybody again! I tried to keep my tires – I never accelerated in the corner, just when the car was nearly straight, so I could drive the car with one set of tires for one and a half hours and I think nobody else could do this. It was my biggest key today. When I entered the pits, we were P3 and it was quite comfortable. It was not that we had this position from our luck, we had this from our performance. We had a great chance for a podium today. The car was really, really consistent and stable and everything worked really well. The guys did a brilliant job last night – they worked until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning to get the car ready. It's a shame we had an oil leak and had to stop the race."
Leh Keen, No. 86: "It seems like there's some kind of tire problem; everybody's blistering their tires. Porsche's doing it the worst because we power down on the rear and we have more weight on the rear. So we struggled all weekend, hoping we would just make it through the race, just cruise and let the race come to us a little bit, be on the lead lap toward the end and finish in a good position. In the race, we had an engine smoking issue on deceleration when Pierre was driving. Then I got in and we got up as far as second place. Then there was an incident in front of me – the 72 Pontiac spun a car right in front of me. I checked up, then I got hit from behind, then hit the car that was spinning. That got the radiator. The crew changed the radiator real fast and we got back out, but with a hit in the cooling system like that, we were running warm and the engine wasn't able to recover, so it started smoking a lot. We decided to park it because it had no horsepower."
Eric Lux, No. 86: "I don't know what we've got to do to get this monkey off our back. We've tried everything from the crew staying up 'til 1 am every night working on the car to putting little lucky charm poker chips and 20-dollar bills in the car. We're certainly trying hard; I just don't know what we can do to get a good finish or a win. We had a strong run at the beginning of the season, then it came to a halt. For some reason, a majority of the GT field are blistering tires, so it wasn't the best racing condition today. I don't like to dwell on bad days. From the positive side, the car's all pointed in the right direction, and there's no damage other than the front bumper, so that should be a quick fix. Hopefully, we'll get this monkey off our back soon."
Wolf Henzler, No. 87: "The race started not too bad for us. We pitted during the first yellow, which was a good decision. After the restart, we were at the end of the field and behind a slower car. Going into turn eight, he was inside, I was outside. He braked a bit early and he spun going into the corner. I braked and slowed down and drove to the right, but he was going to the right in the gravel, so I turned left. Unfortunately, I think he came off the brake and he let the car roll back on the track and I couldn't avoid him. He rolled into the right rear and we had damage on the car and had to pit. It would have been a good day for us, so I'm very disappointed. I would have really liked to finish the race, and finish on the podium."
Dirk Werner, No. 87: "We are reaching the point where I don't know what to say any more, because it's now the fifth race in a row where we didn't get a race without any incidents. It's one of my worst seasons so far. I just hope we can find some motivation somewhere. I don't know where – we have to look for it for the next races because obviously, we're not getting the motivation from good results so far. I just hope that everybody finds something that he likes about racing this year. I do, I still like racing, but it would be much nicer if we got good results! Next race, hopefully..."
Steve Johnson, No. 88: "The track conditions were brutal. These rear tires go away after about 10 laps and it just makes it really tough. Maybe the series can look at the Porsches and these tires, because everybody's got the same problem. You run a fast lap and keep up with the Mazdas and the Pontiacs for four or five laps, but after that, the party's over. But we had a good run; the team did a great job. Second top-10 – for us, that's really good. We have day jobs and we come out here to do this because we love it. To be able to compete to this degree is just real satisfying."
Dave Lacey, No. 88: "We finished top-10 and that's our goal – to be up in the top-10 every weekend. Despite the tire problem that we had, we managed to strategize around it. Steve's just come in and there are clearly blisters on his rear tires, and we had that problem throughout the race. But we drove around it and tried to moderate our speeds to manage the tire wear. We ran as high as second on some fuel strategy and then fell back to 10th, but we're really happy with that result. The only downside is that there's no sister car from Farnbacher Loles to join us here at the end."
John Potter, No. 88: "I wish I could have driven as fast as my teammates did! It was a good race; it's hard to complain about a top-10. It was good to get the time out there and get faster each time. That's all you can really ask for."